How to Spruce Up Your Existing Garden by Adding New Plants

Ginny Bartolone
Written by Ginny Bartolone
Updated March 23, 2022
Springtime flowers in the front yard of a house
Photo: Andrew Merry / Moment / Getty Images

Life can be a bed of roses when you introduce new plants to your garden

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Difficulty: 1/5

No experience? No problem.

Time to complete: 1 hour

Cost to DIY: $50 to $250

Every spring, your home garden offers a fresh opportunity to build a living, growing work of art. New plants bring new pollinators, add fresh color, and change the style of your yard. But as a gardener with high #gardeninggoals, we know you're looking to go beyond simply choosing a few new plants—you want to grow a healthy garden that works as a balanced ecosystem. Let's walk through how to choose, plant, and care for new plants in your harden.

What You'll Need


  • Garden trowel

  • Pruning shears

  • Broadfork or hoe

  • Gardening gloves

  • Hose


  • New seedlings or seeds

  • At-home soil test (optional)

  • Topsoil, compost, or fertilizer

How to Prepare

Your local greenhouse can be a bit intimidating if you just walk in with your shopping cart and peruse the aisles of plants willy-nilly. Your yard is unique from the soil to the sunshine, so it's important to do a bit of research before choosing the right plants for your garden.

Know Your Zone

Researching your hardiness zone is step one whenever picking flowers, shrubs, veggies, or trees. Look up what hardiness zone you live in and keep this in mind when choosing plants, especially if you have yet to pass the last frost of the year.

Test Your Soil

Depending on where you live, you may have soil that is either sandy, loamy, silty, chalky, peaty, or packed with clay. Order a soil test for as little as $15 to determine its pH, texture, and composition. From here, consider treating the soil with the fertilizer it needs to support either flower, vegetables, fruits, or shrubs. 

Also, keep an eye on how your soil handles water. After watering the soil with about one inch of water, check if the soil maintains a moist (but not soaked) level of wetness. If not, you may need to amend its texture and rock composition further.

Observe the Sun

Each type of plant desires different levels of sun throughout the day. Keep an eye on the sun and shade patterns in your yard. Do some patches get a straight 10 hours of sun while others stay shaded under the trees?

8 Steps to Add New Plants to Your Garden

A senior woman picking up new plants
Photo: kali9 / E+ / Getty Images

With your yard properly prepped, it's time to head to the garden store or buy your plants online. If you're relatively new to gardening, we recommend planting seedlings over seeds unless you choose a hardy vegetable that doesn't require an indoor start.

1. Choose a New Plant

You will have your pick between annuals and perennials—AKA plants that come back every year or need replacing next season. Each plant should come with details on its hardiness zone, preferred sun exposure, and how much you'll need to water and prune it throughout the year.

2. Pick the Right Spot

Sun, soil, and space are all crucial to where you place your plants. For example, if you're adding new trees or shrubs with large root networks, make sure they will not interfere with your foundation, pavers, or other trees. Also, make sure sun-loving plants don't sit beneath a dense tree canopy, and that delicate flowers sit next to shrubs and trees that block heavy winds.

Line your current shrubs with colorful annuals, add tall grasses or sunflowers along the edge of a fence, or place butterfly bushes in view of your kitchen window. 

3. Prepare the soil

Even if you're adding plants to an existing garden, it's important to set the transplant up for success. Mix compost or topsoil with the subsoil in a 50/50 ratio. During this process, till the soil around the area with a trowel, broadfork, or just your hands.

4. Dig a hole

Whether you're planting a seedling or fresh seeds, be sure to follow the instructions on your packet or pot detailing the width and depth of the hole. 

As a general rule of thumb, dig a hole equal to the depth of the planting container and about double the width. This gives the plant enough roof to spread its roots but doesn't place it too far into the earth.

For new seeds, dig a small hole with your finger about half the size of the seed. For example, a large seed that is a half-inch long goes one inch into the ground.

5. Place Your Plant in the Ground

A woman planting flowers in the yard
Photo: Kathrin Ziegler / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Now for the big moment. Remove the plant from its container by gently gripping the base of the stems and lighting squeezing the plastic plot. A squeeze and a jiggle should release it without damaging the root ball.

If the sides of your root ball have a thick wall of roots, lightly trim them with sheers or loosen them open with your fingers. Otherwise, simply shake the roots and soil open before placing them in the ground.

Fill soil in around the edges of the plant so it is supported enough to stand and pat down around the edges to remove large air pockets. Make sure the plant is not buried so deeply that the leaves touch the soil.

6. Water and Feed with Care

Water the plants and seeds as soon as you finish planting them. Afterward, it's important to follow the plant's unique watering instructions. Keep an eye on the rain to avoid overwatering as well. You will likely need to water your plant more in the first few weeks until its roots are fully established.

If you didn't add fertilizer to the soil during prep, now's the time to add appropriate levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium for your plant species.

7. Protect Your New Plants

Give young plants a helping hand with stakes or by attaching climbing plants to a trellis. Be sure to protect young seedlings from intruders like deer and other burrowing creatures with a fence or mesh if necessary. Lastly, consider adding a thin layer of mulch to discourage weeds, but don't overdo it—too much mulch can oversaturate your soil and lead to disease.

8. Keep a Care Schedule

Your new plants may need extra care in the first few weeks, so adjust your watering, weeding, and pruning schedule as time goes on. Pruning typically occurs as buds start to dry up or if the plant becomes too dense. Remember to prune if your plants grow too close together and compete for sun or root space.

DIY vs. Hiring a Professional Gardener

Adding a few plants to your garden, lawn, or around the pond is an easy and cost-effective DIY project. According to HomeAdvisor, the cost of a new shrub ranges from $25 to $50, while a grown tree ready to go in the ground costs between $60 and $140 a tree. Flowers and veggies seeds and seedlings range significantly, cost as low as a few dollars. 

Add in the cost of basic garden tools, gloves, fertilizer, and topsoil into account as well for between $50 and $100. From start to finish, the whole project will range anywhere from $50 to $250 depending on whether you already have tools and the type of plant you choose.

If you need a local professional gardener, however, add $50 to $100 an hour, especially if you want to overhaul your entire landscape.

Common Questions About Adding Plants to Your Garden

There are far more things to consider beyond how to get the new plant in the ground and help it grow. Let's look at some FAQs to expand your garden.

How do you choose the right plants for your yard?

If you're not sure where to start your search, consider the style of your garden and how different plants will alter its appearance and respond to your local climate.

How do I restore an existing flower garden?

Begin by weeding your old garden and removing any plants beyond saving. Check your soil for its water retention, pH, and nutrient levels, and add fertilizer or compost. Once you have balanced soil, consider adding flowers that will flourish in that unique spot.

When should I add new plants to my existing garden?

Depending on the life cycle of the plant—whether it's an annual or perennial—mid-spring or early fall are best for adding new plants to your garden. You can also add plants in the summer, but pay closer attention to moisture levels in hotter climates.

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