Observe where your yard is sunny or shady for most of the day and buy plants that prefer those light conditions.
© George Weigel
Many plants have preferences about where they make their home. Before you venture to the garden center, weigh your ideas against the space you expect to plant in. If your garden is shaded and you can't live without roses, plant some in containers and set them on a sunny deck or patio instead. Above all, be flexible with respect to plant choices. The successful plant will suit the environment your home and landscape offer.
Track how much sunlight your plot gets daily, as well as what time of day the sun hits. Morning and late afternoon sun is less intense than midday sun. Full sun means six or more hours of sunlight daily.
Observe where it’s windy, where it’s wet for days after a rain and where the yard gets baked during summer droughts. Good drainage is essential for most plants, except those that thrive in swamps and boggy conditions. The latter are perfect for rain gardens.
Plan to add organic material, such as well-rotted compost, to improve the texture and fertility of the soil. Well-prepared soil enables plants to thrive, rather than just survive.
Here are some popular shrubs and perennials, and recommended placement sites for them:
- East-facing house foundations (morning sun, afternoon shade)
- Shrubs: azalea, rhododendron, camellia, nandina, boxwood, holly, Oregon grape holly, Japanese andromeda, hydrangea, fothergilla, Virginia sweetspire, variegated red-osier dogwood.
- Perennials: astilbe, coral bells, poppies, peonies, Siberian bugloss, daylily, lady’s mantle, lilyturf, toadlily.
- West and south-facing house foundations (hot afternoon sun)
- Shrubs: birds nest spruce, chamaecyparis, juniper, shrub roses, caryopteris, spirea, crape myrtle, ninebark, lilac, viburnum.
- Perennials: ornamental grasses, aster, coreopsis, dianthus, gaillardia, sedum, purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan, ornamental sages, Shasta daisy, hardy geranium, heliopsis, iris, garden phlox, mums, veronica, yarrow, yucca.
- North-facing house foundation (little or no direct sun)
- Shrubs: Russian cypress, boxwood, sarcocca, azalea, rhododendron, yew, Japanese plum yew, inkberry holly, smooth hydrangea, summersweet, arrowwood viburnum, winter hazel.
- Perennials: hosta, foamflowers, foamybells, sweet woodruff, Japanese forest grass, bleeding heart, astilbe, goat’s beard, lamium, Lenten rose, liriope, variegated Solomon’s seal.
Know where your soil is wet or dry, and you’ll save yourself some dead plants.
© George Weigel
- Wet areas (base of a slope, near downspouts, etc.)
- Plants for sunny wet spots: red maple, river birch, bald cypress, inkberry holly, willows, winterberry holly, red-osier dogwood, Virginia sweetspire, summersweet, sedges, beebalm, cardinal flower, Joe Pye weed, swamp milkweed, Siberian iris.
- Plants for shady wet spots: sweetbay magnolia, inkberry holly, Japanese forestgrass, sedges, enkianthus, Virginia sweetspire, summersweet, astilbe, bleeding heart, goats beard, turtlehead, hosta, most ferns.
- Hot, sunny banks (south- or west-facing)
- Shrubs: juniper, birds nest spruce, arborvitae, yew, false cypress, shrub roses, caryopteris, weigela, ninebark, lilac, butterfly bush, dwarf forsythia, spirea, most viburnum.
- Perennials: ornamental grasses, aster, black-eyed Susan, catmint, coreopsis, daylily, sedum, ornamental sages, purple coneflower, yarrow, and yucca.
- Dry shade under trees
- Shrubs: Russian cypress, yew, boxwood, holly, Japanese plum yew, St. Johnswort, purple beautyberry, Virginia sweetspire, deutzia, kerria, most viburnum.
- Perennials: barrenwort, lamium, coralbells, lilyturf, European ginger, Lenten rose, Japanese painted fern, Japanese pachysandra.