Our Nifty Guide to the Best Plants for Terrariums

Last update: April 14, 2021

Our recommendations for the best plants for terrariums are the Terrarium & Fairy Garden Plants and the Fat Plants San Diego Succulent Cuttings. We choose two to cover the different environments you might want to choose. Each one includes a collection of plants so that you can get started right away. Sprucing up your terrarium will be that much easier if you check out our comprehensive list of plant candidates below.

Our Top Picks for the Best Plants for Terrariums

#1 Terrarium & Fairy Garden Plants
Our rating
5/5
Description
A1ypLuE4otL. AC SL1500
#2 Fat Plants San Diego Succulent Cuttings
Our rating
5/5
Description
91Q0a5F5qL. AC SL1500

#3 Live Moss Assortment for Terrariums
Our rating
4.5/5
Description
619l6E dqiL. AC SL1000

#4 Shop Succulents Unique Succulent
Our rating
4.5/5
Description

What You Need to Know about Terrariums

Terrariums are just plain fun. Think of it as a living canvas. You are the artist and creator of your own world. You can create almost any type of environment in a terrarium. And the choice of plants will work no matter which you choose. Want to experience the desert? You got it. How about a tropical oasis? You need only pick the right plants to make your vision come to life.

In many ways, keeping a terrarium is similar to growing any indoor plant or container gardening. You control everything. And with that comes a responsibility to create the ideal environment for your plants. The challenges depend on the setting you choose. Whether a desert or tropical setting, each one requires careful attention to details—all of them. Moisture is the limiting factor.

Creating a Terrarium

The process of creating a terrarium will lead you on the path to choosing the right plants. The basic setup includes a container, base, and plants. Variations exist with the types of plants you choose to place in the planter.

Going Topless?

You can make your terrarium an opened ended kind of affair or add a top. Without a top, air circulates freely. Moisture doesn’t collect inside the container. Rather, there is a constant exchange of air within the container and the environment. But it makes for some important differences with a terrarium environment.

It is, therefore, a basic question that you need to consider. For example, a covered glass container works well for humid-loving plants. Succulents, on the other hand, prefer a topless container with sandy soil for a base. That is what you would want for a succulent terrarium.

Drainage

No matter what type of terrarium you choose, you’ll need a drainage base on the bottom of your container. It’s imperative for terrariums that water drains from the surface to prevent bacteria or mold formation. Either one is deadly for a terrarium. In a closed environment like a container, it presents more of a risk.

You can use a drainage base of stones and activated charcoal on top of it. The stones give the water a place to go. The charcoal serves the same purpose as it does in a water pitcher. It removes impurities that could cause bacteria formation and odors. It has industrial and agricultural applications to remove pollutants in drinking water and groundwater.

This video from the Mississippi State University Extension Service walks you through the process of setting up a diy terrarium.

Base

Drainage also applies to your substrate. Whether sand or soil, well-draining is the key to a healthy terrarium. Remember, your created environment must supply all the necessary nutrients that soil would provide in the wild. Since you control the setup, you have great opportunity to match the soil with the plants of your terrarium.

Many plants are tolerant of a variety of soil types. At a base level, they include sand, loam, and clay. In a terrarium, sand and loam are suitable given the closed conditions of a container. You can use potting soils to match the needs of your plants including amendments to suit different soil chemistry needs. It is one of the standout properties of indoor gardening.

To Moss or Not to Moss

Moss adds an extra layer of protection against excessive moisture loss. It adds a nice aesthetic touch too. If you’re trying to recreate a miniature forest, moss is the perfect addition. Moss absorbs and holds moisture. It helps to ensure that your terrarium plants won’t dry out from a lack of moisture.

While they lack the showy blooms, mosses are flowerless plants. Rather than flowers and seeds, mosses reproduce by spores. They have a dense, clumpy structure that has its own beauty. In a terrarium, they serve a practical purpose as well. In a light terrarium, they are optional. They depend on a moist environment that may not exist with all terrariums.

Stocking Your Terrarium

The size of your terrarium is another limiting factor for plant selection. It’s not just a matter of fitting the size of the container. It’s also a matter of being suitable for the whole concept. If you’re growing a variety of plants, every one should stand out on its own. It misses the mark if one plant overtakes all the other plants. It’s not a terrarium at that point, but a monoculture.

Fortunately, you’ll find many plants adapted to terrarium living. You’ll see dwarf versions of many common plants. It is truly a way of creating mini-environments. Some basic principles apply. You don’t want to set plants up for crowding by planting against the sides of your terrarium. They’ll need a bit of space too.

For a terrarium, the spacing allows for air circulation. Remember, that it is imperative in the closed space of a container to prevent mold formation. Your plants will also appreciate the extra wiggle room as they acclimate to their space. It’s essential, therefore, that you keep the size of your terrarium in mind when choosing plants. Avoid overcrowding them. Less is more.

Our Recommendations: Terrarium & Fairy Garden Plants and Fat Plants San Diego Twenty Five Small Succulent Cuttings

Creating a terrarium isn’t just an activity for kids. Adults can appreciate both the challenge and the relaxing atmosphere of a living recreation of a fantasy world. We loved the opportunity to create our own tropical paradise filled with exotic plants and perhaps, the lizard or two. We narrowed our choices to a variety of plants to get us up and going quickly with our terrarium.

The Terrarium & Fairy Garden Plants collection includes eight different plants to give you a jumpstart for creating your own terrarium. It offers an excellent way to get started especially when you’re unsure about what to get. We liked the variety of plants that includes a broad spectrum of colors. It makes for an eye-catching display sure to please.

The Fat Plants San Diego Succulents Cuttings is the ideal way for a beginner to get started with terrariums. Succulent plants have the ability to store water, so you have fewer worries about plants drying out. Moisture, of course, is a challenge with a terrarium. You want to keep it water levels adequate without creating an environment for mold and bacteria.

A terrarium is an excellent teaching tool to introduce your children to the concepts of botany and gardening. For adults, it’s an excellent way to create your own tropical oasis. Think of it as your island getaway. With a collection of a myriad of plants, you can capture the feel of your own rainforest. All you need is the island music and some leis.

Photo by Pexels licensed under CC0.

Thrive in the Dark with the Best Indoor Plants for Low Light

Last update: January 29, 2021

Our recommendations for the best indoor plants for low light are the Hirt’s Peace Lily Plant and the Cast Iron Plant. The requirement for low light set our bar for low maintenance too. We wanted a plant that was hardy and could 4it if we weren’t as attentive as we should be. Both our plants are excellent examples. Be sure to peruse our list below if you want to learn more about low light indoor plants.

Our Top Picks for the Best Indoor Plants for Low Light

What You Need to Know about Indoor Plants

Growing plants indoors offers the rewards of having greenery in the home. It also comes with its special challenges. While some manage fine, not all plants can survive in both indoor and outdoor settings. Limitations exist. There are several reasons. There is sunlight. There are the other basic needs for houseplants such as adequate water, correct temperature, and proper nutrition.

Sunlight

Sunlight is a complicated thing. It includes light from a full spectrum of wavelengths and their corresponding colors. Each one has a different effect on plants. Plants vary in their needs for light. More isn’t necessarily better when it comes to plants that are sensitive to high-light conditions. Ironically, too much light can damage plants as too little will stunt their growth.

Water

Meeting your indoor plant’s basic water needs means striking a balance. You must provide enough moisture without creating an environment that encourages mold and bacteria which can accumulate between waterings. Moisture will evaporate quicker in a closed gardening container. So, you need to pay attention to water needs on that end of the spectrum too. You’ll also need to consider the relative humidity of the environment.

