Choosing the Right Plants

Choosing the right plants will be one of the toughest decisions you make. There are almost too many potential factors to consider. This is where spending time at nurseries, on the internet, and observing what grows well in your neighborhood will really pay off.

When selecting plants for your garden, it is important to (1) understand the characteristics (such as the amount of sunlight) of the location to determine what plants are suited for that area and (2) understand the water needs of existing plants in that location – to make sure your additions can be placed on the same watering cycle.

Some important things to consider:

  • If you have clay soil, certain plants may never do well
  • Whether the garden is predominantly in sun or shade
  • How hardy do the plants have to be (do you have a green thumb, or should the plants be nearly indestructible?)
  • Are you looking to create a garden of a certain theme, such as a hummingbird or butterfly garden, or succulent garden, or capture a southwestern U.S. style or casual coastal?
  • Do the colors or plants need to complement your home’s design or exterior paint?
  • Color of foliage and color of blooms and time of year of the blooms
  • How tall and wide should plants be when mature (usually taller as you get close to tall structures such as the house, smaller as you get closer to smaller “structures” such as sidewalks and walkways)?
  • How much variety or uniformity of color, size and shape are you looking for?
  • Are the plants evergreen or deciduous?
  • Can you benefit from deciduous trees near south-facing walls, which help warm the house in the winter and keep it cool in the summer?
  • Do the plants attract critters you might not like, such as bees?
  • Are members of your family allergic to certain plants?
  • Can plants you’re considering be toxic to kids or pets?
  • Avoid invasive plants

Visit LA Coastal Water Wise Gardening to help you with plant selection. This site offers beautiful pictures and specific characteristics for each plant. You can save items that you like by clicking on the “Add to My Plant List” button. This allows you to go back when you are finished browsing and print out a list of your selections. You can even print the list out by hydrozones. A hydrozone is a landscape practice that groups plants with similar water requirements together. Also try the short online class at This short course on Plant Selection will elaborate on the list of things to consider to help you narrow down your choices.

Choosing the plants that are right for you can be one of the most difficult steps in this process. There are so many potential plants from which to choose, you will feel like a kid in a candy shop.

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