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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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Friday - April 10, 2009

From: Crozet, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Short evergreen shrub for Virginia
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have been looking everywhere for an evergreen shrub that is 3-4 ft. in height, non-poisonous to humans, and that thrives in zone 7 to no avail. Please help!

ANSWER:

The height you are looking for is a bigger barrier than the USDA Hardiness Zone in which the shrub will survive. We found one shrub native to Virginia, Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern), that is 2 to 4 feet tall and evergreen.  Two other of our favorite evergreen shrubs, Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) and Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) grow too tall for your specifications, but have dwarf cultivars available in the commercial trade. Ilex vomitoria "Nana' grows 3 to 5 ft.,  Ilex vomitoria 'Stokes Dwarf' grows 3 to 4 ft. tall. A dwarf version Morella cerifera 'Don's Dwarf' grows 4 to 6 ft. tall, and 'pumila' is usually less than 3 ft tall. All of these plants are hardy to Zone 7, and low maintenance. None of them are known to have any toxicity for humans.

With the exception of the sweet fern, the pictures below are of the full-size shrubs, just to give you an idea of the texture and general appearance you may expect to see in the dwarves.


Comptonia peregrina

Morella cerifera

Ilex vomitoria

 

 

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