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

Planting shrubs and flowers under pine trees in New York
July 15, 2008 - We just started to plant flowers and the whole back side of our yard is pine trees. I was wondering what types of flowers can be planted under them, and what kind of plants or shrubs can be planted un...
view the full question and answer

Planting Suggestions for a Lake Home in Wayne County, MO
April 03, 2014 - We have a lake home in Wayne County, MO at Lake Wappapello. The soil is very rocky. We recently cleared an area around our home of assorted dead trees, some cedars and what seemed like tons of vines. ...
view the full question and answer

Low-maintenance native plants for Arizona
March 12, 2009 - Will you please suggest some Native plants that can be left without care for the summer and survive - other than cactus?
view the full question and answer

Shrubs for planting under hollies in DC
April 01, 2011 - I would like shrub suggestions for planting under holly trees. I live in Washington, DC and have 2 very well-established large holly trees (2 story tall trees) in the front of our house, facing north...
view the full question and answer

Powdery mildew hits Rock Rose in Round Rock Texas
May 05, 2011 - My beautiful Rock Roses have gotten spots of white fuzzy "fur" on their leaves in the past month. This is not something they have ever had before and I'm worried its some kind of disease. Is it so...
view the full question and answer

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