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Tuesday - September 15, 2009

From: Hughesville, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources
Title: Outdoor container gardening in Hughesville PA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Coming from Europe, I have found myself in a whole new climate and am trying to learn about what is possible for gardening in PA. Unfortunately, at this moment,we live in a trailer and have little room to garden. I would like to find plants that would be hardy or evergreen throughout our winters here, possibly keeping them in a few pots. According to an employee of a local nursery it is nearly impossible to keep plants in pots in the winters here. Is that really true? Maybe I just need to focus on my two little gardens and let go of the idea of the pots? I hope you can advise us in this.


You were given correct information, outdoor container gardening is totally impractical where you are. Lycoming County is in North Central Pennsylvania, which means you are in USDA Hardiness Zone 5b, with an average annual minimum temperature of -15 to -10 deg. F. We realize that when you look around you, you see some evergreen native plants in the winter, but their roots are undoubtedly in the ground. Consider this: no matter if a plant is evergreen or deciduous, its roots must not be frozen, because this will cut off the flow of nutrients that is keeping the plant alive. If the roots are in the earth, possibly covered by a nice mulch, the whole Earth is insulation for those roots. If it is in a pot, the roots have a few inches of potting soil and either a thin terra cotta or a thinner plastic pot wall between them and well below zero temperatures. They are going to die, and you will have wasted your time, money and resources in a losing battle. We understand, since you may be living in temporary quarters right now, that you would like to have something potted that you could take with you later when you moved to a larger place. We also feel fairly sure that you do not have much indoors space for potted plants. 

We are going to go to our Native Plant Database and see if we can find a few small plants that could be planted in the ground around your present place, and that would survive the winter temperatures. We would not recommend trying to dig them up and move them later, because they will be woody plants, and if they have acclimated themselves and grown well, their roots are likely to be damaged if you try to move them. Leave them behind for other's pleasure, and go on to other plants in other places. These plants are all native to the Lycoming County area, and should therefore be acclimated to your rainfall, climate and soils. Please follow each link to the webpage on the individual plant for more information on its culture. 

Native Plants for Hughesville PA

Galium proliferum (limestone bedstraw) - evergreen, low woody ground cover, less than 1 ft. tall, blooms white and pink June and July, persistent red berries, sun or part shade

Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel) - evergreen, 12 to 20 ft. tall, blooms white, pink June and July, part shade. Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: All parts. Highly Toxic, May Be Fatal if Eaten!

Rhododendron maximum (great laurel) - evergreen, 4 to 15 ft. tall in the North, blooms white , pink in June, part shade. Warning: Rhododendrons contain poisonous substances and should not be ingested by humans or animals. Honey made from flowers also may be toxic. POISONOUS PARTS: All parts. Highly Toxic, May be Fatal if eaten.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Gaultheria procumbens

Kalmia latifolia

Rhododendron maximum






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