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Landscape Design Series: Right Plant, Right Place

This is the fourth post in the Landscape Design Series

“Don’t Panic” has been our reoccurring mantra with the landscape design series. Now that we have discussed some of the basics of landscape design, our confidence should have grown that we will now introduce a new mantra: Right Plant, Right Place.

I am an Eagle Scout. My Eagle Scout project involved designing, fundraising, and installing a garden. During the design process, a landscape designer regularly said to me, “Right Plant, Right Place, ya dummy.”  I quickly understood Right Plant, Right Place’s role in landscape design. Without it the garden would not have been successful.

Right Plant, Right Place has been a reoccurring phrase ever since and is the first principle of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program. Right Plant, Right Place guidelines help us match plants to the different growing conditions in our yards. In turn, we can reduce irrigation requirements, fertilizer inputs, and pesticide use.

Right Plant, Right Place in Your Landscape

After completing your inventory and analysis, you can select plants for your landscape design. Understanding your landscape helps you pick the right plant for the right place. By following the principle of Right Plant, Right Place your new landscape will be more successful.

When selecting plant material, we must consider environmental conditions and maintenance requirements.

Environmental Conditions

All plants require specific conditions for them to grow and be happy. Environmental conditions to consider include climate, sunlight, and moisture availability.

Climate Zone

Climate is very important in plant selection. North Florida plants are very different than south Florida plants and that’s due to average temperature. Many of the tropical plants in south Florida cannot survive colder temperatures and many of the plants in northern Florida cannot tolerate warmer temperatures. Much of Alachua is considered 9a-which means our annual minimum temperature is between 20 & 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sunlight

The amount of sunlight present is a major factor we need to consider. Many plants prefer full sun and others prefer deep shade. As an example, the Rain-of-Gold (Galphimia glauca) loves full sun but does not tolerate shade. A Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) prefers deep shade but does not tolerate full sun.

Moisture

Many plants prefer more moisture than others. If you have a dry spot in your landscape, plant the native Rusty Lyonia (Lyonia ferruginea). In a wetter spot, you can plant an English Dogwood (Philadelphus inodorus).

The inventory and analysis allow us to understand the subtle environmental differences in our landscape when we select plant material. But it’s important to think of all the environmental conditions. As an example, Two-Wing Silverbell (Halesia diptera) is a great plant for areas with little moisture and partial shade but won’t work in southern Florida because it cannot tolerate the warmer temperatures.

It is understandable to now wonder, “How am I supposed to know all this information about plants to select correctly?” Great question! Visit the www.floridayards.org and use the Florida-Friendly plant database. The database identifies plant material based on the environmental conditions you intend on planting. Once your new plants are established, they should require less water, fertilizer, or pesticides, which saves you money.

Maintenance Requirements

Environmental conditions are important when selecting plants, but the maintenance is important to consider too. What is the amount of maintenance that you are willing to perform in your landscape? If you want less maintenance, select plants that you want to let grow to their mature size. All plants require water to get established. Once established, plants require less water, fertilizer, and pesticides.

Selecting plant material for our landscape is an important step in planning and designing. By properly accounting for our environmental conditions and maintenance requirements, we have the ability to create an eco-conscious landscape.

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