En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

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





More Container Gardens Questions

Plants for planting in gourds
March 15, 2009 - I enjoy painting dried gourds. This spring I got the idea to paint a gourd and cut holes in the side and plant some small blooming flowers. I have seen "hen and chickens" growing out of holes in the...
view the full question and answer

Plants for hanging flower boxes from Austin
July 27, 2013 - I have two long flower boxes 17" x 15" x 25 feet long one on the north side of the apt and one on the south made of metal suspended about four feet from the ground. One will get the morning sun and ...
view the full question and answer

How to prune a Lantana tree
October 02, 2015 - I have a potted Lantana tree that will come indoors for the winter. It is quite large and should I prune it back for the winter? If yes, how do I prune it?
view the full question and answer

Native container plants from Hillsdale NJ
March 22, 2013 - Looking for suggestions for the easiest natives to grow in containers.
view the full question and answer

Native small tree or shrub for container in San Angelo, Texas
July 01, 2010 - We live in San Angelo TX and are looking for some type of a bush/tree that will grow in a pot in a shaded area..we would like something that would grow to be about 5-6 feel tall and be rather narrow.....
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center