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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - May 11, 2013

From: Yakima, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Container Gardens, Cacti and Succulents, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Container plants for Yakima WA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My condo complex has purchased large, pottery pots for around our pool. I need to choose low maintenance plants. hopefully something that takes limited water, etc.

ANSWER:

We would suggest you begin by reading our How-To Article Container Gardening with Native Plants.  We also invite you to watch this video by Andrea DeLong-Amaya, our Horticulture Director, on how to plant in a container.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is committed to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America, but also to the area in which those plants evolved; in your case, Yakima County, Washington.

Now, even though you will be planting in a somewhat artificial setting, in potting soil in a pot rather than in a hole in the ground, we still will recommend only plants native to Yakima County. You need to be aware that when it turns cold over night, the roots of those plants have only a little pot thickness and an inch or so of dirt protecting the from freezing. Same goes for heat and sun - the plants are vulnerable to scald and/or wilting. If very severe weather, hot or cold, is expected it is best to have arrangements made to move those pots into a more sheltered situation or cover them or even just give them a refreshing spray of water. Selecting plants native to your area makes it more likely that they are accustomed to changes in your weather, but still, they no longer have the protection of the earth all around their roots.

Now, having laid the ground work (pun intended) we will go to our Native Plant Database, scroll down the page to the Combination Search, select on Washington for State then, in the first round of searching, "herb" (herbaceous blooming plant) for Habit, "perennial" for Duration and "dry" for soil moisture. We will make subsequent searces with "shrub" or"succulent"  for Habit. We will check to make sure each plant we select is native to Yakima County, so we can expect the climate to be favorable. You did not designate if your pots will be in sun (6 hours or more of sun a day), part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun,) or shade (2 hours or less of sun.) That can be important in what does well so you may want to go back and rerun the searches with the amount of light designated. You can follow the plant link on our suggested plant list to our webpage on each plant, where you can learn the growing conditions of that plant, expected height at maturity and so forth. When you run your own searches you can designate a height range on the Search page.

So, after we had worked on that for a while, we found we weren't finding much of anything. It's not that there are not lots of native flowers and shrubs in Washington State, but either they have not made it into our Native Plant Database or we could not find any native to the area of Yakima County. So, we are going to link you to some websites with information on native plants to Washington. You can contact real people, tell them just how big and deep the pots are, and whether they are in the sun or shade and they can help you more than we can. We usually strongly recommend plants native to an area so they will be compatible with the soils and climate, but you will likely be putting potting soil in the pots and watering them, so it isn't quite as critical. Also, potted plants are less likely to go rogue and become invasive.

Begin by going to our National Supplier's Directory, put your town and state or just your zip code in te "Enter Search Location" box and click on GO. This will give you a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies or consultants in your general neighborhood. All have contact information so you can make some decisions before you go shopping.

Washington Native Plant Society

Washington Native Plant Society Exploring Native Plants

Native Plant Nurseries for Washington State

 

 

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