Plant Selection

Contributed by Peter Ells, June 2013.

Choosing plants for landscape, revegetation and other horticultural projects can be an enjoyable but often quite complex task – there are so many factors to consider.  Plant growers and nurseries can supply an abundance of advice but they also need background information to help with suggestions.

Usually it is better to choose a plant to fit the site rather than modify the site to suit the plant.  But there are also many situations where a combination of both can work well.

The factors leading to good plant selection are broad and diverse and usually more than the home gardener is willing to consider.  There are however some basic pieces of background information which can be collected to help with this selection conundrum.  Most of us do basic research before buying a house or a car, or embarking on a holiday so…

                  …planning what plants to put where is just plain good sense!

Basic considerations fall into 4 main categories:

  • Envinronmental conditions
  • Observation
  • Plant vocabulary
  • Plant uses

There is a 5th and its probably the most important – it’s what the individual wants from the garden … but it’s something we can only decide for ourselves based on our own ideas and preferences.  So we’ll leave that one for now!

Environmental Conditions

  • Soil – texture and pH
  • Topography – the lie of the land, ridges, gullies, potential drainage issues
  • Aspect – sun exposure, wind exposure
  • Wind direction – prevailing winds and storm winds
  • Water – rainfall averages, intensity and distribution … plus access to irrigation supply
  • Area – what size area is to be planted


Keen observation is probably one of the greatest gifts a horticulturist can have.  Couple this with some basic plant knowledge and we have a basis for plant selection that we didn’t even realise we had.  So what can observation tell or infer to us?  Some examples could be:-

  • Broad, shiny leafed plants often live in shade or semi-shade
  • Plants with tap roots are often able to survive  WORK IN PROGRESS, TO BE CONTINUED