Have a happier garden with these pro plant-picking tips.
Have you ever wanted to know what a decorator was thinking while choosing fabrics, a color palette, or how to shop the right plants for your patio? Real Simple decided to take matters into our own hands, so we recently took over a stunning Brooklyn apartment and had some of the top designers and organizers work their magic in the space. You can view the full apartment in the October issue, but we wanted to share a little more behind the scenes action here.
The massive terrace, which has panoramic views of Brooklyn and Manhattan, features lush Robellini palms to make the expansive area feel more secluded and private. Because these plants might not work for your outdoor space, we asked the experts at Costa Farms about five things to know before you buy plants at the nursery so you can ensure that your plants flourish and stay alive as long as possible.
Any plants you pick will be easier to grow if they like the space you’re planting them in. So first get a good sense of light. Is the spot sunny all day or is it only sunny in the afternoon? If the spot doesn’t see much direct sun, look for shade-loving plants. Putting shade-dwelling plants in a hot, sunny spot results in yellowing leaves that have brown, crispy edges. Placing sun-lovers beneath a tree keeps them from blooming. It also makes them grow tall and leggy and invites attack from disease and pests.
Soil and Water
After you know what the light’s like, focus on the soil. After a heavy rain (or if you leave a sprinkler running), does it dry out after a couple of days or stay wet for a while? Plants that like it on the dry side (like lavender) sulk when their roots stay wet. Plants that don’t like it dry will look wilty and fade away if they don’t get to drink enough. Knowing what the soil does is one piece of the puzzle—the other is having a realistic sense of how much you want to water.
How much space do you have? Pay attention to the plants’ mature size and know what space you have to fill. What looks like the perfect plant might be a burden if it grows too big and you have to prune it back every month just to use the sidewalk or see out your windows.
How Much Time You Have
Some plants need more maintenance than others, so be honest about how much time you’re wanting to spend taking care of them. Varieties like purple coneflower, for example, need deadheading to keep producing new flowers and to prevent a lot of seedlings. They grow fine without this kind of biweekly maintenance, but don’t look as good and create more work later on when you have to pull dozens of baby plants that threaten to crowd out other plants.
What You’re Looking For
The number of plants available at your local garden center can be dizzying. One thing that can help you stay focused is to come in with a list. If you don't have time to do extensive research on the plants you want ahead of time, jot down the traits that are important to you. For example, you could list something like purple-flowering perennials that attract hummingbirds and have fragrant flowers.