Temperature

Typical household temperatures are like tropical environments. After all, it’s easier—and probably preferable—to replicate a rainforest rather than a cooler northern climate. Temperature and light directly influence photosynthesis and plant respiration. They are fundamental to plant growth. So anything that affects them will also impact your indoor plant.

The two processes complement each other. With photosynthesis, a plant creates energy powered by sunlight. During respiration, a plant releases it along with oxygen. That’s why you’ll often see indoor plants referred to as being healthy additions to your home. As you might guess, there is a balance between the two processes that must be met.

Nutrition

Nutrition presents the same challenge for getting it right with light and water. And again, too much of a good thing is bad. Adequate nutrition depends on the specific needs of the plant. The amount of soil also matters. Remember, it’s about creating the right concentration of nutrients. And just like too much light can damage plants, too much fertilizer can do the same.

This video from the University of Wyoming Extension discusses how to fertilize indoor plants properly.

Let’s Talk about Light

As we explained, light needs vary with the plant. It’s helpful to consider the types of plants you have. You may think tropical plants need a lot of light. But think about their natural environment. The chances are that many tropical plants you find are ones that would grow as ground cover or at least in the understory.

That means that they are growing under the shadow of trees reaching the upper canopy. So, they’re used to low light conditions already. But what does low light mean? We can use the standard definitions of sun and shade to give us a framework for answering this question.

Full sun, for example, means at least six full hours of direct sunlight. Partial shade or partial sun is between three and six hours. On the opposite end of the spectrum, full shade or low light means less than two hours of indirect light. The key is indirect. These plants fare best without the intensity of direct sunlight.

Types of Plant Habitats

When choosing indoor house plants, it’s helpful to consider a plant’s natural environment. Several types of plants are suitable for indoor settings because your home isn’t too much different from what they know. You’ll find a wide array of both flowering and non-flowering plants that will grow indoors. You’ll also see varieties that tolerate a broad spectrum of living conditions from desert to tropical settings.

You’ll have your best success with indoor plants with low light needs if your home matches the conditions in which they thrive. You can cross off desert plants like succulents and cacti from your list. These plants need full sun to survive. Also, think about what you can provide. If you’re new to indoor gardening, you should consider low maintenance plants.

Tropical Places

As we discussed, many tropical plants prefer and will thrive in low light conditions. That is how they evolved. They can handle not having direct light, so you needn’t worry about an elaborate grow light setup. That fact alone gives them an advantage over plants with greater light needs. It’ll also make it easier to find a good fit.

The indirect light in your home is adequate. It replicates their natural environment. With plants, it’s often easiest to match the plant to your conditions rather than making a lot of changes. The same principle applies to outdoor gardening. It’s much easier to provide a good fit from the start rather than trying to create it. Remember that means extra maintenance.

Cool Environments

The plants that live in cooler environments also are smart choices for low-light conditions. Many live in the wild as part of the understory of forests. Think mosses. They differ from other plants. The air provides for their needs for moisture and nutrients. They make a great addition to a terrarium with other low light plants.

Other plants also do well in cool, moist environments. Think of plants of temperate rainforest like the ones that exist in the Pacific Northwest. These plants are smart choices for cooler rooms and those with a northern exposure. The chances are that no matter what the situation, you’ll find a plant that will thrive.

Our Recommendations: Hirt’s Peace Lily Plant and Cast Iron Plant

The Hirt’s Peace Lily Plant has its name going for it. The idea of bringing peace into the home is a good selling point. However, it has a lot more going for it. For one thing, it lets you know when to water it. If the leaves start to droop, it’s time to get the watering can. And fortunately, it’s not the worse for wear. That makes it easy to avoid over-watering.

What can you say about a plant called the Cast Iron Plant? It lives up to its name as a hardy plant that can handle low light and neglect if that should ever happen. It’s a good looking plant with large, dark green leaves that make it an attractive addition to your home.

Low light conditions needn’t prevent you from adding some welcome greenery to your home. Many indoor plants will thrive and even flourish in indirect light. The best indoor plants for low light will prefer the conditions that you can provide. Then you have a recipe for success.

Photo by abdecoral licensed under CC0.

What Are Our Picks for the Best Ground Cover Plants?

Last update: April 14, 2021

Our recommendations for the best ground cover plants are Japanese Spurge and Vinca Minor Evergreen Ground Cover. Grass, of course, is the quintessential ground cover. But we wanted to focus on ornamental varieties that can add color and class to a landscape design. We narrowed our list to those grow fast. If you want better ground cover, our list of recommendations has you covered.

Our Top Picks for the Best Ground Cover Plants

#1 Japanese Spurge
Our rating
5/5
Description
#2 Vinca Minor Evergreen Ground Cover
Our rating
5/5
Description
91cp3H3LtTL. AC SL1500

#3 Woolly Thyme Plant
Our rating
4.5/5
Description
71D6YXYb4CL. AC SL1000

#4 Hirt‘s Baltic English Ivy
Our rating
4.5/5
Description
61clbflrYnL. AC

Why You Should Consider Ground Cover Plants

Ground cover plants can serve many purposes and solve common garden problems. Their versatility is what makes them shine. Grass is a familiar ground cover. It covers bare spots in your yard and prevents erosion. Ornamental ground covers can do the same thing in a more decorative way. They’re an excellent choice for areas in which grass won’t work.

A ground cover is a good option for planting around the base of trees. Without grass to mow, there’s less of a risk of damaging trunks. They can also grow in shady ground areas like these places where grass may fail to thrive. And you can match a ground cover with the needs of a site. Many smaller varieties exist that can solve landscape issues without taking over the yard.

Many of their other advantages are aesthetic. They can act as the unifying element in your landscaping that brings everything together. Ground covers with plants of various heights can create interest and drama in your landscape. They can add color and complement a mood. You can also use them to soften the hard lines of driveways and sidewalks.

Things You Need to Know about Choosing Ground Cover Plants

The basic principles of choosing garden plants apply to ground covers as well. You should match the location’s conditions with the needs of the plants. If you’re planting them under a tree, you should consider this micro-climate. It likely has more shade than the rest of the yard. The soil conditions may differ under a tree versus the rest of the yard.

The Right Fit

One thing you need to consider is the relationship between some ground covers and adjacent plants like trees and shrubs. Allelopathy describes these good and bad effects. For example, some oaks may produce toxic substances that can harm other plants like herbs and grasses. Likewise, plants like the black walnut tree and tall fescue might not play nice with other plants.

In these cases, your ground cover plants will likely suffer, so you need to know how other plants may affect them. Common allelopathic plants also include the tree of heaven, juniper, perennial rye, and foxtail. Fortunately, most affect only a few other plants. Your cooperative extension service can help you identify potential problem situations.

This video from the University of Illinois Extension offers an example of how you can use ground cover to create interest in your landscape design.

https://youtu.be/yGBNKZcZVME

Hardiness

With any outdoor plant, you must consider its hardiness. Limit your choices to plants that can tolerate your area’s USDA Plant Hardiness Zone for the best success. A plant’s designation gives you an idea of the lowest extreme temperature that it can handle. If you live in Zone 3, it doesn’t make sense to include plants that can’t tolerate freezing temperatures.

The hardiness zone is only a guide. Your yard likely has different micro climates where areas may be wetter than others. There may also be high spots that are windy and thus, drier. In these cases, you need to match plants with the local conditions and the challenges that they bring. These things can affect how well growing ground cover plants may fare in the long term.

