Adding plant beds around your property can go a long way in boosting the overall aesthetic appeal of the space. Landscaped beds with a thoughtful mix of plant material brighten up both front and backyards, making the space increasingly enjoyable for you while also adding tangible value.
But there’s more to adding plant beds than throwing together some random plant material that you pick up at your local box store. There are quite a few important factors to keep in mind.
Plant Bed Zones
When installing plant beds, it’s important to think about zones and setting up plant material based on zone conditions. The three primary zones are:
• Full Sun: 6 or more hours of direct sunlight each day
• Partial Sun: 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight each day
• Shade: Less than 4 hours of sunlight each day
Figuring out what plants will work best for your landscape will require you to observe the areas and get a strong sense of sun exposure. Of course, this isn’t an exact science, but you should at least have a strong sense of what each area receives in order to determine which plants will work best.
Best Plants for Sunny Areas
Full sun may be the most challenging level of exposure to choose plants. While many plants need full sun to set buds and flower, some cannot handle the intense heat and/or dry conditions that often come with that much sunshine. It’s important to note that even within each main category of sun exposure there will be variations in how the plant material performs.
One plant that we like to use for full sun is the Bottlebrush Buckeye (pictured). It gets big, so make sure you give it plenty of room to grow. The majority of annuals also require full sun.
Best Plants for Partial Sun
Plants that perform best in partial sun are those that are getting somewhere between 4 and 6 hours of sunlight each day in order to set their buds and flower.
While the terms “partial sun” and “partial shade” are often used interchangeably by people, there is a subtle difference—in terms of where the emphasis is placed on exposure.
If a plant is listed as “partial sun,” the greater emphasis is put on the plant receiving at least the minimal sun requirements. However, if a plant is listed as “partial shade,” the emphasis is on making sure the plant gets a break from the sun—particularly the intense heat of the hot afternoon sun. If a partial sun plant isn’t performing well, it’s likely not getting enough sun. If a partial shade plant isn’t performing well, it’s likely getting too much sun.
Our favorite combination for a partial shade design includes the Limelight Hydrangea with the Rozanne Geranium planted in front of it.
Best Plants for Shade
The name “shade plants” often misleads homeowners who assume these plants don’t need any sun. All plants need some sun to survive. Of course, for shade plants, this can come in the form of filtered sunlight. A tree might block the full sun but as long as the shade plants are receiving some of it, they can still thrive.
Our favorite plant combination for shaded areas is the Green Velvet Boxwood with a Hosta June planted in the foreground. Pictured is Brunnera, which is an underused plant for deep shade.
A Spectacular Design
Of course, there’s a lot more to creating stunning plant beds than just choosing the proper plant material for the expected sunlight. The layout of the beds is also incredibly important. Design of plant beds is both an art and a science. You must know which plants will look and work well together.
The best plant bed designs are layered with various size plant material, all spaced strategically. It’s also important to think about bloom time when designing a plant bed. Different plants bloom at different times. Failing to take that into consideration could mean ending up with a plant bed that has one whole area in bloom at one time and another area in bloom at another time—not appearing cohesive at all. Instead, a landscape designer will think about how to have something in bloom at all times—and space the bed in a way that the design always looks complete.
Even the way colors work together can impact the design in a positive or negative way. There are many different ways to arrange the color scheme of a plant bed and you want to be sure that it’s done in a way that “works.”
Hiring a Professional for Your Plant Beds
Creating stunning plant beds may be a bit more involved than you had anticipated. From plant material selection to the design itself, there are a lot of nuances. The last thing that you want is to invest in purchasing a lot of plant material—and putting time into installing it—only to have it die or not look as good as you’d hoped.
That’s why you may be thinking about having a professional do the work. By having a professional install your plant beds for you, you’ll be able to feel confident that the finished product will look and perform at its best. Everything from the ideal plant selection to a thoughtful and attractive layout will be handled by a pro who specializes in this very type of work. For you, that will mean plant beds your neighbors will envy—and that will boost the overall value of your property instead of detracting from it. In the end, most homeowners say that this is worth the investment.