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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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Monday - August 17, 2009

From: New York, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Privacy screen for New York apartment balcony.
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Hello, I live in an apartment in New York City with an outdoor large balcony. I would like to buy evergreens to make the space more private. Do you have any suggestions on what type of plant would be best? I would need to buy plants that will survive the winter outdoors. Ideally, something with some height (maybe four feet?) and that can be planted in pots. Thanks!

ANSWER:

In general, we would discourage attempting to do what you have in mind.  While many evergreen plants grow well in containers, potted plants are particularly susceptible to freezing due to the increased exposure of the plants' roots.  The earth acts as a giant heat sink and moderates the temperature of the soil around the roots of plants in nature.  Even in areas of permafrost, roots of plants growing below the frost layer are protected.  Containerized plants growing outdoors have no such protection and will invariably sustain substantial - often fatal - freezing damage to roots.  Further exacerbating the problem is the exposed nature of apartment balconies.  As habitats, they're something akin to alpine bluffs where little grows at all and nothing grows in a lush manner.  We know of no native evergreens suitable for yearround outdoor container-growing in New York.

 

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