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Tuesday - April 05, 2011

From: Oak Grove, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Container Gardens
Title: Native plant for container on deck in Oak Grove VA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


What VA native plant can I grow in a container on my deck that will block the view from the neighbor's deck? I am thinking columnar. This is in full sun and gets hot winds off of a bay. The plant will cook out there, even if I water it 2 times a day.


You may have answered your own question when you said "the plant will cook out there." Container plants are much more susceptible to variations in temperature in a container than they would be in the ground. In the ground, the roots have the insulation of the Earth all around it. In a pot, they have a few inches of soil and a plastic or ceramic skin between them and the heat or cold.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which those plants natively grow. Begin by reading our How-To Article Container Gardening with Native Plants.

We will look at possibilities by going to Recommended Species, clicking on Virginia on the map and, on the sidebar on the right-hand side, select "shrub" under General Appearance and "sun" under Light Requirement, and Narrow Your Search. Our of 7 shrubs on the resulting list, we found exactly one shrub that we thought might work, Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle). This plant is evergreen, graceful and open and the foliage is fragrant. If you follow the plant link above and read the webpage on this plant in our database, you will learn that it grows to from 6 to 12 ft., is an excellent screening plant, likes slightly acidic soils and sun or part shade. We have grown many of these, but have no experience with them as container plants.

Another thought we had concerned native grasses. None of them get any taller than about 3 ft., but in, say, 3 containers grouped in a row to make them taller, they would make a nice screen. Because their roots are rhizomes instead of spreading woody roots like the wax myrtle, they might fare better in the containers. We found these by going to our Native Plant Database, because we don't have very complete lists of grasses and grass-like plants in our Recommended Species. We selected "Virginia" on the drop-down menu, "grass or grass-like" under General Appearance and "sun" under Light Requirements and Submit Combination Search. From those we chose 3 possibilities:

Calamagrostis canadensis (Bluejoint) - 3 to 5 ft. tall, perennial, stands up well in Winter

Muhlenbergia capillaris (Gulf muhly) - perennial to 3 ft. tall, sun

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem) - perennial to 3 ft, sun or part shade

Beyond these plant suggestions, you may find you need to construct or have constructed some kind of screen, like a trellis, that will stand up to the winds and give you the screening you need.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Morella cerifera

Calamagrostis canadensis

Muhlenbergia capillaris

Schizachyrium scoparium





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