The Right Height

You should also consider the height of ground cover plants. While the term may imply short and compact plants that isn’t always the case. Lamb’s Ear, for example, forms 30-inch wide clumps. It becomes important when planting around tree bases so that air can still circulate at the ground level. That will prevent bacteria and mold growth which can prove deadly to some trees.

Invasive and Aggressive Plants

Many ground cover plants grow quickly which is a great advantage if you want to remedy a bare spot fast. However, there is a balance between covering area quick and getting out of control. Members of the Mint Family such as catnip can easily get out of control and spread far outside of their intended spot. These plants are considered aggressive.

Others may invade other areas in your garden such as flower beds. These are invasive plants. Either situation is unacceptable. At their designated space, they are a welcome addition. Once they encroach on other parts of your garden, they become an unwanted weed. And weeds, instead of fixing a problem, become one.

The Long Haul

You should also consider the long haul when selecting a ground cover plant. Some plants like Lily of the Valley are especially tenacious. Even if you’ve moved on from them a long time ago, you’ll likely see plants popping up for many years to come. This plant also produces toxic berries, something else to consider if you have children or pets in your home.

Companions

Like other garden plants, ground covers will attract other visitors to your garden. While you may welcome butterflies and hummingbirds, honeybees may be a different story, especially for areas close to entrances and windows. It’s a good rule of thumb to vet any plant that you are planting close to your home for these considerations.

Our Recommendations: Japanese Spurge and Vinca Minor Evergreen Ground Cover

Our criteria for choosing the best ground cover plants included several factors. We wanted a plant that would fill in an area with a carpet of foliage, seeing as that is often a reason for choosing one. We also opted for a plant that was low maintenance. And finally, we liked the idea of using ground cover as the element that brings our landscaping together.

The Japanese Spurge is a slow-growing, hardy plant that is tolerant of a variety of soil conditions and sun exposure levels. The plant does well in Zones 5 through 8. We enjoyed its beautiful spring flowers and that fact that it is an evergreen. We also liked the fact that it stays on the smaller size, at less than a foot high. The fact that it is deer resistant sealed the deal.

Vinca Minor Evergreen Ground Cover, also known as creeping periwinkle, produces delicate spring flowers like Japanese spurge. It quickly forms a lush carpet of dark green foliage. We liked the fact that it is an evergreen too, with a flower that may persist into the summer. The fact that it can tolerate a range of sun exposure levels was a perk.

Choosing a ground cover plant offers an excellent opportunity to add color and pop to your landscape design. The fact that these plants can hide problem spots is a big plus in our book. For areas where grass won’t cut it, ground cover plants are a suitable option. Think of them as another element in your landscape design.

Photo by 226926 licensed under CC0.

Hang Out with the Best Hanging Plants

Last update: April 14, 2021

Our recommendations for the best hanging plants are Staghorn Fern and Strawberry Begonia. We narrowed our choices down to a nonflowering plant and one with showy blooms to cover all the bases. Regular watering and proper placement are essential for success with hanging plants. The best hanging plants in our estimation are below, so be sure to follow up on this comprehensive list.

Our Top Picks for the Best Hanging Plants

#1 Staghorn Fern
Our rating
5/5
Description
61tkgCBh9L. AC SL1005
#2 Strawberry Begonia
Our rating
5/5
Description
91YtGaZrapL. AC SL1500

#3 Golden Devil’s Ivy
Our rating
4.5/5
Description
71jS3ac4VKL. AC SL1500

#4 Tropical Bromeliad Plant
Our rating
4.5/5
Description
71uvMVhTmGL. AC SL1000

What You Need to Know about Hanging Plants

You can put any plant in a hanging basket or planter. It’s just a different kind of container. However, there are some things you need to consider before choosing a plant. They include both aesthetic and practical considerations that you should think about up front. It’ll save you time and money in the long run.

The Right Look

From an aesthetic point of view, you need to consider how the plant is going to look. A hanging plant will sit about eye level on your patio, balcony, or porch. Think about what you’re going to see at the midpoint of a plant. Will it be mainly bare stems like a palm tree? Or will it be a cascade of flower-filled vines? Right away, that fact alone should eliminate some choices.

We like the look of vines spilling out of a basket hanging with attractive foliage or beautiful flowers. We could easily see it becoming a focal point in our garden. We also liked the idea of hanging baskets at either end of our home to give it balance. That said, the appearance of the plants in the basket is a major consideration.

The Right Place

Plants in containers are always a challenge. In essence, you’re creating a microclimate in a hanging basket. The container should provide everything that plant needs to survive. Maintaining adequate moisture often becomes an issue with potted plants. It is further complicated by the fact that it is a hanging plant.

This video from Pinellas Extension TV shows you how to make a hanging basket your own creation. Picking the plants is just the start.

Air circulates all around the basket. Water loss is, therefore, a serious concern. Of course, you can prepare a container by lining it with sphagnum moss to better retain moisture. You should also consider where you hang the basket. Avoid placing them where they will get the brunt of the hot afternoon sun. A site that receives morning sunlight will be more appropriate.

You should also consider the size of the mature plant. The goal is for the container to hang freely without touching walls or other structures. There should be adequate air circulation. Also, think about maintenance. Make sure you can get to the plant easily to water it. And don’t forget the drainage. Consider where the excess water is going to drain underneath it.

Maintaining Hanging Plants

There are few other practical concerns that you should consider. First, there is the growth of the plant. A fast-growing plant may quickly outgrow its container and space. If you want to keep your hanging plant for the longer term, you might want to opt for a slow-growing perennial plant. A container will keep a plant’s size in check to some degree.

Also, give some thought to overwintering. Many plants may tolerate winters if they’re in the ground. It’s another story with gardening hanging plants. Without the protection of the surrounding soil, they will likely perish. Then, you should think about bringing them indoors as a houseplant. That means ensuring the optimal conditions exist in your home too. In some cases that might not be practical.

Container Plant Care

Careful planning will help ensure that your hanging plants will thrive. That begins with your choice of a planting container. The size should be adequate to allow for air circulation and room for growth. These factors are especially important if you choose a solid container rather than an open basket. They can have significant impacts on the health of your plant.

With a pot, you should opt for one with drainage holes for excess water to exit. Otherwise, you run the risk of mold and bacteria developing in its moist, warm conditions. If you opt for a basket, you will need to line it. You can use moss or another material such as coconut fiber which will also add a decorative touch. You may also find synthetic materials that will work just as well.

Soil Mixtures

You can find soil mixtures or composts that will suit your plant’s needs. Because you’re using a basket container, you should opt for lightweight mixes such as peat and peat substitutes. Regular watering is essential as it is with any container plant. These mixtures will typically include some additional fertilizers to give your plants a head start.

You can also mix different composts to fine tune the soil to the plant’s needs. For example, you can use a loam-based mix with peat to keep the weight in check while ensuring long-term retention of nutrients. Keep in mind the weight of the entire package, plant, soil, and container. And don’t forget the limitations of where you are going to hang your plant.

Feeding Your Plant

At some point, you’ll likely need to fertilize your hanging plant. After it has depleted the nutrients in the soil mixture, it’ll need something more to get through the rest of the season. Slow-release plant food granules offer an easy way to ensure your plant gets enough nutrients without the risk of overdoing it. Excess fertilizer can damage plants and affect their long-term survival.

Our Recommendations: Staghorn Fern and Strawberry Begonia

A hanging basket is a great way to add some pop to your landscape design. Often hung around the home, it can complement the existing color scheme with a small but powerful statement. With so many plants from which to choose, we focused on finding representatives from both flowering and nonflowering plants to give you the best of both worlds.

