Gardening and landscaping plants have been proven to be an effective form of therapy. Just think, how often do you see someone gardening with a bad attitude? Not too often, unless they're in it for the wrong reasons.

As a landscaper, you're trying to beautify and enhance a property's natural strengths. By adding the right types of plants, you can really bring out some of your home's best traits.

Of course, not all of us were born with a green thumb, but that's okay. By the end of this guide, you should have a pretty clear idea as to what you need to do. From the basic planning stages to what types of plants to buy, follow these tips for a successful landscaping project.

Know Your Zone

Before you go out and start buying a collection of plants, you need to know if they will prosper in your part of the world. You can buy just about any type of plant, but they could be more hassle than they're worth if they don't take to your climate. The country has a grid of various zones that attribute how harsh the winters are for each region.

This is a universally recognized guide for determining how well certain plants will fair in each part of the country. You can check the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Plant Hardiness Zone Map to find out your zone designation.

Landscaping Variables

Plant hardiness isn't the only thing you'll need to pay attention to for successful plant landscaping. You'll also need to understand your yard's environment. There are three major categories you'll need to account for.


Plants vary on the amount of sunlight they need to prosper. Some plants thrive in full sunlight all day long. Some plants can't handle direct sunlight for long hours, they'll burn up and die. Strategic planning of plant species is the key to lower maintenance of landscaping plants.

Rain or Snow

Plants can also get too much rain and suffer. Some plants have sensitive root systems that can easily lose their grip on the soil. Heavy rains could wash away the vital minerals and nutrients that are needed by plants.

If you decide to place plants in the middle of your yard without any surrounding structures to help protect against wind, rain, or snow, make sure they're robust. Also, be careful about the proximity of your plants to walls, overhangs, and trees. These areas can collect debris from seeds/fruits/foliage falling or being blown into your plants.


Continuing on from that last point, having proper drainage is important if you want to plant several different types of plants in your yard. Controlling the flow of water can keep your soil healthy and reduce the amount of manual watering during hot months.

A good strategy for irrigation is to utilize retention walls and create a raised plant bed to avoid flooding. You can plant a bunch of low maintenance plants this way and never have to worry about them getting over-watered.

Plan the Scene

After researching the plants within your zone and how you plan on placing them throughout the yard, it's time to form a plan. In order for your landscaping to look intentional and not just an afterthought, you should consider deferring to classic styles.

French, Greek, Japanese, Victorian, or Roman, impress your visitors with your green thumbs. The key here is maintaining a theme that translates well to the average viewer. Modern-style minimalist landscaping can be tough to pull off if your yard is fairly lopsided, so be careful.

Layering Plants

Choosing the right plants for your landscaping theme is going to come down to appropriate heights and colors. Your plants shouldn't be competing for space, each one should stand out on its own. To accomplish this, you'll need to layer plants like a group photo.

Tall, tree-like plants should fill up spaces closest to walls and middle columns, for example. Sunflowers can also make great background layering plants. Middling plants will be the hardest to choose from, but try to go for big bulbs and larger flowering plants to fill the middle.

Your bottom tiered plants can be your succulents, hydrangea, phlox, marigold, lavender, columbine, and purple hearts.

Annuals and Perennials

Having a mix of annuals and perennials is ideal for landscaping plants. This is to ensure color throughout the year while maintaining variety. You could just go completely with annuals, but you'd be missing out on some very impressive blooms.

Orchids, lilies, peonies, and sunflowers are examples of combinations of perennial flowers that will create a continual staggering of blossoms for all months outside of winter. Don't forget winter blooming plants like winter pansies, cyclamen, hellebore, and winter heath.

Overgrowth of Landscaping Plants

You know those tall plants you planted as your background layer? Those are plants they could potentially turn unwieldy. You'll need to stay on top of pruning if your plants are close in proximity to each other.

You can also strategically plant these plants with some distance to account for future growth. This can be done without looking tacky, just utilize some decorative stones or gravel to fill in the gaps. Be especially careful with shrubs and trees, they can quickly take over spaces if not trimmed regularly.

Your smaller plants may require some repositioning as they get settled in. It's not uncommon for perennials to go through a growth spurt after their first year.

Learn From Your Mistakes

If you're new to landscaping plants, you should just accept that you're going to make lots of mistakes. Thankfully, plants aren't permanent, so rearranging, replacing, and adding new ones is fairly painless. Don't try to do too much on your first round of planting.

It's going to take a little time for your plants to get acclimated to their new environment and reach their full potential. The important thing is to build on your knowledge of landscaping. Attend some workshops and landscaping events.

Check out our landscaping events and workshops page for more info.