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Right Plant, Right Place!
Plants — as Unique as People

by Cheryl Buckwalter

Plants, like people, have genes that make each type unique, and each type requires certain conditions to thrive. Some thrive in full sun with little water, while others would wither and perish. To help you select the right plants for your garden — referred to as the “Right Plant for the Right Place” — there are three “must knows”:

1. How wide and tall will the plant be when it is mature?
Determine how much space you have for the plant. If your planting bed in only 3 feet wide, then select a plant that will be about that wide when it is fully grown.
2. How much sun exposure does the plant require? To answer this question, we first need to understand what “sun exposure” means relative to plants:
Full sun — Plant requires direct sunlight for most of the day.
Full sun or part shade — Plant will do well in direct sun for most of the day or shade for part of the day and can tolerate the hot afternoon sun.
Part shade — Plant prefers light shade (such as dappled sun shining through the canopy of a tree) and will tolerate morning sun exposure but must be protected from the hot afternoon sun.
Part shade or shade — Plant will do well in dappled shade or in full shade. It will tolerate some morning sun, but it will not tolerate afternoon sun.
Shade — Plant requires full shade and never receives direct sun. (Visit for more information.)

Next, walk through your garden in the morning, middle of the day, and afternoon. How much sun does each planting area receive based on the definitions above?

3. How much water does the plant require? All plants – even drought-tolerant plants - need regular water when they are first planted and during the time when they are getting established in your garden. Once established, low water-use plants can be watered less frequently but deeply enough for the water to soak into the entire root area, which is at least as wide as the “plant” aboveground.
Group plants together with the same water and sun requirements. For example, plants that thrive in full sun and require low amounts of water will be in one area and on the same watering schedule. Plants are as unique as people. To select the Right Plant for the Right Place, read the description on the nursery container or ask the nursery salesperson how much sun and water each plant needs.

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