En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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


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


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 Planting Questions

Need suggestions for plants for a bird/small wildlife refuge in Wichita Co, TX.
August 26, 2011 - With our continuing drought in North Texas, I'm planning to transform my small backyard into a bird/small wildlife "refuge". What types of native plants and grasses can I plant in dry, hot Wichita ...
view the full question and answer

A privacy hedge for a shady spot in Austin, TX
July 02, 2012 - What is a good choice for a privacy hedge in west Austin in a predominantly shady area? I'd like it to be 8-12 feet, along the fence, so as to obstruct the view of the neighbor's yard.
view the full question and answer

Cenizo as a Foundation Plant in Austin
December 09, 2010 - We live next to the wildflower center. We would like to plant "Leucophyllum frutescens". We are hoping to use this as a foundation plant. Will it survive if planted in Dec. Please offer any tips ...
view the full question and answer

Growing Evergreen sumac in clay soil of Texas
August 19, 2011 - I'm in need of a fast growing evergreen screening shrub/small tree. I'm considering the Evergreen Sumac but before I go further I need to know if this plant will thrive and remain evergreen in the D...
view the full question and answer

Plants for freestanding water in Oklahoma
July 28, 2013 - I have an overflowing gutter and the ground below becomes a muddy hole. I'd like to put a basin or pot in/or above the ground with a rain chain. Are there any plants--shrubs or otherwise that flouris...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center