CHRONICLE: In the right place, in the right plants

If there was one mantra for all master gardeners, it would be “the right plant, in the right place”. Gardeners who follow this rule will have healthy plants, fewer pests and diseases, and less yard maintenance. It sounds incredible, but with a little thought and following the concepts of right plant, right place, you can achieve greater success in your own garden.

The right place

Before you can choose the right plant, you need to do some research on the “location”. Looking at the area you want to garden in, ask yourself a few questions:

  • How much sun does the area get?
  • How is the ground? Is it clay or sand? How is the evacuation?
  • Are there tree roots that can compete with new plants for resources such as water?
  • Do you have a problem with animals, like deer or rabbits?

Always measure your space where you want to add a garden. Too much wind can be another problem for where you want to garden; the wind quickly dries out the plants. When gardening in a new location, a soil test is important. The Oneida County CCE can help with this – visit our website at

Consider the function

What will be the destination of your new garden space? Will children or pets play in the area? Do you need to hide an unattractive view or are you creating privacy?

These are just some of the questions to ask yourself about how you are going to use the space.

Understanding how much time you need to spend caring for plants is another consideration. You may also want to think about a color scheme, especially if you are considering flowering plants.

The good plant

Once you’ve answered the “location” questions, it’s time to find the right plants. Resist the urge to go to your garden center without knowing where you want to plant. Instead, the right plant should fit your location.

Plant labels are your friends! Be sure to read them again; they will list mature height and width, color, light requirements, and other necessary growing conditions. Your nursery staff is also available to help you; ask questions and get their advice after discussing where you intend to plant.

A good plant needs space to grow. The mature size of a plant is often overlooked, yet it is one of the most important pieces of information. Match the mature size of the plant to the size of your venue to ensure you don’t overwhelm the space. Having good air circulation around a landscape plant is also important and will help reduce disease problems. Think about how the plants you choose will look when planted next to each other.

Make sure you like the shapes, colors, sizes and flowers of the leaves. Be sure to group plants according to their growing needs: for example, keep plants that need heavier fertilizers together so you can be more efficient with your tending tasks.

It’s usually easier to think about “the right plant, in the right place” when you’re starting a garden from scratch. However, you can also follow the guidelines in an established landscape. Take a look at your existing garden and go through the questions above. If a plant isn’t doing well, is a maintenance nightmare, or has overwhelmed your garden, you may have a plant that’s in the wrong place.

Consider transplanting it or if that’s not possible, try changing your “location” to suit the plant.

Some soil amendments (i.e. compost), soil nutrient analysis, pH test, or proper pruning can solve the problem. If these tips don’t work, it’s not a bad thing to remove a plant that doesn’t work in your landscape. Spring and fall are the best times to move plants to a new location. Let the right plants in the right places be your mantra this year and for years to come. Happy gardening!

Cornell Cooperative Extension Oneida County: Home and garden questions can be emailed to [email protected] or call 315-736-3394, press 1 then ext. 333. Leave your question, name and number. Questions are answered weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Also visit our website at, or call 315-736-3394, press 1 then extension 100.

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