Generally speaking it’s almost always best and easier to select the right plant for a location, rather than trying opposite of changing the location to accommodate a plant’s needs.

For example blueberries, which need a slightly acidic soil rather than alkaline, and unfortunately, it’s never worth the cost and labor investment to attempt to get them to grow in East Idaho. I like to first consider the climate aspects of each part of my yard, and then choose what would grow best there considering what the plant will have to live with.

I divide up the areas in my yard into categories based on how much irrigation it receives, how much sunlight it gets, how hot it can be in the summer and how bad the wind is in that spot. For example, the planting area on the north side of my house receives very little sunlight, gets moisture from snow and rainfall that comes off the roof and is protected from a lot of the damaging winds. I irrigate this area once weekly or sometimes a couple times, as I would like a more “green lush” appearance.

It also tends to slowly dry out, therefore I select plants that like shade and can handle slightly more moist conditions. For these conditions of higher moisture and shade I would choose perennials like hostas, sedges, lesser periwinkle, leopards’ bane, wild ginger and sweet woodruff. These plants will enlarge over time and help to fill in an area, and some of them can be a little spreading in their growth habit, so putting in a border to contain them doesn’t hurt.

Instead of using perennials in this location I could plant annual flowers for this site, and some good choices would be wax begonias, impatiens and coleus. If I didn’t want to water these plants as much in this location and only irrigated them once weekly or bi-weekly then heuchera, columbine, wild geraniums and bleeding hearts would be good choices.

In other locations in the yard that receive hot sun and sometimes drought conditions, then blanket flower, gaura, stonecrop, wall flower and anise hyssop are good choices. Some pretty heat tolerant annuals would be cosmos, sunflowers and four o’clocks. These annuals would need irrigation more often than perennials since they have to develop a root system from scratch that spring, and the perennials would have a large and deep root system top draw from.

There are limitations to what these plants can handle whether they be perennials or annuals, and some spots in your yard are just too brutal for them to survive such as being planted next to an asphalt driveway where the heat radiates off the pavement and heats up plants to abnormally high temperatures or where they are exposed to excessive pollution from car exhaust.

Another example of site selection is that I recently planted my home orchard consisting of apples, pears, plums, apricots and peaches. The placement of these trees was important, with the trees most susceptible to damage from our climate being put in the most protected location in the orchard area. That meant I planted the peaches where they will be protected by an 8-foot-tall wind break fence, and the apples on the other side of the orchard where there is the least amount of available wind protection since they are the “toughest and most hardy” of all the trees being put into the orchard. All the other trees were planted in between them, to give them the best chance and protection possible.

Lance Ellis is the University of Idaho Extension educator for Fremont County. He can be reached at 208-624-3102.

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