The horticultural industry has a saying: “Right plant, right location.” How does one know what the right location is? Start by looking at the plant tag. Besides the plant name in both English and Latin, the tag should include some growing information.
Zones: The USDA came up with a way to determine a plant’s hardiness based on the coldest winter temps. Most of Bluff Country is zone 4b. Make sure that the plant you have selected falls within our zone range. For example, if the tag indicates zone 6-11, the plant will not make it through winter. However, a plant with the zone 3-9 should have a much better chance.
Size: The height and spread of the plant at maturity is important to know. Having to move a perennial because it grew too tall or spread too wide for the space provided can be frustrating. Alternatively, if purchasing plants to form a ground cover in an area, the number of plants can be calculated to fill in the space.
Sun exposure: This is often indicated by circles or symbols. Full-sun is indicated by an open circle or a sun symbol. Plants that need full-sun require six (or more) hours of direct sunlight per day. Part-sun or part-shade is often a half-shaded circle. These plants should only receive 3-6 hours of direct sun per day or grown in dappled shade. The East side of a building or a garden under a Birch tree are good examples of part-shade. Full-shade symbols are circles or sun symbols that are filled in or blacked out. Plants requiring full-shade need less than three hours of direct sunlight every day. The north side of a building, under the dense canopy of a Maple tree, or a garden that is in a heavily wooded area are great examples.
Watering: Plant tags often will show droplet symbols to indicate a plant’s water needs. One droplet means that the plant requires little water. Three droplets indicates that the plant may need regular irrigation. As a rule of thumb most gardens need one inch of water per week until established (2-3 years).
Care: This section often provides tips to keep the plant looking its best. Fertilizer needs, deadheading requirements (removing spent flowers), and how often the plant should be divided may be mentioned.
Features: Deer, rabbit or other pest and disease resistance may be indicated, along with attributes such as fragrance, whether the flowers are good for cutting, if the plant attracts bees, butterflies or birds, and other uses for the plant.
Placing the right plant in the right location can help ensure a lower maintenance garden. Most importantly, purchase your plants from reputable local grower when possible. Local nurseries will know the full history and needs of the plant. The horticulturists on staff should have extensive plant knowledge and are full of information that is not always available on a tag. They will help guide you to the correct plants, explain the individual attributes, suggest companion plants, growing conditions and answer all questions that you have.
The Plant Lady is a regional horticulturalist with the goal is of making Bluff Country more beautiful – one garden at a time. Follow her on Facebook @PlantLadyMn for helpful tips and tricks, or via email at ThePlantLadyMN@gmail.com.