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University of Illinois Extension
Beyond Impatiens and Petunias

Introduction

Some plants like it hot – some plants like it cool. Whatever your garden situation, there are annuals and perennials that can be selected to offer color and interest to even some of the most extreme gardening situations.

purple flowers

Plants are subject to the stresses of the environment they find themselves living or growing in. There is no one perfect gardening situation. Some gardens will shift from open, sunny sites to sites that present considerable shade and are cooler with more moisture. These sites may have conditions imposed upon them by features that are immovable (structures, large trees, water features), and some conditions will actually change as the day progresses. The sun moving across the garden will put areas into differing amounts of sun at different times of the day. Also, as a garden ages over time, what once was a full sun location may now be subject to considerable shade due to the growth and development of trees and shrubs.  This will dictate a change in plant material selection.  As a garden changes so will your plant selection palette.

Unfortunately, there are no totally stress-resistant plants. Each garden site has its stress level, and each plant has its stress tolerance. So, what is a gardener to do? There are steps that can be taken to reduce the amount of stress a plant faces. The key to a successful landscape that affords healthy, happy and colorful plants is to match a particular growing environment with specific plants adapted for the environment. In short, the right plant in the right spot helps to avoid needless losses and lots of replanting "quick fix" maintenance.

colorful flowers and a bench in a garden

Before any plant is selected for the garden, the site should be accurately evaluated and preparation should be made to try and minimize stress conditions that might occur. Look at the site at different times of the day and if possible different months of the year. Conditions can change in the span of 24 hours dictating what plants would be successful and which plants might end up dying a slow death. Site analysis should include temperature averages for the growing season, amount of sunlight received daily, moisture available through natural rainfall or regulated irrigation, and soil characteristics that play a big part in drainage or moisture retention.

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