How to Grow Healthy Plants
How to Grow Healthy Plants
A healthy plant is happy in its environment.
Most plants have certain criteria to perform well. We always have information in our plant descriptions that will let you know what that particular plant needs to perform well.
There are basically three things to look for when selecting a plant for a spot in your yard. Hardiness zone rating, what kind of soil you are growing in, and will it get sun or shade.
Read on for great tips and tricks on how to use all the information on the Nature Hills product pages. And don’t forget, we’re here to help! Email us at [email protected] with your questions. We’ll get back to you ASAP.
“Why is My Plant Dying?”
Struggling plants are often trying to live in an area that isn’t optimal for them. They can look just terrible and may never really thrive. That’s not what you want in your landscape.
Let’s make sure your plant is happy and healthy. Our horticultural team has put together some great information for you as you make your decisions. On every product page, you'll see a section called "Plant Highlights" and just above the map, you can Find Your Growing Zone by entering in your Zip Code.
“What is a Growing Zone?”
Hardiness is the first thing to select. Is the plant you are thinking of ordering going to be hardy in your area?
We make it easy to Find your Growing Zone. On every product page, you can enter in your Zip Code and it will tell you what hardiness zone you are growing in. This calculator is only for the United States.
Let’s say you want a Weeping Willow tree. You entered in your zip code and found out you are in hardiness Zone 7. When you look up Weeping Willow tree on the Nature Hills website, it shows that you can grow this particular plant in hardiness Zone 5, all the way through hardiness Zone 9. This is a great choice for your Zone 7 landscape.
Select plants that will be happiest in your USDA Growing Zone. Plants that are outside of your Zone will not perform well. Your area will either be too cold in winter, or too hot in summer for this plant.
The Zone Map is an important reference so you will know if your plant will survive the winter where you live. Will it tolerate the heat of your summer? If it produces fruit, will there be a long enough of a dormant period to allow the plant to set fruit?
Know your Zone! We show a map of the United States and the area where this plant can successfully be grown for every plant that we grow. Use the handy Zip Code calculator to know the plants that will work in your landscape.
“What Kind of Soil Do I Have?”
Next, it is important to know what kind of soil that you are planting into. All plants have specific soil type requirements that they need to perform best.
In the Plant Highlights, you’ll see the “Soil Type” listed. Many plants like well-drained soil, but there are some that can tolerate heavier clay or even wet soils. Some do best in loamy soils or dry and sandy soils.
So, after you have checked the Hardiness Zone, read the description to check for the optimum soil type each specific plant. A plant that is given what it likes best will be healthier, have less stress, and be able to tolerate insects or disease easier and recover better.
Some different soil types you may come across in your yard:
Clay - heavy and poor draining. Can you roll your soil into a sticky ball?
Sandy - gritty and free draining
Silty - heavier moisture retaining but still well-draining
Peaty - moisture retaining with lots of organic matter
Loamy - the kind of soil everyone dreams about growing in with good drainage and moisture holding yet well-draining.
When it rains, see how long it takes for the water to soak into your soil. Does it puddle and sit for days or can you work the soil the next day? Dig a small hole maybe a foot deep. Fill it with water and see how long it takes for the water to drain out of it.
As you might guess, if you are dealing with wet soils, it will limit the plants that will grow well. Stick to those plants that can tolerate those conditions, whether excessively wet or dry.
If you might be having trouble deciding what kind of soil type you have, check with your local Agriculture Extension office to see if they can help you. (They can be a great resource for specific plants that do well in your immediate area.)
“How Do I Improve the Drainage of My Soil?”
You can also adjust your soil type by altering the planting site to best suit the needs of your favorite plants. This takes work, but it’s also fun and a good way to grow different kinds of plants.
If you have heavy and wet soils, you can expand your plant palate by creating berms or making raised beds to plant into. You can also use soil conditioners and add organic materials to increase drainage.
Some soils are very sandy and drain quickly. In that soil, plants may need careful attention especially when you are establishing new plants. You don’t want them to dry out before they have a chance to make new roots. Use your native soil and plant at the proper depth and water as needed to establish. Be sure to use mulch over the top of the roots.
Using a mulch over the top of the soil over the roots of the plants is a good thing. Always be careful to keep the mulch to 3-4 inches deep at the most. Never pile the mulch up against the stems or trunks of your landscape plants. If mulch touches the stem, it could cause problems with rot. Use your hands to brush that mulch back from all around the stem.
Mulch keeps weeds down, help to retain even moisture, and will help to improve soil structure. It looks nice to have mulch over the soil. It also prevents soil from splashing up onto the plants which can also reduce soil born disease. We are big fans of mulch.
“How Much Sun Does My Yard Get?”
The other thing that is very important thing to know is how much sunlight your yard receives. This will be different for every spot in your yard.
Look at your area where you are planning on planting. Is this area shaded all day, does it get morning sun, hot afternoon sun, or all day sun? Study the amount of sun as you work to design your landscape.
Not only should you know which side of the house you are planting, but are there trees that are shading that particular area? Know how much sun or shade you’ll be planting in.
It is also very important to know how much sun your plant will need. Hot and dry “sun lovers” won’t enjoy the shade. Conversely, the "shade lovers" will melt away in over-exposed areas with too much sun.
Look at the Sun Exposure on the Plant Highlights.
- We suggest Full Sun for plants that needs lots of sun for best color, best flowering and fruiting and best fall color too.
- Part Shade and Part Sun are basically the same thing. Give these plants some protection for part of the day for best results.
- Plants that prefer shade will be listed simply as Shade for exposure.
Want more sunlight? Consider trimming trees and tall shrubs. You’ll be amazed at the difference that can make in your yard.
“How Can I Grow Healthy Plants?”
Pay attention to the details in the Plant Highlights when selecting plants for your yard. Getting the right plant in the right spot makes all the difference in the world when it comes to plant health and vigor.
You will notice that plants that are sited in the right spot will establish sooner and easier. They will be less stressed as they grow. Plants are like people. They perform better when they are happy. Happy plants are also able to recover from any insects or disease issues easier.
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, 2012. Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed from https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov