Right Plant, Right Place

By now, many garden enthusiasts are familiar with the phrase, Right Plant, Right Place (RPRP).  Yet, still many others are not.  Our Master Gardeners talk with them every day.  Whichever camp you fall into, a brief primer can be helpful.  RPRP is a guiding principle whose only goal is to achieve success with every tree, shrub, groundcover, veggie and seed you plant.  Lots of components are included in RPRP, including soil characteristics, wind direction, nearby vegetation, disease/insect resistance, fall/summer/spring color and growth habit, but the 2 that we are asked about the most are size and sun/shade preference.

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Why are these last components the ones we are asked about the most?  Most likely, it’s because even novice gardeners are aware that some plants are too big or too little for the site…they’ve seen it commonly at a shopping mall, professional building and even their friend’s residential landscapes, and they don’t want to make the same mistake.  Another part of their experience is seeing shade plants such as hostas with burned leaves from too much sun exposure and thin ornamental grasses or junipers due to too much shade.  Beyond these 2, the others are usually out of mind, and it’s too bad, because all are equally important and likely to cause problems in the landscape.

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Our suggestion?  Make a list – much like the template below – of the above components when you go to the garden center to purchase plants.  Consideration of these factors will greatly increase the chances for success and reduce inputs of fertilizer, pesticides and water in the lawn and landscape.


Soil – dry, wet, moist?

Wind – needs protection or tolerates wind?

Nearby Vegetation – trees or shrubs nearby?

Disease/Insect Resistance – any info listed on the care tag?

Color in All Seasons – just green leaves or multi-season interest?

Growth Habit – sprawling, upright or vase-shaped?

Size – 2 ft? 7ft? 45ft?

Sun/Shade?  Full sun?  half?  dappled shade? Full shade?

John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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