En Español

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

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!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
3 ratings

Tuesday - June 17, 2008

From: Detroit, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Evergreen shrubs for Michigan
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I'm seeking a small-medium, ornamental, fairly compact, evergreen shrub to complement my front yard woodland wildflower garden. I want a shrub that will flank both sides of my front porch steps. I want something that is not to "rangy" or broad in growth.


There are lots of groundcover height native evergreens in Michigan (e.g., Arctostaphylos uva-ursi(kinnikinnick), Epigaea repens (trailing arbutus), Empetrum nigrum (black crowberry), to name a few), but there aren't too many taller evergreen shrubs. Nevertheless, for your first shrub Mr. SP suggests the following. You will need to check the growing conditions listed under each of these to see if they match that of your yard.

Kalmia angustifolia (sheep laurel) and more information and still more

Hypericum kalmianum (Kalm's St. Johnswort), described by Missouri Botanical Garden as evergreen, by American Beauties Native Plants, based in the Northeast, as semi-evergreen; but Michigan State University Extension reports it as being deciduous. Its leaf retention appears to be dependent on the latitude at which it grows. Still, it is an attractive shrub.

Chamaedaphne calyculata (leatherleaf) and more information and photos.

Mahonia aquifolium (hollyleaved barberry) and more information. This shrub can grow to a height that could also satisfy your more erect shrub requirements.

Here are more suggestions for the second shrub:

Juniperus virginiana (eastern redcedar). Although this tree can grow to heights of 40 feet or more, there are varieties that are shorter and would serve as a shrub.

Thuja occidentalis (arborvitae) also has cultivars that can be used as a shrub. Here is more information from Michigan State University Extension.

Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock) also has shorter cultivars with more information from Michigan State University Extension.

You can also see a variety of decicuous shrubs that could be used as a screen by doing a Combination Search in our Native Plant Database by choosing 'Michigan' from the Select State or Province option and 'Shrub' under Habit (general appearance). There are also other characteristics you can choose to limit your search results.

Here are a few suggestions from these deciduous shrubs:

Cornus sericea (redosier dogwood) and more information.

Lindera benzoin (northern spicebush) and more information.

Physocarpus opulifolius (common ninebark) and more information.

Kalmia angustifolia

Hypericum kalmianum

Chamaedaphne calyculata

Mahonia aquifolium

Juniperus virginiana

Thuja occidentalis

Tsuga canadensis

Cornus sericea

Lindera benzoin

Physocarpus opulifolius



More Shrubs Questions

Landscaping on South Padre Island
June 07, 2008 - I'm in charge of landscaping at my beachfront condo in South Padre Island and find the wind, salt air, and heat challenging for growing almost anything. We would like to incorporate native plants, b...
view the full question and answer

Non-native Podocarpus macrophyllus in Ft Worth TX
November 12, 2011 - I know this question does not pertain to a native plant but I've spent too much time not finding an answer to my question. I have many mature Podocarpus macrophyllus bushes at my house I purchased in...
view the full question and answer

Difference beteen two non-native photinias from Nashville TN
June 07, 2013 - What is the difference between red tip phontinias and fireball phontinias. I read that fireballs are also called red tips but I thought that red tips grow to like 12 ft. and the tag on the fireball I...
view the full question and answer

Will wax myrtle (Morella cerifera) grow in Roswell NM?
September 29, 2011 - We live in Roswell, NM. Will a wax myrtle tree live in our climate and soil?
view the full question and answer

Location of Elbow Bush and Gregg's Saddlebush at the Wildflower Center
March 10, 2016 - I have twice looked for Forestiera pubescens (Elbow Plant) and Mortonia greggi (Gregg's Saddlebush) in your gardens and have been unable to find. I have looked on the trails as well. Would you be a...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center