The Staghorn Fern packs a big punch with its broad, dark green leaves. It’s a hardy plant that will do well as long as it has adequate moisture. It has a sprawling growth pattern that gives it an airy feel which can cover a lot of room. It gets its name from the resemblance of its fronds to deer antlers. It is relatively pest and disease free, making it an excellent choice.

Strawberry Begonia is an attractive plant with showy white blooms that flowers in late spring to early summer. While it’s called begonia, it is actually a perennial evergreen. In addition to a container plant, it also makes a nice ground cover. The Strawberry Begonia prefers partial to full shade. You should hang it in a place that receives morning sun.

A hanging basket is an effective way to add color to your landscaping. It will also the interest of another layer in your overall design. With cascading foliage and blooms, it can also bring a peaceful, dreamy mood that is inviting to hummingbirds and people too. With the proper placement and care, you’ll have an attractive centerpiece to add to your landscape.

Photo by moritz320 licensed under CC0.

Keep to Yourself with the Best Plants for Privacy

Last update: April 15, 2021

Our recommendations for the best plants for privacy are Thuja Green Giant Arborvitae and Ilex Nellie R Stevens Evergreen Holly Shrub. Both our choices are fast-growing plants that provide year-round color. They form dense walls, making them an excellent choice for privacy. If you want a plant to keep your home private, you might want to consider our picks below.

Our Top Picks for the Best Plants for Privacy

#1 Thuja Green Giant Arborvitae
Our rating
5/5
Description
41hFbeMyGnL. AC
#2 Ilex Nellie R Stevens Evergreen Holly Shrub
Our rating
5/5
Description
71OyOd dJnL. AC SL1500

#3 Black Dragon Cryptomeria Tree
Our rating
4.5/5
Description

#4 Hicks Yew
Our rating
4.5/5
Description
A17o0ut9JL. AC SL1500

Landscape Design for Privacy

If privacy is a must-have feature for your yard, it’s something you need to plan for before the shovel hits the soil. As it may imply, these elements are larger parts of the overall design. While you can switch out a flower or two, it’s not the same with a privacy screen. So, as you’re deciding on the mood and color scheme, also think about how you want to create privacy.

Options for Privacy

There are several ways you can create that relaxing atmosphere of a private space. You can opt for fences or other boundary markers. But these types of structures have a cold almost unwelcoming feel about them. Plants, on the other hand, can soften the mood and the tone of a garden element with the primary purpose of creating privacy.

A Living Wall

Even if you choose a fence, you can train some plants to grow with it to create a living wall of greenery. A trellis can work the same way. Climbing plants can quickly fill in the gaps to give you the screen you desire. The good thing about going this route is that it opens up your options. You can choose the classy appearance of an ivy-covered wall.

You could also use it as an opportunity to add color to your landscape design. Think of beautiful flowering climbing plants like wisteria and clematis. Your privacy screen can take on a whole new dimension as a focal point in your garden. Even if you have existing fences, you can add a trellis to increase its height, and thus, your sense of privacy.

Hedging It In

You have other options by skipping the middleman all together with a living privacy screen. Shrubs, hedges, and trees like arborvitae provide an attractive way to enclose a space. You can think of these plants as a kind of living wallpaper. You’ll find a variety of plants with different heights to fit your privacy needs.

And while creating boundaries sounds cold, it doesn’t have to be. Like a living wall, these plants can act as a centerpiece for your garden or backyard. Plants have a wonderful way of conveying a mood. Designing for privacy doesn’t have to be the proverbial line in the sand. Rather, it can function as a natural element in your landscape as if it was meant to be there all along.

What You Need to Know about Privacy Plants

The same principles for choosing other garden plants apply for those that you use for privacy. The only difference is their purpose. That means picking plants appropriate for your hardiness zone and the conditions. These include the familiar elements of sunlight, soil conditions, and any local factors that may affect a plant’s health.

This video from This Old House walks you through the process of planting for a privacy screen.

You may find that you have more of a vested interest in the success of your plants simply because you have defined a purpose for them. After all, if you’re going to go to all this trouble, you want a return on your investment in time and money. Your insurance begins with choosing the right plants for your space. It is much easier for a plant to thrive if its needs are met.

Know Your Height

Since privacy is your concern, you need to know what that means regarding a plant’s stature. Think about what is the source of your need for privacy landscaping. Are adjacent yards too close to your space? In that case, a privacy screen of about six foot should do the job. Also, consider the views from above. If the neighbor’s house towers over your yard, you might choose taller plants.

Bear in mind that you can work with a plant’s placement to meet your needs for height. For example, if you live in a ranch style home, you may find that plants that reach to the eaves are sufficient to create a garden room. Likewise, you may only need to add a couple of feet of trellis to an existing fence to get the proper height.

Density

You should also think about the overall shape of your plants. If they form a sparse wall, they may not give you the degree of privacy you want. Also, consider the spacing of the plants. If there are large gaps between plants, it may present another issue. When researching these factors, look at the mature height and spread of the plants. This might be the determining factor between privacy trees and a privacy hedge.

Winter Color

A major drawback of climbing plants is that they will die back during the winter months. If you live in a warmer area, this may not be an issue at all. But if you live in a temperate climate, you might want to opt for a plant with year-round color such as an evergreen hedge. The advantage is that you have a plant that will continue to function as a privacy screen.

The Time Factor

The chances are that if you’ve identified a need for privacy; you want it done yesterday. Unfortunately, that isn’t typically the case with plants. While arborvitae is fast-growing, that still means about three feet of growth a year. So, those small trees are going to need a few years before they can deliver on their promise of privacy.

If you want it sooner rather than later, you might consider going the trellis root with a fast-growing climbing plant. It doesn’t have to be a permanent thing. You can use it as a way to bridge the gap before a more permanent solution fills in the space. The important thing is that you can create privacy screens on your timetable.

Our Recommendations: Thuja Green Giant Arborvitae and Ilex Nellie R Stevens Evergreen Holly Shrub

The Thuja Green Giant Arborvitae is a commanding tree that will provide privacy up to heights of 40 feet. It grows at the relatively fast rate of three feet per year. Its dense shape means that you won’t have to spend a lot of time pruning it, always a plus. It also makes an excellent wind screen.

The Ilex Nellie R Stevens Evergreen Holly Shrub has a lot to offer in addition to being an effective privacy screen. The dark green foliage is stunning, especially with its red berries. We liked the fact that it provides a good food source for birds that may overwinter in your area. Like the arborvitae, it is fast-growing for a quick solution.

When you choose plants for privacy, you need to consider more than the usual aspects of plant care. For optimal use, your plant should fill its space quickly, while offering an attractive addition to your landscaping. Many plants like our picks provide excellent choices for both privacy and windscreens. They’re a sound investment for creating a relaxing space in your garden.

Photo by chrisfxwolf0 licensed under CC0.

Picking the Best Hedge Plants for Your Yard

Last update: April 15, 2021

Our recommendations for the best hedge plants are Winter Gem Boxwood and Potentilla “Abbotswood” White. We couldn’t make up our mind whether to go old school classic with boxwood or go for a flowering hedge. We chose both. It all depends on the mood you want to create. With these choices, which you can see in our list below, we’ve got you covered.

Our Top Picks for the Best Hedge Plants

#1 Winter Gem Boxwood
Our rating
5/5
Description
51xNwLI5aoL. AC 1
#2 Potentilla “Abbotswood” White
Our rating
5/5
Description
51uNnDbJRVL. AC 1

#3 Golden Globe Dwarf Arborvitae
Our rating
4.5/5
Description
golden globe thuja 1

#4 Double Take Chaenomeles ‘Orange Storm’ Flowering Quince
Our rating
4.5/5
Description
double take orange landscape

What Is a Hedge?

