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Basic Planting Guide

Planting location is my Achilles Heel. I spend literally days trying to figure out where to finally plant my latest “find”. I have never gone to a nursery looking for a specific plant.
My trips to the local nurseries always wind up with me bringing home an orphan at the least. Orphans are what I call the clearance plants and the reject plants that no one else wants. These are the misshapen, half-dead plants that I mainly buy because it’s all I should afford to buy. I always think, “well this doesn’t look so bad, I can bring it back to life.”
Then there are my impulse buys. That cool looking plant that I absolutely have to have. It’s priced ridiculously enough to where I am feeling so guilty, I wind up only buying one. These are what fancy people would call a “specimen”. My garden is full of specimens.
Whether planned or not, once I buy the thing and get my newest unbelievable plant home, …there it sits. I will stand there and stare at it, dreaming of where it will look best. Wondering how big it will grow in its new location. How will I get my lawnmower in here? ~ We walk in this area…~ Will it get too much sun here?


Gardening is always an experiment and for all this information, realize that growing requirements are never straight black and white. Part of gardening is realizing there are many shades of gray.

Plants are pretty tough and adaptable. With all that being said there are really just a few basic things to consider for your planting location before you get into that deep long term process.

sunlight requirements explained

Sunlight Requirements

Most plant labels from the home improvement stores or nursery will clearly label the sunlight requirements of a particular plant. If not, you can ask the owner or Google it. This label is just a guideline. Most plants can tolerate more or less than the requirements listed. Plants will let you know pretty quickly if their tolerable conditions aren’t being met.


Full Sun usually means at least 6 hours of sun per day. 6 is ideal, more is tolerable. Extreme heat is going to require you to give the plants a little help to thrive.

Mulching is important and will help to keep the ground cool. Mulching will also allow the soil to retain moisture better and longer. You will need to keep an extra careful eye on watering during the peak of the summer months.

Flowering plants always do better the more sun they get. They may require more watering if it gets too brutally hot.

I have found that just about every plant I have ever grown does a lot better if protected from the afternoon sun. By that, I mean from about 2 p.m. through the rest of the day.


Part Sun and Part Shade are mostly interchangeable. Both mean less than 6 hours a day of direct sun. At least 4 but not more than about 6.

Most of the plants labeled in this category would do best with a few hours of morning sun. Basically planted on the East side of any large structure or east of a tree or shrub that will provide shade once the sun starts into the westward sky.


And finally, full shade. Full Shade does not mean total absence of sunlight. Most plants labeled as Full Shade will do well with less than about 3 hours a day. They don’t have to be totally devoid of sunlight. Although this too will be on the time of day they get the 3 hours of sun.
Again, all these requirements aren’t exact. You may be more familiar with the sunlight “times” in your yard due to trees and sheds etc.


99.9% of every plant label will say “requires organically rich, moist, well-drained soil”. Wow, don’t we all wish we had Pacific Northwest dirt.

Soil amending can take months to take effect, so its best to plan ahead.

Even adding fertilizer and not giving it time to break down a bit can burn your plants and kill them right off the bat.

I have a relatively “new” home with a sand/ clay foundation. Even after 11 years of amending areas, I still have red, relatively poor looking soil. But that has not stopped me from having some great looking plants.

Under my sod, about 4 or 5 inches of topsoil has formed and that seems to be enough to keep things growing.


Who ever checks their soil PH before planting anything? Maybe it should be YOU.

If you are having problems with growth or plants randomly dying or not producing flowers or fruit, check your PH. The PH of the soil directly effects a plants ability to utilize nutrients.

You can fertilize a plant all you want but if the plant can’t use the fertilizer, it’s doing you no good.

Most plants can thrive in a relatively neutral PH environment, but some will look way better in a more acidic or alkaline soil.

Azaleas for instance like acidic, really acidic.

Hydrangea, boxwood and hosta love alkaline.

Take note of plants that are doing well in your garden and it can give you an idea of what your soil PH is and you can try similar plants or move the plants to different spots.


The most important requirement of a plant is to have well drained soil.
Many a poor over-loved plant has been killed by overwatering. Your soil type affects this.

Sandy soil drains very well but will also leech out nutrients so will have to be fertilized regularly.

Clay soil is actually packed with nutrients but doesn’t drain well.

Dig a hole about 1 to 2 feet deep. Fill it with water.

Come back 2 hours later.

If the water is gone, you have well drained soil.

Like most other gardening “rules”, we can fudge this one a little in both directions, but there are very few plants you will want in your garden that enjoy soggy roots.

drainage, soil ph, sunlight requirements,planting location


Rather than messing with products to adjust PH or amending soil, simply try finding a plant you could learn to love that will thrive in the area or condition you’re working with.

There is bound to be a plant somewhere that loves this spot.

Plants are tough and versatile. Some are more tolerant of your mistakes than others.

I hope these basic tips will help you in some way to figure out what to plant where.
The right plant in the right place is the ultimate key to success in the Garden!

planting location, sun requirements,soil ph,drainageplanting location, sunlight requirements,drainage,soil ph

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