"Right Plant, Right Place" is a very important aspect of planting and it is a great time to start thinking about it while building on what I wrote in my last article. The seed catalogs are arriving and planting ideas are forming. However, there are things to keep in mind when planning your garden or new plants for an established garden.
Hardiness zones are listed on all plant labels. These zones are made based on the plant’s ability to survive the winter. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, plant hardiness zones are based on average extreme minimum temperatures at a given location during a particular time period. In southeastern Nebraska, we are in zone 5b, while most of the state north of 1-80 is in zone 5a. It is important to utilize plants that are suited for our hardiness zone to ensure their survival through winter.
The amount of sunlight a plant receives is critical for health and durability. There are many levels of sunlight preferences for plants, and it can be a little confusing.
• Full sun plants need six or more hours of sunlight per day. This should be at least six hours of open, full sunlight, not dappled light. These plants grow best if the majority of the sunlight they receive is the hot, afternoon sun.
• Part sun plants grow best in four to six hours of sunlight per day.
• Part shade plants grow best in two to four hours of sunlight per day. This can be dappled sunlight.
• Full shade plants grow best in less than two hours of sunlight per day. This doesn’t mean that they receive absolutely no sunlight, but maybe some morning sun or just a bit of dappled sunlight through the day.
The water requirements for plants can vary greatly depending on the plant, the type of soil it is planted in, and how long the plant has been planted in that location. For example, plants in sandy soils will need watered more often than those planted in a clay soil. Also, plants that are newly planted will need more water than those that are established in a new location. Those that are newly planted will not have the root mass of an established plant making it more difficult to find water when it is not available.
There are plants that are more drought tolerant than others. These plants have different features to help them survive longer periods without irrigation. They may have fleshy leaves to hold more moisture, smaller leaves, or leaves with deep indentations to reduce leaf area. They might also have a very waxy leaf surface or one that is covered with hairs to help hold in moisture. Other plants may have much longer roots to reach deep into the soil to find moisture.
On the other hand, there are some plants that are more adapted to wet locations. Plants need oxygen to survive, even through the roots. Some plants can take longer periods of time in wet soils or even in flooded locations. Some plants are even adapted to be under almost constant water, such as bald cypress trees. These trees, however, pop their roots up and out of the ground to get oxygen in constantly wet locations. If your location is constantly wet, choose a plant more adapted to that type of growing conditions. Some plants will not survive long in high moisture areas.