When deciding what type of plants to place in your landscape, there are many things to consider.† Temperature, soil and pH requirements, as well as light requirements and of course appearance are some of the basic topics to look at.† Some of this may seem complicated and intimidating, but if youíll use the information provided by tags, garden experts and publications when researching your choices, youíll get the hang of it in no time.† Having a successful landscape is usually a matter of putting the right plant in the right place.† Each of the following topics could easily take up an entire column and we will delve deeper into each one over the next few weeks.
†It is important to know that here in northeastern Oklahoma we are in something called Plant Hardiness Zone 6a/6b.† This categorization refers to the average minimum temperature an area typically experiences during the winter.† A plantís root system has a minimum temperature it can tolerate before death normally occurs.† When researching plants most publications and information tags will tell you what zone or range of zones a plant is capable of existing in.† That being said, you will find exceptions everywhere.† Whether itís your neighbor, a friend or a relative there is always someone growing a beautiful specimen of something that authorities will swear can never survive where it is being grown.† So keep in mind that the zoning is a guideline to follow to help you achieve success with your endeavors, but it is only that.† Now, if we try to follow those guidelines, Zone 6a tells us that our average winter temperatures drop to between -10 and -5 degrees Fahrenheit, while Zone 6bís temperatures are between -5 and 0 degrees Fahrenheit.† Thatís pretty cold, but keep in mind that it doesnít normally stay at those temperatures for an extended period of time as it does in some of the colder zones.†† We are able to grow a variety of plants that struggle in warmer climates and cannot typically survive in those with colder temperatures.
When we talk about soil requirements, generally the topic concerns drainage and moisture needs.† This is determined by soil texture and is something that can be altered once you understand it.† Keep in mind that you can determine if your soil drains well with a fairly simple test.† Dig a hole where you want to plant, then fill it with water; watch how long it takes for the water to drain out of the hole.† If the water is still there the next day, then itís safe to say that you have a poorly draining soil.† There are plants that will tolerate a soggy soil, even those that thrive in it, but most plants prefer or require a well draining soil.† At the opposite end of the spectrum are those soils that canít seem to hold water.† Sandy soils are usually the culprit in this situation and those are not common here, but there are exceptions.† Adding amendments to your soil is typically the way we influence its ability to drain or to hold moisture.
Soil pH is another critical factor to take into account when deciding what to grow.† Acidity and alkalinity are two things that can mean survival or a slow painful decline for a plant.† Here in northeastern Oklahoma, we have an acidic rating of around 5.9.† The pH scale used to determine your rating is pretty simple, with ď7Ē considered neutral; anything above that is alkaline while anything below it is acidic.† Soil pH is changeable to a certain extent, but you have to be diligent to keep the correction consistent.† Most plants do fine under neutral to acidic conditions, but there are those who absolutely require an alkaline soil.† Understanding your chosen plantís requirement is a giant step toward being a successful gardener.
Light requirements are another subject that people sometimes overlook.† Putting a plant that prefers shade to partial shade in a full sun location is asking for trouble, as is the opposite.† Some plants are versatile and can tolerate more sun than others, but following the growerís suggestions is usually the right thing to do.† Understanding what makes an individual plant or an entire landscape work successfully in function as well as appearance can be intimidating, but take it one step at a time and it will eventually begin to make sense.† Use your local garden experts as well as the wealth of information available online and in publications to help you choose