Knowing Your Plants

Plants make up the basic framework of our landscape, and in order to have a successful landscape, it is essential that we use the right plant in the right place.  Your landscape can be both beautiful and practically carefree if proper thought is given when selecting your plants.

I’m amazed at the number of people who buy plants on impulse.  They may like the attractive flowers or fragrance, etc., etc., they possess, yet they know nothing about how to care for them, or if they will grow in their yard.  This is why I prepared the following list of things that you should know about each of your plants.

1.  Name – common and botanical

2.  Ultimate size  (height and width)

3.  Growth rate  (usually best if slow) Avoid invasives

4.  Soil requirements   (including salt tolerance, pH)

5.  Type of plant   (tree, shrub, ground cover, annual, perennial, bulb, etc.)

6.  Flower, fruits, nuts and berries   (colors, when, fragrant, edible (for your and wildlife), distinguishing features)

7.  Vegetables (how many days till harvest)

8.  Evergreen / deciduous

9.  Type of foliage   (delicate/broadleaf/needle-like)

10.  Human hazards/ concerns  (safety, poisonous, thorns, invasive)

11.  Uses and periods of interest – shade, hedge, accent plant, etc. – should be more than 1 season on interest.

12.  Major problems – including pests (what kinds, when, how to control)

13.  Heat, cold tolerance  (hardiness)

14.  Cultural needs – water, pruning, fertilizer, etc.

15.  Texture   – delicate, coarse

16.  Adaptability – soil wetness/drought, sun/shade temperature

17.  Special features (examples – fragrance, exfoliating bark, repeat bloomer, etc.)

18.  Type of root system  (tap, fibrous)

19.  Cost/availability, including how available.  If it meets your needs, buy it.  Just use a smaller size.

20.  Native/introduced (exotic)/cultivated

21.  Where grown – should be within 100 miles from where you live

22.  Do they have separate sexes

23.  Is it good for wildlife – butterflies, squirrels, birds, etc?

24.  Compatibility with other plants

25.  Life expectancy

26.  Plant form/shape

27.  Cultivar – hybrid varieties

28.  How is it propagated?

Where do you find out this information you ask?  I suggest you visit or  And, while you’re at it, print copies of handouts on all the various plants that are in your landscape; they’re excellent references to have and would really help whoever should buy your home later on.

About AskthePlantMaster

I have 50 years of horticultural experience, am currently a Master Gardener in Central Florida. In addition, I'm a Horticulture Instructor and retired Parks Manager and Arborist. I love plants and would love to help you with yours!
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