Rule of green thumb: Right plant must be put in its right place

Editor’s note: Get Growing, written by the La Plata County Extension Office’s Master Gardener Program, appears every other week during the growing season. It features timely tips and suggestions for your garden and landscape.

By Nancy Shipps

Even though it is officially spring, summer is right around the corner. Last year, I checked out my garden and saw an open spot that needed some color.

I rushed to the nursery and bought the first plant that caught my fancy. At home, I put it into the garden and looked forward to enjoying my new purchase. But in late summer, this once lovely new plant was struggling.

Why is it so challenging to successfully grow plants? One of the early lessons taught in the Colorado Master Gardener class was techniques for growing healthy plants.

“Right plant, right place” should be the gardener’s mantra. During a group discussion with my fellow gardeners, the light went on in my head. I then realized that when I bought my new plant I did not even consider all the variables that exist in my garden, let alone the challenges faced in Colorado. I was attempting to put a square peg in a round hole.

In order to grow healthy plants, the technique of “right plant, right place” uses a holistic approach, considering the suitability of a plant for a specific garden site, therefore, minimizing stress factors.

Just some of the factors to consider are: type of plant, soil requirements, irrigation, precipitation, exposure to sun, shade and wind and resistance to pests and critters. Many a gardener, like me, will get to the nursery with a few ideas in mind and become seduced by the dizzying variety of beautiful plants. Gardeners who are patient and know how to select plants that will do well will be amply rewarded.

For more information about growing healthy plants, visit Fact sheet No. 7.220, Gardening for Newcomers (, is an excellent start.

You may still find some round pegs that you think will fit into a square hole, but like me, I would bet that garden light may go off in your head as well.

Nancy Shipps is a 2012 Colorado Master Gardener graduate. She lives in La Plata County.