You may hear the words hedges, shrub, and bush used interchangeably. There are differences you should know so you can choose the right plant. A hedge refers to a living boundary created with bushes, shrubs, or trees. Shrub is a reference to a plant with multiple perennial stems, unlike a tree which has one central element. A bush is a low-growing shrub or group of plants.

So, when we speak of a shrub, we’re talking about plants that you put in the ground in proximity of each other to form a row or wall. While they typically include one type of plant, you can use different kinds to create interest—as long as they are compatible. To make maintenance easier, they should have the same basic needs and growing patterns.

Hedge Uses

The primary use of a hedge is to create a boundary. As a living fence, they can also provide privacy and function as windscreen. You can also make them a feature in your landscape. Decorative and flowering plants can make an attractive addition to your yard that will do double duty. While you may think of them as borders between properties, they can also create smaller areas.

You can use them to create private garden rooms that are separate from the rest of the yard. They also can make an effective screen for the unsightly elements around your house such as a view of a road or alley. And with a coordinating landscape design, they can act as a feature to tie together the theme of your landscape design.

What Makes a Good Hedge Plant?

The right plant will thrive in its conditions and have an ability to tolerate extremes of a particular area. It will meet its needs for water and nutrition while remaining healthy and vibrant. Defining what makes a good hedge depends on its purpose and the limitations of a site. For example, if privacy is your goal, you should opt for hedges that are dense and tall enough for this purpose.

Likewise, if you want to make it a focal point, flowering plants can create an eye-catching feature. Consider other things that a hedge plant can bring to the table such as food, cover, and windbreak for wildlife or flowers for a centerpiece. Unexpected uses add value to your hedge plants.

Also, think about its year-round place in your garden. If you’re planting hedges as privacy screens, you should stick with evergreen varieties, versus deciduous, that won’t shed their leaves in the winter. Your privacy hedges will persist the entire year. Even with privacy landscaping you have that extra perk of welcome color when the rest of your yard is buried under snow or awash in dull grays and greens.

You should also think about the height of your hedges. Again, a lot depends on use. While it may not be a big deal for privacy, it can be a deal breaker if it blocks a beautiful view. You should always find out what the mature height and mature size will be to avoid any unpleasant surprises down the road. If you’re unsure, break out the tape measure and find out. Don’t leave it to guesswork.

Options for the Right Hedge for You

When picking a hedge plant, consider the entire package. A beautiful appearance is one thing. You also need to know what it entails. It’ll likely come down to maintenance. All growing shrubs will need the occasional pruning if just to remove dead and damaged branches. Doing this task will ensure air circulates within the plant to avoid mold or bacteria development that can harm your plants.

It’s also an essential practice to encourage flowering. The timing for pruning depends on when your shrubs flower. Spring flowers grow on branch growth from the previous year. You should prune after the big show. Shrubs that bloom later must invest in new growth before the flowers appear. Pruning is best done before new growth has spurred flowering for optimal results.

This video from the University of Illinois Extension explains how to trim hedges properly to improve the health and appearance of your plants.

https://youtu.be/wTsuW5whTFA

Formal or Informal

There’s a lot to be said for the look of a neatly trimmed hedgerow. Hedging plants adds a sense of balance and order to your landscape. There’s also that stylish factor. Pruned foliage simply looks classy. If this is the mood that you’re after, this is an excellent approach to take. Paired with other classic plants like roses or lavender, you’ll have a gorgeous design.

Your other option is to go informal. Think shrubs with branches of cascading flowers. The advantage of growing varieties with this approach is that it creates a dreamy, relaxed feel. Some may find it more inviting than a formal garden. Informal also applies to maintenance. It’s a garden’s version of that soft, tousled look. It’s a good choice for a cottage or country garden. It’s all about simplicity.

Our Recommendations: Winter Gem Boxwood and Potentilla “Abbotswood” White

Our research into hedges taught us one important lesson. Hedges are as varied as the moods you want to create. And fortunately, you’ll find a hedge plant to suit your landscaping ideas no matter where your tastes will take you. Our choices include both a formal and informal styled-hedge to cover a wide array of interests. Each one offers an excellent choice for a hedge plant.

Winter Gem Boxwood is the classic formal hedge. With a height of 3 1/1 feet and a spread of 3 feet, it does the job without blocking the view. With a medium growth rate, they are appropriate for Zones 5 through 8. Boxwood hedges require extra care to keep their neat, trimmed state. But if you want this feel for your landscape, they offer a good choice that is easy to grow.

We opted for a bit of whimsey with the Potentilla “Abbotswood” White. This hedge plant has a lot to offer. It is cold hardy. This is a boon if you live in temperate climate and want an attractive flowering shrub. We liked the fact that it can tolerate a variety of soil conditions. The fact that it is deer resistant is a definite plus. If there are a lot of deer in your area, this feature is a priority.

Choosing a hedge plant is an opportunity to unify the theme of your landscape design. Whether you like the formal look of trimmed boxwoods or the informal look of cascading blooms, you’re sure to find a hedge plant that will complement your garden. Because they are an investment, it pays to determine what you need in a choice in order the find the best hedge plants.

Photo by guy_dugas licensed under CC0.

Our Guide to the Best Plants for Aquaponics

Last update: April 15, 2021

Our recommendations for the best plants for aquaponics are Hydroponic Buttercrunch Lettuce Seeds and Basil Seeds. Aquaponics gives you the chance to grow fresh produce year round. It is also an opportunity to try new varieties. With that in mind, we opted to makes the most out of our choices. Read on to learn more about setting up an aquaponic system with our list of the right plants.

Our Top Picks for the Best Plants for Aquaponics

#1 Hydroponic Buttercrunch Lettuce Seeds
Our rating
5/5
Description
41kf2XC4tvL. AC
#2 Basil Seeds
Our rating
5/5
Description

#3 Hydroponic Romaine Lettuce Seeds
Our rating
4.5/5
Description
31wSJPqjE6L. AC

#4 Hydroponic Oakleaf Lettuce Seeds
Our rating
4.5/5
Description
61O 1hCCaNL. AC

What Is Aquaponics?

If you’ve ever had an aquarium with fish and live plants as part of the aquaculture, you know what aquaponics is. You were practicing it even if you didn’t know it was happening. Technically, the term describes a symbiotic or win-win relationship between fish and growing plants. The fish provide the nutrients to support the growth of plants. You can think of it as the ultimate in organic gardening.

Hydroponics vs. Aquaponics

Hydroponics is similar in that you use water as the medium for plants to grow. The difference is how each setup provides nutrients. In a hydroponic system, fertilizers are the source of plant nutrition. In an aquaponics system, the fish do the job. Fish waste is converted into nutrients that the plant can use by beneficial bacteria.

A series of chemical processes converts the ammonia to nitrites and finally to nitrates. It’s the same process that happens in the soil where dead plant matter and other organic materials are decomposed by bacteria. This nutrient cycling is Nature’s way of recycling. While it may sound modern, it is actually an ancient process that goes back to the time of the Aztecs.

Benefits of Aquaponics

If aquaponics gardening sounds interesting to you, you’ll be happy to know that it offers many benefits. There’s no labor involved. You needn’t till the ground to prepare it for seeds. There are no weeds. You don’t have to bother with pesticides or fertilizers. The fish supply everything your plants need. And best of all, there is no waste.

All waste is used because it is converted into nutrients for the plants. You can set up an aquaponics system anywhere there is a power source. You can enjoy fresh produce year-round. And you can feel good about the fact that you’ll minimize water use. Aquaponics uses a fraction of the water that you’d need to maintain a conventional garden outdoors with less hassle.

