Put The Right Plant In The Right Place

Whether you are using real or replica plants, the same basic design principles apply to both: put the right plant in the right place. Sometimes this is as obvious as not planting cactus in Alaska, but often it’s subtle growing habits that can make a plant a beauty or a beast.

While you certainly can push the envelope on this if you are an experienced gardener or just a glutton for aggravation, make it easy and just follow these 5 basic concepts:


Don’t put shade plants in a sunny spot. Read the plant tags, observe where the nursery has the plants on display. That lovely little calendula is under the tent for a reason. That blue spruce looks so blue out in the yard because it gets full sun on all sides.

Outdoor silks work in a similar manner. Some can be in full-on sun while others will turn color in a week if they are too exposed. You have to know the product, know it’s limits and know where to use it best.


Improper watering can kill a plant before you really know what happened. You need the Goldilocks formula—not too much, not too little, just right for what the plant needs. Again, read the tag, observe the nursery treatment and don’t hesitate to ask. Most reputable nurseries have very knowledgeable and helpful staff who think of plants as their little chlorophyll babies.

Another potential killer is your irrigation system. If the lawn sprinklers are hitting plants and shrubs, that can result in too much water or leaf burn from droplets on hot foliage. What’s good for the lawn can be very bad for the greenery. If you have drip irrigation in beds or pots, it has to be monitored so that the correct amount of water is truly coming out of the hoses.

Outdoor artificial plants: no water! Freedom! Tidiness! Eco-friendly!


Do you have the time and patience to take care of your plants? Or the money to hire someone to do it for you? I always had a list of “no brainer” perennials for 90% of my clients who said they wanted low maintenance plants. But notice that’s “low” and not “no” because no matter what, every plant, shrub and tree needs maintenance to keep it healthy and pretty. Be very aware of what your plants needs (dead heading, pruning, fungicide) and if you are willing to commit to it. Golf vs yard work—what’s your priority?

To date, there are no replica trees or shrubs that are worthy of a private residence. In my opinion. But trees and shrubs, especially when mature, can be fairly self-sustaining if they are in the right place. Mother Nature can do wonders. Strategically placed containers full of colorful replica flowers and greenery can provide the maintenance-free curb appeal that can make all the difference for your property. Look above at the pot of artificial geraniums and Dusty Miller tucked among the fan palms and hibiscus of this home’s front yard. It’s a lovely greeting when you pull into your driveway.


If you are buying a home where the builder has done the landscaping, be forewarned: those cute little yew shrubs around your foundation will be full-blown Christmas trees before long. Many a landscape designer and contractor has made a living ripping out plants and shrubs that never should have been there in the first place. Evergreens that need full sun will develop into a sickly half-shrub because the side facing the house won’t have enough sun to sustain it.

A container of replica plants stays looking just as wonderful as the day it was created. No overgrowth!


Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda. Everyone goes to the nursery with the grandest of intentions, wooed by the beauty of those carefully fertilized pots timed to look their best the minute you pull into the parking lot. How hard can it be, you wonder, to just put this pot in a decorative pot on my patio/terrace/porch/lanai/entryway/pool deck and have it stay looking this way? It’s not hard. It’s wicked hard! The wrong plant in the wrong place can get fungus or bugs that quickly take over. Leaves start turning yellow or brown and then drop. Before you know it you’ve thrown it away and your empty pot is a condo for spiders.

Be honest with yourself, but don’t give up on the beauty and serenity that plants bring to outdoor spaces. Just let go of the notion that you have to be at their beck and call. Or that they are maintenance free. There’s a world of outdoor artificial plants and I’ve tamed them for you. I know what Disney uses. I know what works and what doesn’t. Allow me to help you put the right plant in the right place.

Paula Doherty