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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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Thursday - October 02, 2008

From: Fredericksburg, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives, Container Gardens
Title: Plants for pots outdoors in winter in Virginia
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I was wondering what plants would be best to grow outdoors, in pots, in Virginia, in the winter? This is a lot of restrictions but we just need 2-3 plants for our office patio because we hired a disabled woman to tend to our plants during the summer and we would like to have something for her to do in the winter also. Thanks, Becca

ANSWER:

Since at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we only deal with plants native to North America, we may not be able to find much that will grow outside under the conditions you describe and be attractive on your patio. Just for openers, read our How-To Article Container Gardening. Unfortunately, about all it says about potted plants in the winter is that they need to be protected with blankets, etc. or moved into the garage. That's probably not what you had in mind.

Much as we hate to admit it, Mr. Smarty Plants may have struck out on this one. We searched on shrubs, in hopes of something evergreen and perhaps with decorative berries, but just about all of them seemed to be deciduous in your zone, and all were going to grow up very big, at least for a pot. Just about all flowering plants native to your area are going to die back by the end of October, and not reappear again until April or so. However, we can find some websites for you that might help you select plants non-native to North America that will satisfy your needs. Since most large commercial nurseries deal in more non-natives than natives, anyway, you should be able to easily find some suitable choices. Since Fredericksburg appears to be in Zone 7a, you should be able to have some decorative plants on your patio all winter. 

DIY Network - Winter Container Basics

About.com - Tips for Fall and Winter Container Gardening

Molbak's - Plants for Fall and Winter Container Gardening

 

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