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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 - January 07, 2011

From: Brooklyn, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Tree for little sun and clay soil in Brooklyn
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I need help choosing a specimen shrub or small tree for difficult city conditions. Its a tricky sun exposure only getting about two hours of direct sun at the hottest time of day with clay soil and intense heat in August. I'm looking for something that has a nice form that is beneficial to birds in some way. I was thinking of Viburnum prunifolium but I'm not sure if it would thrive. Any recommendations would be appreciated! Thank You.

ANSWER:

Viburnum prunifolium (Blackhaw) likes part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun per day) and well-drained soils so I'm doubtful that it would do overwhelmingly well.  It might survive but not really thrive. 

Let me recommend the Native Species Planting Guide for New York City and Vicinity from City of New York Parks and Recreation Division as well as our New York Recommended list of commercially available species for landscaping in New York.  (In our 'Recommended' list you can use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option and choose 'Tree' or 'Shrub' from the General Appearance list and 'Shade' from the Light Requirement list to reduce the number of species to view.)  Using these two resources you can find several shrubs or small trees that will do well for your site.  Here are three recommendations that will grow in shade and almost any type of soil.  All three have berries that birds like.  The two sumacs also have colorful autumn foliage.

Cornus racemosa (Gray dogwood)

Rhus glabra (Smooth sumac)

Rhus typhina (Staghorn sumac)

You can search our National Suppliers Directory to find nurseries in your area that specialize in native plants. The guide listed above from the City of New York also shows a list of nurseries in the area that carry native plants.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:


Cornus racemosa


Rhus glabra


Rhus typhina
 

 

 

 

 

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