Site Conditions

Knowing your soil type is helpful when choosing plants to place in your garden. Soil is the foundation for a plant’s existence, so use these tips to help you determine which plants will thrive in your garden’s soil.

Questions to consider:

  • What soil type do you have?
  • Is your soil dry, average, or moist/wet?
  • Is your soil nutrient rich or poor?
  • Does your soil drain well?
  • What is your soil’s pH?
    • Most plants favor soil which has a pH between 6.5 and 7 because this is the level where most nutrients and minerals are available for the plant to access.

There are six main soil types:

  1. Clay: rich in nutrients, poor drainage, heavy and compact
  2. Sandy: holds fewer nutrients, drains easily, dries out rapidly
  3. Silty: rich in nutrients, good drainage, retains moisture
  4. Loamy: rich in nutrients, good drainage, retains moisture
  5. Peaty (uncommon): low in nutrients, retains a lot of moisture
  6. Chalky (uncommon): low in nutrients, drains easily, soil is alkaline




Different plants require different amounts of sunlight each day. Think about if an area receives full sun, part shade, or full shade and use this information to guide where you site new plants.

  • Full sun: 6 or more hours of sun a day
  • Part shade: 2 – 4, or 6 hours of sun a day
  • Full shade: less than 2 hours of sun a day

To learn about a few perennials that prefer the sun, read The Best Sun-Loving Perennials.

Visit Penn State Extension to learn more about planting in sun or shade.

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Plants also have specific water requirements in order for them to grow. Think about if a plant is adapted for wet, dry, well-drained, or average areas and how sunlight requirements play a role in this, too.

Choosing  plants native to your eco-region means that they are already adapted to local climates; as long as initial waterings are maintained, native plants save more water long-term!

Determining your soil’s moisture content can be done at home with little to no hassle. Take a look at this resource that explains how you can measure your soil’s moisture yourself.

Do you want to grow native plants but lack the space for a garden? Consider containers! Check out the online class: Best Native Plants for Containers for native plants perfect for creating a small, wildlife-friendly oasis on a balcony, patio, or porch.

Summer Container Garden.

Native Plants for Containers