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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.

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Friday - October 26, 2012

From: Piedmont, SC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Container Gardens, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Winter plants for windowbox in Piedmont SC
Answered by: Barbara Medford


What kind of outdoor window box spruss can grow in upstate South Carolina in the winter months?


We are assuming you meant spruce; in a later note you asked for cypress or anything evergreen for a window box. First, we must tell you that both the genus Picea (spruce) and Cupressaceae (cypress) are largely northern trees, and none but Taxodium distichum (Bald cypress) grow natively in South Carolina. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but also to the area in which they are being grown.

The next problem is that all species of both of the above genera get HUGE. Even as a seedling, they wouldn't fit into a window box, and would quickly grow roots that would take the window box apart. So, let us teach you how to use our Native Plant Database

In an effort to give you the way to answer your own question, we went to our Native Plant Database and, using the Combination Search, searched on South Carolina, herbs (herbaceous blooming plants), evergreen and a height of 0 to 1 foot, appropriate to a window box. This gave us 7 possibilities, all of which should do well in  Anderson and Greenville counties in the northwest corner of South Carolina. You can follow each link to our webpage on that plant to learn size, care, color, etc. We might have been able to give you a more accurate list had we known if the window box had sun or shade, often a big consideration in the selection of plants. You can, however, follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant, and learn its water and light requirements. Not a lot of plants will bloom in winter, but if they are evergreen, they should still stay attractive in your window box.

Viola walteri (Walter's violet)

Phlox divaricata (Wild blue phlox)

Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis)

Hexastylis arifolia (Littlebrownjug)

Hexastylis shuttleworthii (Largeflower heartleaf)

Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry)

Lycopodium digitatum (Fan clubmoss)

We suggest you read our How-To Article on Container Gardening with Native Plants.  A window box would, we think, count as a type of container garden.


From the Image Gallery

Walter's violet
Viola walteri

Wild blue phlox
Phlox divaricata

Lanceleaf coreopsis
Coreopsis lanceolata

Little brown jug
Hexastylis arifolia

Largeflower heartleaf
Hexastylis shuttleworthii

Mitchella repens

Mitchella repens

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