Lisa's Landscape & Design

Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time

What Plants Do I Choose?!

In a state like Texas with our crazy geography, heat, all the rain or none at all, even the plants themselves are confused, so how could you know where to begin. The truth is, if you are in the Central Texas, Austin or surrounding area, you could call me for a consultation and I could just tell you what to plant. However, if you are looking for some great free advice, I’ve got that too.

Where do you begin? A successful plant begins with the soil. You must amend your soil first and you can attack this from two ways. One is to get a soil test and see what deficiencies there actually are, or go the lazy route like me and compost the hell out of it. I figure, who’s amending the woods? Compost is. Compost is decaying plant and animal matter. You can buy compost in bags and amend with cow, chicken or turkey manure for a great nitrogen and micorhizal fungi booster. Now…that also means NO chemicals ever unless it is your last resort. Use only organic protocols and I promise you will love the results, mind, body and soul.

Most of us will begin with a construction site, or inherited someone else’s who knows what. How could you know what the people before you used in the way of chemicals or what horrible dirt lies beneath that brand new mulch. The good news is, compost can fix all of that. Compost, compost, compost. Every single spring buy compost in bags or bulk and cover your entire property lawn and all with at least half an inch or more in beds if there is room for the depth (remember to keep a minimum of 4 inches of mulch/compost in beds). Rake it into your lawn as a top-dressing and into your beds for food all year.

Next you do a light schedule for your space; catch the hours of sun front, sides and back by taking photos at 10:00, 12:00, 2 and 4. Above you see perfect examples of one side with full sun and the fence has shade, the next is full sun, the next is dappled and the later is part sun and part shade. Below: part sun/ part shade, full sun, shade. There is a plant for all spaces and a solution to every challenge.

Finally, you choose the right plants for the job. Do your homework, the only shortcut here is to hire me or someone like me, so if that’s not an option, do your work. Full sun plants are “full sun” for a minimum of 6+ hours. Part sun typically means 4 or less hours and many can take morning or afternoon but some are only morning sun and those are typically defined as shade/part sun. Shade is dappled light only and only small amount of morning sun with zero full sun exposure in the heat of the day (2-6). Once you know your light requirements, you can make the right plant choices. First however, we have to make a plan…

Choose Native or adapted plants and trees recommend for your hardiness zone. Planting zone in Austin and the surrounding area is 8/a 8/b and now even some zone 9 do very well in a protected area. Choose only low water plants and properly space them for the least maintenance. ┬áIf you have a space that doesn’t drain well and stays wet for long period of time, work with the cards you were dealt and choose plants and trees that prefer wetter feet. There is a solution to just about every challenge.


Create a design using online tools or by constructing a grid on a copy of your survey/plat with square foot/ 5, or 10 foot squares that assist you in planning for how many plants will fill in a space. Above is a quick sketch of a space with some basic measurements and a 5 foot grid. I have hard lined the changes we know we want to make but the rest are negotiated as you go depending on cost and priorities. This is a very typical sketch I would make for a client after a landscape consultation. This would not include specific plants in beds this large but it would include a list of plants that work in this light, or as mentioned previously you create your own by researching the internet and my blog.

Choose plants in various sizes and colors as well as evergreen and deciduous. Choose colors and textures from ground cover to as tall as your space allows. Be sure to plan each 5 ft square accordingly. If your shrub or choice is 5 feet wide, each one takes up a square. 3, 2 ft wide plants would spill over a 5 foot space, and so on. Plant in groups and use symmetry to make color composition easier. Opposite colors on the color wheel compliment and “pop” in sun, texture is your friend in shade and dappled light.

So now you have a great place to start. Soil, sun schedule, plants then proper timing and planting. Trees and shrubs are best planted in winter. Smaller perennials and herbs are best to plant in spring. Dig your hole twice as wide and a bit deeper, add a little compost to each hole to mix into the existing soil then plant your root ball with some root activator, water in well each day for a couple of weeks, then graduate to a few times a week, then once a week and so on as needed for the first two years until established. Xeriscape is low water plants by definition so don’t limit yourself to cacti, branch out to color and lush texture if that is your preference and still be water conscious with water wise native and adapted plants for Central Texas.

If you’re in Austin or the surrounding area and would like a personal educational and/or design consultation, call me 512-733-777 or email me at A one hour landscape consultation in far south Austin or Buda is $100 an hour, $125 an hour Central and $150 for Cedar Park, Georgetown and Hutto. 512-733-7777, or email me at It’s the best money you will ever spend on your land; for a small fee I will save you thousands.

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”



  1. Your posts and information are always so informative and colorful! Thank you.

    • Thank you Maria, I love what I do and it shines through. I am so blessed to work with nature, she is pretty easy to get along with if you have some basic guidelines. Even in its destruction, there is an opportunity for growth.

  2. Sandi Ekholm

    Lisa, I am planting 2 smaller urns for a friend—facing south by her front door—for fall/winter—what would you plant? They are only about 2 ft tall & 1 1/2 ft wide—white stone. I am thinking succulents? They face south. Deer resistant & not fussy. Thanks my friend.

    On Sat, Sep 2, 2017 at 11:11 AM, Lisa’s Landscape & Design wrote:

    > Lisa’s Landscape & Design posted: “In a state like Texas with our crazy > geography, heat all the rain or none at all, even the plants themselves are > confused, so how could you know where to begin. The truth is, if you are in > the Central Texas, Austin or surrounding area, you could call me f” >

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