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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Thursday - May 22, 2014

From: Flint, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Plant Laws, Shrubs
Title: Evergreen that Grows to Three Feet in Michigan
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I have searched your site and canít find what I need. I live in the middle of Michigan. I need a shrub that stays green year round and only grows to 3 feet or less.

ANSWER:

The first place to go to find a list of potential plants is our Native Plants Database.  Use the Combination Search feature instead of Recommended Species. This will provide a bigger selection with much more choice to narrow down. The volunteers and staff at the Wildflower Center who maintain the database have partners in different regions to help with these recommended species lists based on what is easy to access in local nurseries.

Under Combination Search, select the following categories: State – Michigan, Habit – Shrub, Duration – Perennial, and Leaf Retention – Evergreen. Then select the soil moisture that you have – Dry, Moist or Wet and Light requirement – Sun, Part Shade or Shade. You can also narrow the search a little by indicating blooming color and blooming time.

There are three native shrubs (to 3 ft) that the search identified and that might fit your requirements:

Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne  calyculata) – a small, dense, rounded shrub to 3 feet. Leaves are leathery and purplish in the winter. Small, white nodding bell shaded flowers hand from the upper leaf axils. An evergreen member of the rhododendron family, it typically likes boggy wetlands and highly acidic sites.

Sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia) – a small mat-forming shrub growing to 3 ft tall and usually twice as wide. An evergreen shrub with small deep pink, flowers in clusters around the stem. Glossy, leathery leaves turn reddish-green in the fall. The flower is small, purple to red bell.

Bog Labrador Tea (Ledum groenlandicum) – a low, evergreen shrub with densely hairy twigs and rounded, terminal clusters of white flowers. A small globular, broadleaf evergreen shrub to 3 ft. tall. Thick, glossy, elliptic leaves are aromatic. Upright, bell-shaped flowers in flat-topped, terminal clusters. Typically likes boggy, acidic areas. A tea can be made from the leaves, as was done during the American Revolution.

 

From the Image Gallery


Leatherleaf
Chamaedaphne calyculata

Leatherleaf
Chamaedaphne calyculata

Sheep laurel
Kalmia angustifolia

Sheep laurel
Kalmia angustifolia

Bog labrador tea
Ledum groenlandicum

Bog labrador tea
Ledum groenlandicum

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