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

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

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Evergreen plants with showy flowers for pots in Central Texas
January 14, 2009 - I'm looking for evergreen plants with showy flowers suitable for Central Texas. Plants need to do well in pots.. they will be planted in flower boxes in my very sunny porch. thanks!!!
view the full question and answer

Need a good plant for Clayton, NC.
August 23, 2012 - What would be a good plant for Clayton,NC for this time of year. I would like for it to come back every year so I don't have to replant. I have several full sun areas that I need to cover in the fron...
view the full question and answer

Native replacement for Mexican heather in Llano, TX
April 24, 2009 - Please suggest a native or adaptable alternative plant for Mexican Heather.
view the full question and answer

killing clover in Bandera
March 19, 2016 - How may one kill clover while not killing native wild flowers in one's lawn?
view the full question and answer

Drought Tolerant Shrubs and Perennials in San Jose, CA
July 18, 2013 - Hello I am a SLT home owner in San Jose, Ca. and want to plant drought tolerant shrubs and perennials. We don't have irrigation but plan to put a timer on a nozzle and run some lines. At least I am t...
view the full question and answer

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