There you are scrolling through beautiful plants, dreaming up your ideal garden of the most beautiful plants, ready to reap all the benefits of gardening at home.
When we first look at what we’d like to plant in our gardens, we tend to focus on color and texture. While these are very important when considering the look of your gardens or home landscaping, there are other factors we need to address first. In this post you'll learn what the heck hardiness zones and why they are important. You will also learn about other plant characteristics to keep an eye out for. So, let’s get into it!
All About Zones, Annuals, Shrubs, and Perennials
When searching for the perfect plant for our gardens, we first need to consider the zone in which we live. The Plant Hardiness Zones tell us which plants will survive your coldest temperatures, which determines whether they are considered an annual plant or a perennial plant in your area. This is important to understand because you need to decide whether you’d like plants that grow in your survive and thrive year after year, ones that die after a season so you can plant anew next year, or a mixture of both!
These plants performs their hearts out for one season. They can be planted in the spring and summer, and will produce colorful, bountiful blooms to complement your garden shrubs and perennials. They involve little cleanup and maintenance through the summer, and upon your first frost, will decompose back to the earth, adding nutrients to your soil.
You can plan for these plants to stick around for a while. Shrubs are considered a perennial as they will go dormant in the winter and re-grow foliage every spring. They may require pruning in the spring (be sure to follow the directions on the specific variety to be sure), but after a little spring prep, will be ready to blossom year after year in your landscape and garden containers.
Perennials come back every year, which means you won’t have to replant them each season, but you may have to prune or maintain them throughout each season.
How do we know which plants are considered annuals or perennials for your area? Let’s find out which zone you are in!
Growing zones are one of the most important factors for sustainability in gardening. The country is broken up into "zones," according to climate and growing conditions, which allow you to know if a plant will survive the winter or summer in your area. Proven Winners® plants are trialed and tested in several climates to see where they grow best and then classified into zones. You can find out which zone you are in by entering your zip code with the words "hardiness zone" into a search engine. You can also enter your zip code into our hardiness zone finder on any of our plant product pages and we'll let you know if it comes back year after year in your zone.
Any plant that includes your zone on its tag is considered a perennial. Any plant tagged with a zone numbers that do not reflect your own, is considered an annual.
Now that you understand your zone, and what that means for plants tagged in other zones, you can understand the life cycle, care and maintenance required for each plant you come across.
After you understand whether a plant is a perennial or annual for your area, you’ll want to consider the actual area of your garden or landscape you wish to fill. The most important factor to consider is how much sun the area gets. Some plants need full sun, others like partial shade.
Well, how do I know how much sun my area gets? You have a few options to figure it out.
- Check your specific gardening area periodically on any given day. Notice whether it’s in full sun or shade. Notice any barriers like fences or other trees that block the sun. Simply paying attention to the light around your house can give you a good idea of the characteristics of each garden bed or landscape area.
- Understand the direction your house faces, and each subsequent side of the house. For example, any north-facing gardens will receive the least amount of sunlight, therefore they are perfect for shade-loving varieties. On the other hand, any south-facing beds will get blasted with sun. Make sure you put in any plants here that love a good burn in the summertime. East and West-facing sides typically get a good mix of sun and shade, depending on the time of day as the sun rises and sets.
After you’ve determined your zone, and what type of light your garden receives, every other characteristic of a plant that matters is up to your discretion. Other plant features that might be of interest for you are as follows:
Does it attract pollinators?
Is it deer resistant?
Is it native to your continent?
Is it fragrant? Does it matter?
What colors are you interested in planting?
You can filter plants by these options and more on our website to find the perfect plant for your garden.
Lastly, let’s figure out how many plants to get and where you'll put them. Before you get started, you may want to consider the style you are looking to achieve in your garden or landscaping. Do you want an English cottage-style garden? Modern landscape designs? You could also go with a tropical or Mediterranean style of gardening. The possibilities are endless, but whatever you decide, make it your own!
Once you have an idea of the overall look you are trying to achieve, you will need to measure your planting area. Then, look at the mature sizes of the plants you want and add the amount of space you want between them. Do you want to be able to walk between them when they reach maturity? Or do you want them all to touch? With a few strokes of your calculator, you'll know how many plants to choose.
Once you’ve decided the type of plant, your desired style, and how much space you have to work with, place your plants where you intend to plant them before you dig to make sure you're happy with the way it will look. A good rule of thumb in garden designs is adding varying heights, textures and sizes to appeal to the eye. For example: Shrubs can be used as a base, especially the larger ones. Then mix in perennials and larger annuals, and finally, plant your smaller annuals and groundcover at the front of the garden bed (see photo above).
Want more ideas and tips? Sign up for our emails 👇 or 👉.