Right Plant, Right Place Part 2


The coined phrase Right Plant, Right Place (RPRP) has stuck for many reasons, but the most important one is that it has passed the test of time.  Also, it’s just common sense.  Basically, RPRP is relatively straightforward; it’s about installing the best plant for the site, taking sun/shade, soil characteristics, pest history and many, many other factors in to consideration.  However, each component should be considered fully to obtain the best chance for success.


In order to fully reap the benefits of RPRP, it’s essential to start with a site assessment and analysis, then take the specific outcomes into account when choosing plant materials.  These initial steps are beneficial either when conducted prior to installation, or at some point in the future as a means of evaluation.  In both cases, considering all aspects of the site is an immensely beneficial yet underutilized process.


RPRP Specifics


The strength of RPRP is found in its straightforward yet multi-faceted considerations.  Each component can have a significant impact on the severity of the maladies that arise in the landscape as well as the overall aesthetic appeal of the space.


A strong temptation exists to weight one or more of the components as more important that the others.  True RPRP consideration occurs when each are considered equally.  Following are the key factors:


*Sun/Shade requirements  – misplaced perennials, groundcovers and woody plants often produce weak or scorched growth in response to being planted in too much or too little sun.



*Leaf Color – summer color as well as fall color are important aesthetic and design features.



*Mature/Eventual Size and Shape – nursery plants often look smallish and less than impressive at installation time.  Fight the urge to make up for it by spacing them too closely.



*Winter Appeal – especially important for families that celebrate Christmas or other winter holidays.


*Soil moisture – adequate or inadequate drainage can either encourage vigorous root growth or predispose them to soil borne diseases.


*Soil pH – many ornamentals such as pin oak, hydrangea and azalea are pH dependent for success.


*Disease Resistance – disease resistance equates to lower maintenance for ornamental plantings.


*Flower/Fruit/Fragrance – butterflies are always welcome, but bees can be a real nuisance, especially for the easy to offend family member or for medically allergic individuals.



*Bloom sequence – A high degree of aesthetic appeal is created when several plants are in bloom at each point in the growing season.


*Native Choices – chances are good that native plants are going to survive and be less likely to succumb to various pest problems.


*Hardiness Zones – lack of cold and heat tolerance can be major cause of plant survival issues when plants are not sited according to hardiness zones.


*Growth Habit – consider low growing or prostrate ornamentals on slopes and upright species where screening is desirable.



*Flooding Tolerance – if the property is located near a river or lake, this consideration is paramount.


*Level of Maintenance – high levels of maintenance can be justified in high visibility areas, but other areas can be zoned for lower maintenance plantings.


*Safety – some plants drop extensive foliage or other debris, creating unsafe walking conditions.



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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