Proper Plant Placement

Millie Davenport,
HGIC Horticulture Extension Agent,
Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service

HTG 1017

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Autumn is a great time to add new perennials, trees, and shrubs to the landscape. When adding plants to the landscape, one of the most important things to remember when adding plants to the landscape is to put the “right plant in the right place”.

Space plants properly in the landscape bed before planting.
Space plants properly in the landscape bed before planting.
Millie Davenport, ©2017 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Perennial flower bed with proper plant spacing.
Perennial flower bed with proper plant spacing.
Millie Davenport, ©2017 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Follow these guidelines to help give landscape plants the best chance for success:

  1. Plant Spacing: Start by examining the property to determine where there is adequate spacing to add new plants. Make sure to allow enough space for the selected plant species to mature in both height and width. However, underground spacing should be considered as well. For underground utility lines, call 811 at least three days before digging. The 811 service will then mark the underground utilities in the designated area. Once these lines are marked avoid digging 18 to 24” from either side. Be aware that if a utility line is cut or damaged it can result in outages for the neighborhood as well as possible fines. (CAUTION: 811 will not mark underground cable, satellite, or Internet lines).
  2. Light Requirements: What are the light conditions in the area? How many hours of sunlight does the area receive each day? Plants that need full sun will need six or more hours of direct sun each day. If a plant requires partial sun/shade, then three to four hours of direct morning sun is sufficient.  If the area gets filtered sun select a plant that tolerates shade. For areas with less than two hours of direct sun in the morning, choose a shade loving plant
  3. Soil Testing: Has a soil test been done in the past year for this area? If not, plan to take 8 to 10 subsamples of soil from the surface to about 6 inches deep. A total of 2 cups of soil is needed for the test. Mix the subsamples together in a plastic bucket, place the final sample into a plastic bag, and take it to your local Cooperative Extension office for testing. The soil test results will provide recommendations for adjusting the soil pH, if necessary. It will also indicate which nutrients are present and which fertilizers to add for the plants being grown. For more information on soil testing, see HGIC 1652, Soil Testing.
  4. Soil Drainage: Does the area have well drained soil? To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide. Fill the hole with water and allow it to completely drain overnight. Once it has drained, refill the hole with water. Now check to see how long it takes for drainage to occur. Measure the level of water in the hole by laying a straight stick horizontally across the top of the hole and a measuring stick or tape vertically in the hole to determine water level. Next, measure and record the water level every hour. Ideal soil drainage is 2 inches per hour. If the soil drains less than an inch per hour, it is best to select another location or a plant species that tolerates wet soils.

Check soil drainage before planting.
Check soil drainage before planting.
Clemson Extension,©2017

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