Plant selection is the last step in the garden design process. You have now done some plant research and will have begun to visualise the form, texture, colour, and size certain plants will have in your garden. This is where you will begin to make decisions about the kind of planting you want.

Proper plant selection is one of the most critical factors to achieving your perfect landscape. It is the secret of  success of a highly desirable garden. Plants and their associated colour schemes are the essential ingredients to bringing your garden to life, so a lot of thought needs to be given to these. Not only do plants provide important colour and vibrancy, they can also serve as a screen, provide shading, aid erosion control, divide space, create focal points, and control noise levels. Plants are useful things!

A picture of two workers in a garden center.

Things to consider first when selecting plants

    • The plants shape and size at maturity: A plant will grow in almost all directions, some even downwards!
    • Therefore never, ever, without exception, choose and place a plant without knowing its mature height & spread. Knowing how many years/months it will take to reach maturity is also essential knowledge.  A good plant encyclopedia that covers your climatic zone is an essential piece of gardening kit.
    • Form is simply the shape and how the plant grows to occupy space. It is variously classified as columnar, upright, globular, weeping, creeping, oval or vase-like.
    • Texture Is probably one of the easiest qualities to understand as it moves from fine to rough with all the qualities in between. Texture can refer to surfaces that are physically fine through rough or it can refer to the appearance or effect of texture created by a planting scheme.  Referring to the latter, the texture of a scheme is determined by branching habit, shape and size of leaf, leaf arrangement, leaf colour, and leaf surface texture. Plants bearing finer textures can be employed in greater quantities than those with a rougher appearance. Finer textures located at a distance can help to create a sense of increased space within the garden due to an increase in apparent perspective. If something is smaller or finer it can look further away than something which is larger or rougher.

  • Interest that varies with the seasons: Each plant behaves and appears differently at different times during the year.
  • Leaves, flowers or fruit will provide many colour changes as the plants cycle through the seasons.
  • Do you like the plant? There’s not really a lot of value in planting stuff that you don’t like.

Secondary Considerations for Selecting Plants

    • Resistance to insect attack and disease: Some plants, such as roses, are susceptible to insect attack and disease. In low maintenance gardens these types of plants should be avoided.
    • Shade or sun-loving: This will determine the position of some plants, as some are more tolerant to the sun that others. It is important to place plants where they are best suited therefore giving them the best possible opportunity to thrive.
    • Moisture tolerance is an important consideration in areas of the garden where the ground is wet or boggy.
    • Drought Resistance is an essential requirement for plants in dry or arid conditions. These plants can survive on very small amounts of water.
    • Soil Type can be defined by the pH level, ranging from alkaline to acid, and will affect the type of plants that you can grow successfully in your garden. A simple soil test kit available from your garden centre can be used to test your soil.