What You Need to Know about Aquaponics

We’ll begin with what you need to get started with an aquaponics garden. While it has commercial applications, you can easily set up an aquaponic system in your home. Most of the things you need are one-time investments. And you don’t need to put out a lot of cash. The best thing is that you’ll begin getting the return on your investment as soon as the plants start producing.

Basic Fish Setup

You’ll need a fish tank to start. The size depends on the space you have. Think of it as something you’ll place in a permanent location. Moving an established fish tank is a labor-intensive task. Each move will delay the next harvest of plants because it’ll take time for good bacteria to develop. As a rule, you should never remove more than ⅓ of its water at a time.

You should also consider where you’ll place the tank, whether on an aquarium stand or another piece of furniture. Bear in mind that water weighs 8 pounds per gallon. A 30-gallon tank will tip the scales at least 240 pounds—not including the tank weight, gravel, and other accessories. Choose your location wisely taking into account the amount of weight that it will support.

A Place for Plants

You’ll also need a place to grow your plants, commonly referred to as the grow bed. Plants exist separate from the fish. You’ll have to place a medium for the plants to grow. You can use gravel, lava rock, vermiculite, hydroton, clay pebbles, or other suitable products. The advantages of this setup are that it is easy for the hobbyist to get started with aquaponics. You’ll have no trouble finding these products.

Accessories

You’ll also need some other accessories depending on your set up. You’ll have to get an air pump for your fish tank to encourage good bacteria growth. You may also need a water filtration system and a water heater to maintain the ideal conditions for your fish. A grow light for your plants will keep them happy and flourishing.

Choosing Plants for Aquaponics

You’ll see plants marketed as both hydroponic and aquaponic. You can use either one. The difference is in the setup, not the plant. However, some aquaponics plants will fare better than others. A lot rests on the need for nutrients. That will, in turn, depend on the amount and size of your fish. Remember, they are the nutrient-producing machines.

This video from Purdue University explains the aquaponics in detail from the ground up, touching on the basic principles that make it work.

You will need to start your plants first before putting them into your d.i.y aquaponics system. You can follow the same practices that you’d use for growing seedlings for the garden. Instead of going into the ground, you’ll place them in the grow bed. The medium stands in for the soil. The filtered water from the fish tank will take the place of fertilizers.

Generally speaking, plants that produce fruits or vegetables like tomatoes require more nutrients, and thus, a larger setup than smaller plants like herbs and lettuces. There’s also a question of space. It’ll be a lot easier to make room for a batch of lettuce than a sprawling zucchini or cucumber plant. Think of the gardener stuck with a huge harvest of zucchini to give away.

Then, there’s the harvest. Smaller plants will produce food quicker than the two months required by vegetable and fruit plants to produce food. If you’re looking for a quick turnaround, these plants offer better options. They also offer the chance for a continuous harvest.

Our Recommendations: Hydroponic Buttercrunch Lettuce Seeds and Basil Seeds

We like the whole idea of using aquaponics for producing food. And keeping on the convenience theme, we leaned toward aquaponic plants that are easy to grow and produce a quick harvest. We were also drawn to the idea of growing plants that we don’t typically see at the grocery store for your aquaponic crops. Think unusual varieties of herbs and lettuces.

The Hydroponic Buttercrunch Lettuce Seeds gave us the best of both worlds. We liked the idea of growing a different type of lettuce than the boring iceberg. As a general rule, lettuces are super easy to grow, which stood out for us. With a harvest in 30 days, it’s an ideal way to reap the benefits of aquaponics right away.

The Basil Seeds product we chose includes four varieties of basil: cinnamon, Thai Lemon, purple, and Italian. We loved the idea of being able to try a variety of basils. It was easy to understand why it is the most popular aquaponic herb. Like lettuces, they grow quickly and easily. And the idea of fresh basil year-round was a deal maker for us.

Aquaponics offers an excellent way to enjoy fresh produce the year round. It is an opportunity to expand your culinary tastes to try new varieties and types of foods. With the right setup, you’ll reap the rewards quickly. Other popular aquaponics vegetables are squash, cucumbers, watercress basil, watercress chives, and cabbage.

Photo by gemmiti licensed under CC0.

Make Your Space Sing with the Best Plants for Apartments

Last update: April 15, 2021

Our recommendations for the best plants for apartments are Hirt’s Victorian Parlor Palm and Laurentii Snake Plant. We let our top criteria guide our choices. We love the look of the classic palm. In our minds, it is the quintessential indoor houseplant. For hardiness, we picked a favorite known for its tolerance. To learn more, here’s a quick list of our favorites.

Our Top Picks for the Best Plants for Apartments

#1 Hirt’s Victorian Parlor Palm
Our rating
5/5
Description
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#2 Laurentii Snake Plant
Our rating
5/5
Description
61LXPSbrEL. AC SL1175

#3 Weeping Fig Tree
Our rating
4.5/5
Description
91Zm7l0P4vL. AC SL1500

#4 Money Tree Plant
Our rating
4.5/5
Description

Growing Plants Indoors

Your best success for growing plants indoors begins with an assessment of the conditions. You’ll need to consider things such as sunlight, temperature, and relative humidity. All of these things can affect whether your plants will survive and thrive, preferably both. We’ll begin with some basic information about growing plants in containers.

The principal advantage of growing plants indoors is being able to have some greenery in your home. Just because your apartment is far removed from the outdoors doesn’t mean you can’t grow plants inside. Fortunately, many plants handle the stresses of indoor living quite well, they are good indoor dwellers. As long as you see to their needs, your plants will reward you with the life they bring to a room.

Light

Light presents what will probably be one of your greatest challenges. With a limited number of windows, you may need to opt for artificial light to compensate for lack of sunlight. Without a window facing south or west that might be your only option. If you go this route, you’ll have the added investment of the light and perhaps a timer to ensure the proper amount of exposure.

Also, consider how the light may change throughout the year or indirect sunlight. A room that enjoys plentiful sunlight in the warmer months may miss out during the winter months. If your plant needs full sun, you’ll have to resort to an artificial light at least part time.

Your alternative is to consider low light plants. These plants will tolerate a lack of direct sunlight and can even thrive in indirect light. Unless you live in a basement apartment, there will always be some ambient light that may prove sufficient. However, a regular incandescent bulb isn’t going to replace sunlight. The types of light differ as well as how the plant uses it.

Temperature

The temperature won’t like pose much of an issue for your indoor plants. The typical indoor temperature is well within the optimal range of a variety of tropical plants. If you’re in an interior apartment, drafts present less of a problem too. You’ll just need to make sure and keep any indoor plants away from direct heat or air conditioning.

Humidity and Moisture

These factors often present a challenge with indoor plants. And in an apartment, you may have less control over humidity. You can compensate for a lack of moisture by grouping plants together for a designated green space in your apartment. The joint action of plant respiration can help make up for low humidity in the surrounding living space.

Moisture or watering is less of a worry. You can control how much you water your plants. Some like the peace lily provide visual cues like drooping leaves when they’re in need of moisture. Checking the soil on a regular basis will also ensure you’re meeting their needs. Some plants will prefer moist soil all the time. For others, drying out a bit between waterings is optimal.

What You Need to Know about Plants for Apartments

The outstanding advantage that an apartment has is that it is stable. Renters conditions don’t fluctuate as much as in a standalone house. That could certainly be a plus for plants that are fussy about changes in their environment. There is a downside to it too. While it’s good for the things your plants will like, it can be a major disadvantage with the stresses in their environment.

