Making Plant Choices

Gardening is all about making choices. None of the other seven basic principles of gardening illustrates the impact of choice quite as much as our choice of plants. Plants are the focus, the purpose, and the reason for the garden. Plants illustrate the garden of our imagination. Our plant choices are based on choices made during the planning phase and for the way the beds have been amended. offers an extensive number of regionally appropriate plants to choose from in building low and medium water-use gardens in both the Plant Lists and Plant Profiles, and from suggestions scattered throughout the website.

Botanic Latin

Most gardeners are not bilingual. That is, they are conversant in their native tongue, but not in the language of this hobby, pastime or passion of gardening, Botanic Latin, the language of the natural world. With a gardener’s acquaintance with botanic Latin, you will begin to understand how using this language will make you an even better gardener and help you in making better plant choices. You will be more competent in selecting plants within families and genera that will match the criteria any particular bed or design needs.


Definitions or terminology vary. Gardeners may have one definition in mind, while another person thinks differently about a word. Sometimes a person's practice in a different region of the world conveys a separate meaning. To clarify, I define a few gardening terms used throughout my website in this section. I have tried to be consistent with their usage.

Plant Selection Checklist

In my early talks about appropriate plants for the Texas Panhandle, I made and handed out a Plant Selection Checklist that included my top tips on how to choose plants. I made the list in bookmark format so gardeners could keep it in their pocket or purse when they went plant shopping. When the spring plant supply is at its height, the selection is daunting. Lest one get carried away by the lure of beautiful blooms, I urge people to stay focused. Remember your garden management statement, your plan and refer to your plant list. When considering a different plant, whip out your plant selection checklist before you put the plant in the shopping cart.

How to Choose Plants

Choosing the best plants for the bed or border type, design, style is just as much an art as the design itself, requiring some education, research and persistence. For theme gardens or anything out of the ordinary, you won't be able to find everything you need at the big box stores, or any single nursery, for that matter. In the Texas Panhandle, we are fortunate to be able to purchase plants at Canyon's Edge Plants, our local grower for medium and lower water-use plants. However, I've never run across a nursery that carries every single plant I might want at any given time. When my husband and I travel, we stop at nurseries to check out their selection. I've purchased many through catalogues or the Internet. Pretty much, if the plant is propagated for sale, it's available to gardeners everywhere. A supplier doesn't have to specialize in xeric plants to carry some in their inventory. Even if the plant is not labeled xeric, the plant's characteristics will give you a good idea about its water requirements.

Planting and Planting Times

Our soils and climate present challenges to gardening that English gardeners do not face. Our challenges are not insurmountable with a little knowledge of what's required under our conditions. It just takes more work, preparation and better timing. Our planting windows are narrow slits wedged between the volatile, erratic spring and the sudden arrival of our hot, often dry summer. And on at the end of summer as the heat abates, we race against the departing sun's warmth and light. Knowing your plants requirements makes a big difference, whether they be cool season or warm season plants, high water-use or low. Again, within the context of a changing climate and weather that differs from season to season, nothing is guaranteed. The recommendations made below may need to be adjusted if our spring seasons continues to arrive early and fall lingers longer.

Lower Maintenance Container Gardening

Even if your garden is limited to a pot on a sunny (or shady) patio, it is the attention to details that guarantee success or failure. As with everything gardening in the Texas Panhandle, we face certain challenges when it comes to container gardening. Same as in-ground gardening, with a little more attention paid to the container itself, the soil mix, plant selection, water and watering frequency, more success will be attained. I hope you will master the technique of container gardening and avail yourself to its joys.

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