En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - October 25, 2008

From: Cleveland, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Planting, Trees
Title: Proper time of year to plant evergreens in New York
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Dear Smarty Plants, Is it too late to plant evergreen Thuja, blue spruce and firs in Cleveland, New York? Vicki


First, we had to determine what were your average first and last frost dates. From a website on Oswego County, we learned you had already had a temperature of 25 deg. on October 19. You appear to be in Zone 5b in the USDA Hardiness Zone Map, which means your average annual minimum temperatures can range from minus 10 deg to minus 15 deg.  From a Cornell University Gardening Resources site, Last Spring Frost in Northern New York, we found out your last average frost date is from April 10 to April 20.We believe that small new plants need all the chances they can get to survive, and having to face a blast of frigid air when they are freshly planted and still suffering from transplant shock probably reduces their chances considerably. We will consider each tree you asked about separately, but we feel the verdict on all of them is going to be the same-plant them after your last average freeze date in the Spring, April 10-20, and they will have a much higher survival chance.

All of these trees are native to North America, as well as to New York State. We are always happy to see our correspondents selecting trees native to North America and to the area in which they are being grown. They are more adapted to conditions and will need less fertilizer, water and maintenance. Follow each plant link to our webpage for information from our Native Plant Database and then the other links giving more planting and culture information. 

Thuja occidentalis (arborvitae) - Plants are susceptible to strong wind, snow, and ice damage, and young plants need protection from winter browsers. It's not bad enough they get their little branches frozen, but they get nibbled, perhaps to the ground, before they ever have a chance. More information from University of Connecticut Horticulture Thuja occidentalis

Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-fir) - grow naturally in New York, foliage consumed by grouse, deer and elk. More information from University of Connecticut Horticulture Pseudotsuga menziesii

Picea pungens (blue spruce) - native to New York, for more information see this article from Virginia Tech on Blue Spruce. Pictures

Thuja occidentalis

Pseudotsuga menziesii

More Trees Questions

Should wax myrtles (Morella cerifera) be pruned?
April 26, 2007 - We planted Wax Myrtles in our backyard as a wall for privacy from the lot behind ours. Should we prune or cut back the tops periodically to get more fully developed bushes or let them grow naturally?
view the full question and answer

Need help identifying a tree with wintergreen-flavored bark that grew in my backyard during my youth in Cumberland, RI.
March 24, 2010 - Growing up in Cumberland, Rhode Island (a town in the northern part of the state) there was a tree in our backyard with thin, brown peel-able bark. The bark itself had white stripes. Under the layer o...
view the full question and answer

Leaves dropping from a potted Mesquite
August 11, 2014 - I have a Prosopis pubescens (Screwbean Mesquite) that I purchased at a nursery in Alpine, TX just a few miles away from me. It was a in nursery style black plastic container. The mesquite is perhaps a...
view the full question and answer

Restoring the woods in Central Austin.
May 08, 2012 - I live in Austin, south central between Red Bud trail close to the low water bridge and Bee Caves road. My question: I want to make the wooded sections of my yard attractive. They have filtered sun...
view the full question and answer

Best fertilizer for live oak trees in Central Texas
April 22, 2010 - What is the best fertilizer for live oak trees in Central Texas?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center