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Choosing Plants for Your Landscape: Follow Nature’s Lead

Shauna has a deep appreciation for Mother Nature's landscape and endeavors to follow Nature's lead when creating beauty in her yard.

Ti plants in my backyard

Ti plants in my backyard

Before You Start

Gardening, as in many aspects of life, is an exercise in trial and error. What doesn’t work here might do better over there.

That being said, our landscaping efforts can be challenged at times thanks to climate change. But they can still be fruitful, provided that we align with Mother Nature's lead. Here are some things you can do to make those harmonious selections:

  • Know your planting zone.
  • Choose hardy, temperature-resistant plants.
  • Select native plants for your landscape.
  • Find inspiration in your local area.

Know Your Planting Zone

Several plant hardiness zones have been added over the last few years to accommodate the climate changes we are seeing. Before beginning any landscape project, it is vital to know your zone, especially if you buy bulbs, plants, seeds, or seedlings through mail order. What works in the state in which the plant material is grown may not do well in your location.

Below is a map of the U.S. Plant Hardiness Zones. Note that for those living outside the United States, this link will help you determine your plant hardiness zone. You can also locate your zone according to the U.S. zip code by following the same link.

U.S. Plant Hardiness Zones Map

U.S. Plant Hardiness Zones Map

Choose Hardy Plants

You’re not there yet, folks! Knowing your zone isn’t all it takes to have a successful garden or landscape.

For instance, let’s say you have an area that receives full sun. You go to the garden center or your local nursery and pick up several varieties touted for use in full-sun environments. Knowing that most plants will go through shock when first relocated from the pot to the bed you expect some wilting for the first day or two. However, after a week your plants are looking pretty sad. You try to compensate by watering your new plants whenever they look puny.

Recognize the plants’ appearance as not a plea for water, but a plea for relief from the heat. Don’t mistake ‘full sun’ for ‘heat tolerant’. Trust me on this. Living in Florida, I learned the hard way. There is a difference. Likewise, look for plants that are drought tolerant. This will conserve water and save money on your water bill as well.

In addition to knowing your zone and choosing plants that can tolerate extreme temperatures, there’s a fool-proof measure to take when planning your landscape.

Select Native Plants for Your Landscape

One thing I didn’t mention in the video is I no longer buy mulch. I have so many trees that shed their leaves, I use them as mulch and also add them to my compost bin. I’ll use the two season’s worth of leaves that have built up on one side of my house as filler for the hugelkultur bed when I build it.

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So, as you see, Mother Nature really is the best landscape architect you could ever have the privilege of working with. Work with her and she’ll work with you.

I hope you’ve gotten something out of this post. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to landscape your yard, nor do you have to experience failure.

Let Mother Nature lead the way.

Where I Found Inspiration

As you see in the video above, my son and I went on a nature walk, which is what inspired this article. What I found interesting is some of the plants and trees we saw on our walk also live in our backyard. Mother Nature knows best!

Now that you’ve discovered what is indigenous to your area and made note of the flora and fauna that interest you, take that information to your local nursery. Make sure you have sufficient room in the intended area to accommodate the growth patterns of the plants you choose. Also, pay attention to the light levels when designing your landscape. What time of day was it? How was the sun filtering? Which plants grow in shade? Which thrive in direct sunlight, etc.? The walk you just took should help you with that aspect, especially if you took photos.

I found this Spiderwort during my walk and transplanted it from the side of the road to my garden.

I found this Spiderwort during my walk and transplanted it from the side of the road to my garden.

Let Mother Nature Be Your Landscape Architect

The easiest way to ensure a successful landscape is to look around you. What is native to your area? Visit your local environmental center or take a walk in the woods near your home. What do you see? These areas are irrigated by rainfall – not systems that deplete our aquifers. What types of plants, shrubs, trees, and flowers grow naturally in your area? Grab your camera, notebook, and pen and take a hike!

Has This Article Inspired You?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Shauna L Bowling


Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on June 10, 2020:

Sankhajit, I'm not sure gardens can control air pollution, but they certainly benefit the earth, animals and humans. We have gardens all around our property. Some are ornamental and some are edible. All of them are beautiful.

Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment, Sankhajit!