For example, if your apartment is consistently dry, that could present an issue for plants that prefer a more humid environment. It also means more work on your part to ensure your plant’s needs are met. Of course, that becomes more tedious if the stable conditions include something you have to monitor continually.

This video from the University of Wyoming Extension explains the proper way to repot plants so that you can complement the decor of your apartment with attractive containers.

Fitting In

You can think of plants in your apartment as accessories to your decor. They can act as living centerpieces on your table or windowsill. You can use them to create a mood or complement a theme. Consider where you’re going to place them. A plant with dark green foliage will stand out against a light-colored wall. Conversely, a variegated plant will get lost against a busy wallpaper.

Also, give some thought to size. While easy to grow, a rubber plant can soon outgrow its pot if given the right conditions. Think about using your plants as arrangements. A small group of palms growing together can create a dramatic display. Likewise, flowering plants can add a welcome bit of color or even act as a focal point with the right placement.

And if you have pets or small children, be sure and steer away from plants that are toxic such as begonias. It’s wiser to narrow your choices from the start rather than trying to deter your cat from munching on plants that could hurt her.

Care and Maintenance

Fertilizing and the occasional trimming of damaged bits are the primary tasks of routine maintenance. While soil mixes contain some nutrients, your plants will likely deplete them in short order. To avoid injury from too much fertilizer, use slow-release forms rather than liquid preparations. With fertilizers, the possibility exists of too much of a good thing.

You’ll find a variety of products available along with specialty formulas for certain types of plants. Generally, your foliage plants will prefer fertilizers higher in nitrogen, whereas your flowering plants will fare better with formulations with more phosphorus and less nitrogen.

Our Recommendations: Hirt’s Victorian Parlor Palm and Laurentii Snake Plant

The Hirt’s Victorian Parlor Palm is a classic in our minds. Nothing says a lazy summer afternoon than a palm bathed in sunlight. The fact that it is tolerant of a wide range of conditions stood out as another point in its favor. If you have the space, it makes an excellent choice for a no-fuss plant for improving indoor aesthetics.

The Laurentii Snake Plant also known as mother-in-law’s tongue is an air purification plant. Now, all plants have their breaking point. We prefer not to find out where that lies even with a plant that is billed as “impossible to kill.” Still, we like a purifying plant that is well known as a hardy variety and able to tolerate the occasional neglect.

Choosing a plant for your apartment is an important decision. After all, plants and pictures make a place a home. With challenges of growing indoor plants in mind, we opted for plants that add class and style to a room. We also wanted hardy plants. With our choices, you have both. However, other options would be succulents, herbs, cacti, and bamboo. Whether you have a small nook to fill or a large open space, a plant will give it new life.

Photo by echang licensed under CC0.

Soak in the Rays with the Best Plants for Full Sun

Last update: April 15, 2021

Our recommendations for the best plants for full sun are Purple Coneflower Flowers and the Blue Heaven Flutterby Petite Dwarf Butterfly Bush. Recognizing the stress that the afternoon sun can bring, we narrowed our focus to plants that have heat and drought tolerance. Full sun, after all, can bring drying conditions. Continue reading to see which plants we think benefit most from full sun growing conditions.

Our Top Picks for the Best Plants for Full Sun

#1 Purple Coneflower Flowers
Our rating
5/5
Description
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#2 Blue Heaven Flutterby Petite Dwarf Butterfly Bush
Our rating
5/5
Description
81GzcA9zyYL. AC SL1000

#3 Red Poppy
Our rating
4.5/5
Description
51LJZ3MAHBL. AC

#4 Violet Gay Feather
Our rating
4.5/5
Description
718wraG11KL. AC SL1000

Defining Sun Exposure

To determine the best garden plants for full sun, it’ll help if you understand what the term really means. The formal definition concerns the amount and type of sunlight a plant needs. When we speak of a plant for full sun, we mean one that needs at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. There are a couple of important words in that definition.

First, there is the amount. Six hours describes the minimum which a plant needs. It could go over that amount, but it needs to meet this threshold to thrive. Several factors contribute to this high bar. Fruit trees, for example, prefer full sun so that they can continue to produce enough food and energy to get a harvest. That process requires a lot of energy on the plant’s part.

Second, you’ll notice the emphasis on direct versus indirect light. And just as it implies, that means sunny areas with full exposure and not dappled sunlight filtering through an overhead canopy of leaves. If any shade is involved, it has left the realm of full sun. Without adequate sunlight, these plants will not produce an optimal yield as in the case of fruit trees. Their growth may also be stunted.

The Nuances of Direct Sunlight

It’s one thing to talk about direct sunlight, but you also need to consider when the plant is receiving it. There’s a world of difference between six hours of direct sunlight during the morning hours versus the same time in the hot afternoon sun. Morning temperatures run cooler than those in the afternoon. For plants, that means drought and heat tolerance will come into play.

That means you need to know when plants receive direct light at your site. Just because a plant prefers full sun doesn’t mean it can tolerate the hot temperatures that occur during the afternoon, this might mean bringing a container plant in from the balcony, for example. In addition to full sun, you’ll have to widen your criteria to include drought and heat tolerance to boot. It may limit some choices, but you’ll have greater success in the long run.

What You Need to Know about Choosing Plants

After considering these basic needs, we can move to other things you need to consider when choosing full sun plants. Many apply to any outdoor plant you want to add to your garden. They are worth mentioning as we put them into context with the full sun requirement. As a general rule of thumb, you should try to match your plant selection with the conditions of the location.

It makes good sense to choose outdoor plants that are already adapted for the environmental stressors they’re likely to encounter. Remember, these are the plants that have evolved strategies for surviving under difficult conditions. For example, a plant that grows in the shade will rely more on soil nutrients for nourishment since sunlight is a limiting factor for food and energy production.

Likewise, a plant in full sun will make good use of the abundant sunlight to produce food for fruit and showy blooms. The available sunlight allows them to use photosynthesis to its fullest potential. It’s a way that plant have adapted to the conditions that still can ensure they live long enough to reproduce.

Soil Conditions

If this is a new planting, you should begin with a soil test. The test will give you the nutrient profile of a site so you can make the necessary adjustments. It may mean adding fertilizer to get the ratio of nutrients right. You may need to make other changes such as adding lime to correct differences in soil chemistry. It’s better to know this information up front before planting.

Soil Texture

The soil texture gives you an idea of how well it will drain. It can be a critical factor with sun-loving plants. Sandy soils will drain quicker than heavy clay soils. Loams fall somewhere in between. A full sun plant in a loamy soil with morning light will fare very differently than on in sandy soils with afternoon sunlight. So, soil texture is another essential aspect along with light.

Moisture

Your plant’s need for moisture can be a deal breaker when it comes to choosing a full sun plant. If you live in a drought-prone area, you may have restrictions on when you can water your plants. That becomes important when you have full sun locations with afternoon exposure times. For dry areas you can minimize the amount you need to water by tending to plants in the morning instead of later.

Hardiness

Knowing your area’s USDA hardiness zone adds another piece to the puzzle. It’s easy to assume that full sun plants only live in warm southern climates. There are many plants that will survive the -30 degrees Fahrenheit lowest extreme temperature of Zone 4a variety. Remember, sunny doesn’t always mean warm. You’ll find plants appropriate for all zones.

This video from the Iowa State University Extension talks about why you might consider native plants for your full sun location.

You might want to limit your focus to native plants, perennial or annual, that are adapted to a site’s particular conditions. Non-native plants may be a wild card when it comes to surviving weather extremes. If you prefer an ornamental variety, you may have better luck with tolerant flowers or plants that have at least been grown in your area. They may fare better than an exotic unaccustomed to the local climate.

