En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Understory planting in Virginia

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
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

What about Asian Jasmine and scrub oaks?
September 01, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have several clusters of native scrub oaks in my yard. I planted Asian jasmine under them many years ago. The trees look fine, but an arborist has told me that the Asian ...
view the full question and answer

Getting rid of giant ragweed in Austin
October 25, 2008 - How can I get rid of a large field of giant ragweed? Part of the site is a steep slope, which is difficult to mow. I want to encourage native grasses but they are crowded out by the ragweed.
view the full question and answer

Removing invasive Dichelostemma firecracker plant from Austin
April 12, 2012 - We have dichelostemma firecracker plant & cannot kill it. We need help in getting rid of this plant. Spent another 3 hours digging up corms this afternoon. It is invading our backyard & want it kil...
view the full question and answer

Difficulty with Clay Soil from Palm Bay, FL
August 22, 2012 - I had a very nice little native shady area behind my house for over 40 years, but now it has been cleared except for a 100 foot tall live oak in the center of this raised mound (50' x 80'). I've be...
view the full question and answer

Why are our Euphorbia myrsinites plants dying in Soquel, CA?
August 02, 2010 - Some of our Euphorbia myrsinites die in our garden for reasons we cannot understand. Do you have any explanation or suggest area we should be looking for?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center