Welcome to your guide on choosing plants

Choosing plants for your garden can be quite confusing and daunting. There are so many options and just as many questions you need to answer before you even get to the decision part. The main areas to focus on are

  1. Purpose
  2. Location
  3. Style/aesthetics
  4. Budget- Of course all of this hinders your budget as well so you will need to adapt your choices accordingly.


When thinking about the purpose of a plant you want to look at the purpose of the whole garden. Determine what use the garden/plants will have, for example, if the purpose is a:

  • Veggie Garden

If it’s for a vegetable garden, you will need to look at the soil type and location to predetermine the types of vegetable plants you can put in not to mention the climate and time of the year. There are also vegetables that grow better with more sun than shade and vice versa.

  • Feature Garden

Whether this is a wall garden, in your back or front yard or in a raised garden bed. There are plants or a combination of plants that can be used depending on the overall look and feel you are trying to achieve.

  • Create privacy

Creating privacy is easy enough to do with hedges or trees. But you will either need a good-sized budget to have more developed plants or have to be patient enough for smaller plants to grow. You will also need to keep in mind the space that you are working with and the size of the plant once it’s grown. Great examples of hedges:

Acmena Smithii Hedge 'DOW30' PBR
Lily Pilli Hedge
Privacy hedge Viburnums
Murraya privacy hedge
Murraya min a min hedge
Buxes Hedge
  • To give shade

    If Shade is what you are after then space and height is what you need to think about. Keep in mind some trees will grow big roots, others not so much. It’s important to know what the tree will look like in 5-20 years before you plant it. Here are a few great trees for creating shade depending on the location and weather:

Magnolia teddy bear plants
Japanese Maple
Tahitian lime
  • Sensory Experience

If it’s for a sensory garden then there is a lot of thought that goes into this as it’s about engaging the five sensors, read here about how to create a sensory garden. But full use of multi-coloured, textures, sculpted or un-sculpted plants, or perhaps wilderness or edible might be the way to go.

  • Planting For kids –

If you are planting for an area with kids then you need to think about whether it (a) will it be a high traffic area (b) Will they be walking through the gardens? in which case you would need to take into account how robust the plants are, and (c) how safe the plants are for kids. Some kid-friendly plants are:

    • Cordyline fruticosa,
    • giant bromeliad / bromeliads
    • Senecio mandraliscae (‘blue chalk’)
    • Crassula campfire (succulent’)
    • Echeveria species (succulent)
    • Ferns
    • Hosta
    • Spotted Laurel
    • Rhoeo
Giant Bromeliad plants
Cordyline fruticosa
Spotted Laurel
Senecio Mandraliscae blue chalk
Crassula campfire
Hosta plants
Echeveria species
See more kid friendly plants here
  • For Drainage

    If the plants you are after is drainage then this is a special type of garden and there are certain plants that are great for absorbing a lot more water than others.

    • Calla lily
    • Alpinia zerumbet – shell ginger
    • Elephant Ears
    • Pennisetum – Fountain Grass
    • Bulrush

The purpose of the garden will determine the type of plants you want however sometimes it’s simply determined by the location.

Elephant Ears Plants
Calla lily Plants
Alpinia zerumbet - shell ginger
Fountain Grass


As important as the purpose of a garden is, the location can be the premise for what you are designing your garden for and as such what plants you will use.

  • What are the weather conditions in the location? Windy? Still?
  • How much sun or shade does the area receive?

The amount of sun the area will get will mean the plants will need to be resilient or will need constant maintenance. Australia’s tropical climate can mean that you will either need to take extra maintenance care or that you will resilient

Examples of plants that love the sun are:

Abelia Plant that loves the sun
Lily Pilli Hedge
Agapanthus (African Lily) loves the sun
Alternanthera Little Ruby
Anigozanthos (Kangaroo Paw)
Aussie Flat Bush

While these plants prefer the shade

  • Giant mondo grass
  • Banana Split
  • Blaze
  • Blush (reddish leaf plant)
Tall Mondo grass
banana split
Blush (reddish leaf plant)

For vegetables – you will need to look at seasons, however below is a list of shade vs. sun lovers

Vegetable plants that love Sun – (This could be a minimum of 6 hours but thrives more in 12 hours )

  • tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • eggplant
  • peppers
  • corn
  • squash
  • beans
  • peas
  • melons
  • okra

Vegetable plants that love Partial Shade (4-6 hours of sun)

  • Cherry Tomatoes

Vegetable plants that love Full or partial Shade (mostly your leafy greens)

  • kale,
  • lettuce, (Butterhead lettuce)
  • spinach,
  • arugula
  • Blueberries,
  • blackberries,
  • raspberries,


  • Leafy crops grown in partial shade will be succulent and free of a bitter taste.
  • A partially shaded garden can allow for a longer growing period for cool-season crops.
  • Afternoon shade protects crops from the hot summer sun.

Generally, you may be able to fix this with some new soil however if this area is known to be a swamp or is just very wet then you will need to get plants that love water and will absorb it just as much. This depends on the purpose of your garden.

See our blog on soil type

Plant by Style/aesthetics/theme

Do you have a theme or branding concept that speaks to the style or visual your garden may be trying to achieve? This could be in brand values, brand story, or brand colours. A carefully considered group of plants can be selected with your theme or brand in mind. For example, a Mexican themed fast-food or retail Store could have either a dessert feel with cactus, agaves, rocks and grass plants. Or a colourful plant base like Bougainvillea, yellow bells and gravel rocks to set the tone.

Other theme ideas that may speak to your brand may be that your name is a certain plant/ tree/animal so then you may need to work around this. And if you can’t literally plant that tree or plant or have the animal perhaps you can create a 2D or 3D art representation and have plants that compliment this. Perhaps you might lay the plants to create the shape.


If your company or brand wants to speak to the culture of the company or clients you want to attract like for Mathiou Services our goal is “wow service” so if we want a garden to reflect this, we would have a garden that wow’s you with layout or plant type, or plant size. If your company’s brand screams “we are bold and creative” then you would choose big plants that may have bold colours.

Another way to relate your garden to your brand is by colour, find a colour palette that you can work into your brand.

planting-by colour pallet

If it’s solely for aesthetics’ and you just want it to look good and not worry about it – then you’ll want low maintenance plants that balance between evergreen and foliage’s, or succulents.

If you don’t want to touch it and prefer a wild garden then a good tip is to group garden plants in threes or fives or if you have more room multiples of odd numbers.

Plant Budget-

Of course, all of the above hinders on your budget as well so you will need to adapt your choices accordingly. Here are a few tips on how to spread your budget

  1. Mix plants by height to give it depth – Taller plants should either be at the back or middle depending on the sun and how much shade your other plants require.
  2. Purchase various aged plants – a few mature plants, mixed with young or mid sizes plants will help give your garden a complete look but don’t be discouraged if it looks bare as it will grow.
  3. Buy small plants that will either grow fast or will eventually spread to keep costs down and fill your garden.
  4. If you have the opportunity to buy a few mature plants to give the garden a complete look then do it.

Need help with your commercial landscaping?

Mathiou Services offers a complete end-to-end gardening and landscaping process. From excavating land to building a custom playground

Talk to our team today – 1300 363 423