Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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
2 ratings

Saturday - April 21, 2012

From: Millbrook, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Container Gardens, Planting, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Shrub that will grow outside in Zone 5 from Millbrook NY
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Is there any shrub, tree or other sort of plant that will grow well in zone 5 in a very large container outdoors?

ANSWER:

Any plant being grown in a container outside in Zone 5 is going to be a difficulty. Plants' root are ordinarily insulated by the Earth itself, both from heat and, certainly, from cold, as in your case. The only insulation your outdoor pot has would be a few inches of potting soil and a very thin container wall, whether it were pottery, plastic or stone. You are correct that your area in Duchess County is in Zone 5b, which means your average annual minimum temperature ranges from -15 to -10 deg. F. We don't have any way to rate cold resistance of plant roots, but we will bet there are not any that would go for those temperatures from such an exposed situation. The main problem with exposing plants to cold is that the water in those plants, especially that stored in the roots, would freeze, expand and rupture cell walls in the plant, resulting in death for the plant.

Please read our How-To Article on Container Gardening with Native Plants. Of course, down here in Texas we are more in fear of heat damaging container plants than cold, but the criteria for selecting pots are still valid. There are a number of trees and shrubs native to your area that would be just fine planted in the ground, but not in a pot. If you purchased a large pot, it would be a considerable expense, and the likelihood is high that you would have to replace the plant every year, also expensive.

Smaller pots that could be taken into a protected area, like a garage, seasonally could give you some outdoor color and form in warm weather, but that's about the best you could hope for. If you have a particularly attractive pot already, and it has drainage holes, you could plant blooming annuals every Spring and leave the pot empty as a decorative feature in the cold weather.

 

More Container Gardens Questions

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

Non-native and invasive bamboos from Staten Island, NY
May 19, 2013 - Hi I put some black Bamboo and some bias Bamboo in a large container about 6ft by 2ft and ht 18 inches .How can I get this Bamboo to thrive ? Suggestions on types of plant food or fertilizer or ant t...
view the full question and answer

Flowering plant for container on lanai in South Florida
December 15, 2011 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I would like to purchase a flowering plant for my ailing mother for Christmas. It has to be able to grow in shade so I can place it on her table on her lanai for her to be a...
view the full question and answer

Indoor pot plants
November 20, 2007 - I just moved into a studio apt. where a lot of heat is provided. Do you have a listing of house plants suitable for warm apartments? I have four windows, all with indirect sunlight.
view the full question and answer

Plants for a container bog garden in North Texas
April 06, 2010 - I live in Plano, just north of Dallas. I've developed a recent interest in water gardens and am considering getting my toes wet with a container bog garden. I have an old galvanized wash tub that I...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.