Our Recommendations: Purple Coneflower Flowers and Blue Heaven Flutterby Petite Dwarf Butterfly Bush

Purple Coneflower Flowers are a native prairie flower that can handle the punishing summer heat. Like many prairie plants, it survives by laying down an extensive root system to tap into water even during dry conditions. We loved the fact that it is also a source of food for birds and other wildlife. The fact that they bloom in the summer made it an excellent choice for a full sun plant.

The Blue Heaven Flutterby Petite Dwarf Butterfly Bush has a lot to offer in a plant that tolerates full sun. We liked its delicate purple colored flowers. It is tolerant of a variety of conditions, making it a hardy choice. At a mature height and spread of three feet, it can work in most garden situations. The fact that it is low maintenance scored high marks in our book.

For full sun plants, we opted to stick with plants that evoked summer for us. That meant prairie plants able to tolerate hours of direct sunlight along with the heat. For color, we included some fine examples of plants that will also attract wildlife. As a whole, they all provided a delightful picture of summer in all its glory.

Photo by PeterDargatz licensed under CC0.

What are the Best Landscaping Plants Out There?

Last update: April 19, 2021

Our recommendations for the best landscaping plants are Spiraea “Peppermint Stick” and Empress Wu Hosta. We narrowed our choices based on two criteria. We wanted a plant that could pack a big punch for interest and color. We wanted plants that are low maintenance. We’d rather sit in the garden than weed. Check out our picks for your landscaping below, and see which ones you like.

Our Top Picks for the Best Landscaping Plants

#1 Spiraea “Peppermint Stick”
Our rating
4.5/5
Description
51GJFpbA3vL. AC
#2 Empress Wu Hosta
Our rating
4/5
Description
71AU1MWUUQL. AC SL1000

#3 Miss Kim Manchurian Lilac
Our rating
4.5/5
Description
miss kim lilac 7 800x800 1

#4 Juniper Blue Rug “Wilton” Ground Cover
Our rating
5/5
Description
61JTTBd64KL. AC SL1280

Planning Your Landscaping

You should start with a plan to determine the best landscaping plants. Begin with what constitutes your ideal garden. Think of the features that you want to include. The sky’s the limit. You can always scale back later. We’ve grouped some features for you to consider. Keep a list of what appeals to you, and we’ll go from there. Things to think about include:

  • Flower beds
  • Plantings for wildlife
  • Herb garden
  • Vegetable garden
  • Ornamental features like borders, hedges, and a focal point

Also, consider the practical uses that your garden will serve. Think barbecue, children’s play area, or patio/outdoor kitchen. You should also consider other elements such as a privacy fence or windscreen with hardy evergreens. Knowing this upfront can help guide your choices to the ones that will work best for your situation. You’ll save a lot of time and money if you plan ahead of time.

Consider the Challenges

Most gardens have some trouble areas. Instead of ignoring them, plan for them. If you have alkaline soils, choose plants that prefer these conditions. Is your yard primarily in the shade? There are plenty of plants that will thrive in low light locations. As you think about your challenges, also take the time to identify specific problem spots.

For example, if your yard has low areas, standing water may present an issue. Likewise, a high spot might be extra windy. Plan for it with plants that are more tolerant of dry conditions. You should give some thought to the traffic your yard receives. Doing this will help you decide on an overall layout that will mesh with the natural flow of visitors to your garden.

What’s Your Garden Style?

Many people enjoy creating a landscape with a theme that ties everything together. You might prefer the classy look of a formal garden, making hedges and flowerbeds excellent choices. Do you want to landscape for curb appeal? Or maybe a cottage garden is more your thing with little hard rules for landscaping. If you’re a nature lover, you might want to consider plants that will attract birds and butterflies.

Planning for Shelter

A garden is a place to linger and relax. If you have space, it’s an excellent opportunity to create garden rooms for the ultimate in privacy. A line of arborvitae can provide the ideal backdrop for a private place to read a book and catch a few winks. Maybe you want a pergola with creeping vines for shade. You can think of your landscape as your oasis, complete with the cozy or exotic effects you’d like.

What You Need to Know about Landscaping

Now that we’ve discussed the fun stuff, let’s get down to the business of choosing plants. They will do best if your garden matches their basic needs. So, you need to begin with determining what your location can offer and what challenges it may present to plants. You should start with a soil test. You’ll need to do separate tests for lawns and garden areas.

This video from Home and Garden Information Center (UMD) shows you what’s involved with doing soil testing in your yard.

https://youtu.be/mEUzUbaBXl0

Think of it as your first cut. Plants that can’t thrive in these conditions won’t make a sound investment. Remember, if you want to change the soil, it’ll mean more work and expense on your part. Be practical about how much maintenance and money you want to put into the garden design of your landscape. That criterion alone can lead you toward the best choices.

Soil Conditions

The soil is a major factor in selecting plants. Fertilizing is a given, considering that plants will use what nutrients are available. They need food too. However, if you have acidic soils or heavy clay, you’ll need to add amendments if you choose plants that prefer something different. You might want to consider sticking with plants that will happy as the conditions stand.

Sun Exposure

Sunlight is another consideration since it could make the difference between plants that thrive and those that don’t. Many plants will tolerate a range of conditions. They may respond by not growing as tall as they would under a different scenario. For others, it is a deal breaker. Native prairie plants like purple coneflower crave full sun. They’ll fail to thrive in shady gardens.

The same applies for shade tolerant plants. The hot afternoon sun may scorch these plants and do serious damage. Sun exposure isn’t necessarily a good thing if plants have other coping mechanisms. These plants evolved a different strategy for finding food in the absence of abundant sunlight. For them, rich, fertile soils are essential for them to fare well. Partial shade is another component to consider.

Maintenance

Maintenance is a serious question that you need to answer when choosing the best landscaping plants. You’ll want to consider annuals or perennials. It does no good if you pick plants that require a lot of time for upkeep if you can’t deliver. If you want low maintenance, or easy landscaping, you’ll find numerous choices that will add color to your garden without a lot of work on your part. However, it doesn’t rule out all maintenance.

You’ll still need to keep up with the basics if just on an annual basis. You’ll to prune shrubs and trees. You’ll have to water and fertilize your plants. You might want to mulch for flowerbeds. Some plants may need some prep for a winter frost such as covering shrubs in burlap. So, when we speak of maintenance, there are degrees. You just need to figure out where you to want to fit in on this scale.

Our Recommendations: Spiraea “Peppermint Stick” and Empress Wu Hosta

We’d glad add any of our picks to our landscaping. Each has something unique to offer—beauty aside. We homed in on plants that could add a bit of drama. We like the idea of landscaping making a statement. We narrowed our choices to classic favorites that can suit a broad spectrum of landscaping themes.

We love the lazy, summer feel of a spiraea. It is the quintessential country garden plant. The Spiraea “Peppermint Stick” is a compact shrub, making it an excellent choice if you’re short on space. While we usually think of these shrubs with white flowers, the variation with pink and white stood out as something different from all the rest.

Hostas are also high on our list of good landscaping plants. The Empress Wu Hosta is no exception. It has a lot of the features we like. It is shade tolerant that can live in a wide range of hardiness zones. This variety is one of the largest and can grow up to an 8-foot wide spread. We liked the fact that we could cover a lot of space with a single plant.

Planning your landscaping is a time to let your ideas flow. Think of what your ideal garden has and make your dream come true. With the right landscaping plants, you’ll have a garden that will be the talk of the town.

Photo by jill111 licensed under CC0.