UC Master Gardeners

Planting with the right plant in the right place

UC Master GardenerApril 9, 2014 

Clustering plants with similar needs for water, sunlight/shade and temperature makes it easier to take care of all of them.

Q: I go to the nursery and see perfect beautiful plants and bring them home. But after a while, they never look as nice as the ones in the store. Am I doing something wrong? — Marilynn, Los Osos

A: Don’t feel badly about how your plants fare after planting them in your own garden. The plants from professional nurseries are given extraordinary care in a controlled environment. Although you can’t control as many factors as a nursery can, you can have a flourishing and beautiful garden if you find the right plant for the right place in your garden.

For the best results, choose a location for each plant that resembles its natural habitat. Would your plants be found under the shade of oaks, alongside scrub brush on a rocky hillside or on a tropical island? One may choose to mimic their natural environment or choose plants of various origins with similar cultural needs. If you cluster plants of similar needs, it will be more efficient to water and maintain them.

To accomplish this, first look for plants that are suitable for your general climate; then plant according to your home’s environment. Determine how your house is oriented — north, south, east and west.

The north side of your house provides the most shade and the coolest temperatures, while the south side is the sunniest and hottest. Therefore, plants near your house on the north side receive little direct sun and will generally need less water than those on the south side. Plants labeled for shade and partial shade are best for the north side of your house.

Partial shade plants do best in dappled or limited sunlight, such as morning sun or under trees and taller bushes. Plants labeled full sun are best suited for the south side of your house.

Plants that prefer earlymorning sun should be planted on the east wall of your house, while plants that prefer afternoon sun should be planted on the west. Follow these same orientation guidelines for planting near trees, bushes, fences and other structures.


Contact the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners: at 781-5939 from 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday; at 473-7190 from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Arroyo Grande; and at 434-4105 from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Templeton. Visit the UCCE Master Gardeners website at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo   or email mgsanluisobispo@ucdavis.edu  .

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