Sankhajit Bhattacharjee from MILWAUKEE on June 10, 2020:

I like your post on gardening. Every house must have a garden in front to control air pollution.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on May 15, 2020:

Flourish, as long as he's not digging plants up from people's yards or public gardens, what's the harm? Plants and flowers that grow wild re-seed and with the help of wind, birds, etc. continue to spread their beauty. I don't see anything wrong with sampling from easements, meadows, wooded areas, etc.

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 14, 2020:

My dad digs up and transplants certain plants (mainly daffodils) from other areas and we have shamed him. Maybe we can stop that now and tell him you said it was actually okay.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on April 18, 2020:

Audrey, gardening truly is therapy for the soul. Your garden sounds delicious. You can make a salad with everything you're growing, including the strawberries. They add a nice balance to greens and veggies. Of course, they're yummy on their own, too!

Thanks for joining me and Christopher on our walk. It was a pleasure to have you!

Stay well, my friend.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on April 17, 2020:

Fantastic article, Sha! Gardening always lifts my spirit and somehow just makes me feel good. With our lives turned upside down at this time, planting is the perfect antidote. I started my tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, and onions today. Much more to go and I look forward to getting my hands dirty.

Strawberries do well in my area. For the past 2 years, they've lived through heat, rain and tons of snow and continue to produce sweet, delicious berries.

Thanks for the lovely video. I enjoyed the walk with you and your son. Stay healthy and well, dear friend.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on April 15, 2020:

Thank you, bhattuc. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

bhattuc on April 15, 2020:

Beautiful article on gardening.

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on April 01, 2020:

Rochelle, plants add beauty and oxygen to our world. It's nice that you help your mom tend to her gardens. Maybe one day you'll get the urge to cultivate your green thumb. Everyone has one, but not all know it!

Thanks for your well-wishes. Same to you.

Rochelle Ann De Zoysa from Moratuwa, Sri Lanka on April 01, 2020:

Interesting article, I'm not that into gardening but my mom is. She too keep bringing plants and most of the garden and balcony filled with different plants. I do water them. It is refreshing. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Stay safe and healthy :)

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on April 01, 2020:

Mar, with so many people having to stay at home and spring in the air, now is the perfect time to get out and putter in the yard.

I'm sure Andy and Miss Fannie are welcome assistants and love having you home!

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on March 31, 2020:

Dear Sha,

It's refreshing to read this beautiful and well-developed post on landscaping and gardening at this stressful time.

I am taking as many breaks as possible weeding our garden, with Andy and Miss Fannie as my faithful assistants (well sorta, when they're not playing ball). Spring has never been more welcome.

Be well and healthy. Love you, mar

Ann Carr from SW England on March 31, 2020:

You're very welcome, Shauna!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 31, 2020:

Cool. I'm going to go snooping in your yard, Ann!

Ann Carr from SW England on March 31, 2020:

I did one about using plants to tell your life story - plants given to me, planted to remind me of friends etc. It's called 'Your Life Story in Your Garden...'

My garden has changed a little since but remains mostly the same.

I have a triangular shaped plot, so there are three areas of garden - back, side and front!


Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 31, 2020:

Ann, I'd love to see what you have growing on your property. Have you written any gardening articles? If not, will you consider doing so?

Thanks for the great comment!

Ann Carr from SW England on March 31, 2020:

Great article, Shauna! I didn't discover zones until I looked up which fruit trees might do best in my garden. It was a useful exercise.

We are near the sea and the prevailing wind is from the southwest. We are therefore prone to howling gales straight off the sea and up the side of the house. I don't plant anything but totally hardy plants there. However, behind the shed is a little shelter and that's where my plum tree is now thriving. The rest of the garden contains my favourites and many that grow well in this vicinity.

Your garden looks lovely too, with such vibrant colours.

Thanks for the good advice and for sharing your knowledge and expert planting.


Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 31, 2020:

Dora, that's wonderful that your neighbors share. I have a neighbor who has offered anything in her gardens to me as well. Some of her beautiful flowers will blow their seeds into my grass. Once the flower comes up I pluck it up and give it a more appropriate home.

Enjoy creating your garden, Dora!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 30, 2020:

Sure, your article inspired me. I'm in the process of preparing the space for new plants. All of them will come from neighbors who will share from their gardens. Your article boosts my determination to get it done.Thanks!

Shauna L Bowling (author) from Central Florida on March 30, 2020:

I just Googled it. They get pretty tall!