Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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

Friday - July 03, 2009

From: Mclean, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Understory planting in Virginia
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

We have some 10 mature tulip and sycamore trees in our No. VA property. The previous home owners were fond of English Ivy and Japanese pachysandra. We are working hard at replacing these invasives to encourage amphibians and birds to be permanent residents. Can you please provide understory trees and/or shrubs as well as perenial companions to these trees? I would also be interested in information about how to remove the pachysandra.

ANSWER:

As you already know, the only way to eradicate tenacious vines and groundcovers is to be persistent.  As far as the pachysandra goes, there are three methods:  kill it chemically (not the Green Guru's recommended method!), covering it with black plastic to starve it of light and water (time consuming and unsightly) and digging it up (just plain hard work).  It has been suggested that the best way to achieve removal by digging is to post on the web that it is available for free to those who will dig it!

We applaud your efforts to welcome nature back to your property.  Visit the National Wildlife Federation's website at www.nwf.org/gardenforwildlife for tips on creating a wildlife habitat garden.  You will also find two books particularly helpful:  Rick Darke's "The American Woodland Garden" and Ken Druse's "The Natural Habitat Garden".  

You don't mention the size of your property, conditions (soil, moisture, light) or what type of neighbourhood you are in, but going on the assumption that conditions will be fairly shady and dry, here are some plant recommendations for Virginia.  If you visit our Plant Database and do a combination search for your area and conditions or search Recommended Species for Virginia you will find many more choices.  In the end, your choices will be limited by what is available in the nurseries in your area.

Understory trees:

Acer pensylvanicum (striped maple)

Aesculus pavia (red buckeye)

Amelanchier canadensis (Canadian serviceberry)

Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud)

Hamamelis virginiana (American witchhazel)

Shrubs:

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick)

Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern)

Lindera benzoin (northern spicebush)

Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac)

Rhododendron canescens (mountain azalea)

Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry)

Viburnum acerifolium (mapleleaf viburnum)

Perennials:

Anemone virginiana (tall thimbleweed)

Aquilegia canadensis (red columbine)

Arisaema triphyllum (Jack in the pulpit)

Erythronium albidum (white fawnlily)

Iris verna (dwarf violet iris)

Polygonatum biflorum (smooth Solomon's seal)

Polypodium virginianum (rock polypody)


Acer pensylvanicum

Aesculus pavia

Amelanchier canadensis

Cercis canadensis

Hamamelis virginiana

Ilex verticillata

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Comptonia peregrina

Lindera benzoin

Rhus aromatica

Rhododendron canescens

Vaccinium corymbosum

Viburnum acerifolium

Anemone virginiana

Aquilegia canadensis

Arisaema triphyllum

Erythronium albidum

Iris verna

Polygonatum biflorum

Polypodium virginianum

 

 

 


 

 

More Invasive Plants Questions

Getting rid of skunk cabbage in Hopedale OH
April 22, 2010 - How can someone get rid of skunk cabbage?
view the full question and answer

Introduction of King Ranch bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemem)
August 04, 2008 - Hello, I am a graduate student from TAMUK and I'm writing my thesis concerning natives vs. Old World Bluestems. I was wondering if you could help me find a source that states: King Ranch (or KR) Blu...
view the full question and answer

Plants for Bastrop TX
June 01, 2011 - I'm hoping you can help with this. Recently I have moved to Bastrop TX on what used to be Camp Swift military property. We have looked into planting grass and plants in the yard but discovered we hav...
view the full question and answer

Identification of yellow flowers in Wisconsin
June 19, 2012 - We have plants near Madison, Wisconsin that some call lanceleaf coreoposis however I believe they are some type of invasive species. They have yellow flowers, seem to spread by seed. and don't grown ...
view the full question and answer

Aggressive vine with purple flowers in South Carolina
September 12, 2014 - Found an aggressive climbing vine with purple flowers in out vegetable garden. This garden was cleaned and new dirt, mulch and manure was put in in the spring. It was raked out after the infusion of d...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.