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?

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
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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - May 20, 2013

From: South Boston , MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Container Gardens
Title: Planter boxes on a roof deck in Boston MA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What will grow in planter boxes on a roof deck in Boston ma? We are planning to make our own planters to sit on the framing "outside" our deck rail. We have 4 ft from the rail to the edge of the house so the boxes will likely be about 2 ft wide and 4-5 ft long. They will get extreme sun exposure (no shade all day) and conditions can get pretty windy (2 blocks to ocean in south Boston). Of corse also hoping for something with limited maintenance as it will be outside the actual railing so not fully accessible. Hoping to mask the framing cross boards that are exposed a bit. Planters can be 2 ft deep at most. And we wouldn't want anything to high to obstruct the water view. (Planter depth can be variable. Height including planter box ideally 42")

ANSWER:

First, please read this previous Mr.Smarty Plants answer on growing in pots up high. 

Next, read our How-To Article on Container Gardening with Native Plants. And please note, we don't recommend anything except plants native not only to North America but also to the area in which those plants grow naturally; in your case, Suffolk Co., MA.

Then, watch this video of our Director of Horticulture, Andrea DeLong Amaya, on Container Gardening.

Finally, let us say we think this whole idea is impractical. Consider:

1. Engineering problems. You are putting heavy weight on a surface not designed for that.

2. Drainage. Any plants in an enclosed situation must have water and must also have arrangements for that water to drain. We envision early problems with rotting wood in your roof structure.

3. Heat. All day every day sun would probably not even permit a cactus to survive.

4. Cold. In the Winter, there would only be a thin layer of framework and an inch or so of soil between the roots, the most vulnerable part of a plant to freezing, and possibly zero temperatures.

5. Why do you even want to do this? You have already said you have a stunning water view.

 

 

More Container Gardens Questions

Container plants for deck in Maine
May 18, 2009 - I live on the ocean in Maine. Fourth floor deck. I want to plant containers and boxes with annuals that can withstand a lot of wind. We get mostly sun but some shade as well. Of course, there is the s...
view the full question and answer

Small area native plant gardening for an apartment
November 14, 2008 - Mr.Smarty, We live in an apartment and are fortunate to have a small area, 5'x5', and so want color! Here in Houston the winters don't freeze much and the summers are HOT. Luckily, we are in the ...
view the full question and answer

Overwintering a Juncus effusus in Great Neck, NY
October 23, 2008 - Can I over winter a juncus effusus spiralis indoors or must it be kept outdoors? Whether indoors or outdoors, what is the proper way to keep it alive during the winter months?
view the full question and answer

Large-scale container garden for New York City
August 17, 2013 - I am a community volunteer in NYC who is trying to help a non-profit set up two large container gardens (about 3 feet high by 4 feet long by 2 or so feet wide). The problem is that they want natives,...
view the full question and answer

Salt and wind tolerant plants for small containers in NC
July 28, 2010 - We need two plants that will go in raised planters. Will be in full sun with lots of wind. Salt water nearby. Will have to keep plants sorta short I guess. We cannot find anything, although we see...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center