By Jordan Cunningham
SFA Gardens greenhouse technician
Spring is upon us, and it is time to plant! As you don your gardening gloves, here are four tips to help choose plants that will flourish in your landscape.
Among the best ways to determine the plants that will thrive in your geographic area is to select those within your location's hardiness zone. Hardiness zones rate the geographic areas of the United States from 1 to 13 by average minimum temperature. Nacogdoches' hardiness zone is 8b, which is good for plants like coneflower that grow best in hardiness zones 3 to 9, and mealy-cup sage, which prefers hardiness zones 7 through 11.
Pay attention to the light exposure in your garden. Are there full tree canopies overhead? Does a nearby structure block the sunlight for all or part of the day, or is nothing blocking the full blazing sun from dawn to dusk? All plants have an ideal lighting requirement, and it must be met for them to thrive. Too much sun can burn the plant's leaves and too little can result in fewer flowers.
All plants need to have a good, long drink immediately after planting, but long-term water requirements depend on the type of plant and time of year. Ensure plants requiring more water are within reach of your water hose or sprinkler system. Trees and shrubs need regular watering for the first year to become established. Bog plants, like elephant's ear, should be planted in low places that hold water. Some plants, like butterfly bush, don't like wet feet and should be planted in a raised garden bed with well-drained soil.
A temptation is to space your plants according to the size they are now, but this can lead to problems later. It is important to know the mature size of a plant and use that measurement to decide its spacing. Healthy, mature plants need space to grow and ample air flow to thrive. Planting too close can open the door to disease and poor performance. To learn more about SFA Gardens, including plant sales and seminars, visit sfasu.edu/sfagardens.