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

Monday - June 03, 2013

From: Pittsburgh, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Shade Tolerant, Trees, Wildflowers
Title: Plants for the Shade of a Pine Tree in Pittsburg
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


I live in Pittsburgh, PA. My neighbor has a huge pine tree. Last year everything I planted on that side near the tree died. That part of the yard only gets morning sun, as the tree overshadows it. What can I plant on that side that will survive being near the tree? I love lots of color.


The first place to go to find a list of potential plants is our Native Plant Database. Use the Combination Search feature instead of Recommended Species. This will provide a bigger selection with much more choice to narrow down. The volunteers and staff at the Wildflower Center who maintain the database have partners in different regions to help with these recommended species lists based on what is easy to access in local nurseries.
Under Combination Search, select the following categories: State – Pennsylvania, Habit – herb, Duration – all durations, and Light Requirement – part shade and shade. This will give you a very large list of potential plants. You will have to narrow down this search further by indicating search criteria specifics for your soil moisture (is it dry under the pine tree?), lifespan (if you just want perennials), blooming time, height, and bloom color.

Some potential plants to consider include:
Geranium carolinianum (Carolina geranium)
Geranium maculatum (spotted geranium)
Helianthus divaricatus (woodland sunflower)
Helianthus strumosus (paleleaf woodland sunflower)
Lysimachia ciliata (fringed loosestrife)
Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm)
Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot)
Oenothera biennis (common evening primrose)
Penstemon digitalis (Mississippi penstemon)
Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox)
Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan)
Solidago nemoralis (gray goldenrod)
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England aster)


From the Image Gallery

Carolina geranium
Geranium carolinianum

Spotted geranium
Geranium maculatum

Woodland sunflower
Helianthus divaricatus

Paleleaf woodland sunflower
Helianthus strumosus

Fringed loosestrife
Lysimachia ciliata

Scarlet beebalm
Monarda didyma

Wild bergamot
Monarda fistulosa

Common evening-primrose
Oenothera biennis

Mississippi penstemon
Penstemon digitalis

Wild blue phlox
Phlox divaricata

Black-eyed susan
Rudbeckia hirta

Gray goldenrod
Solidago nemoralis

More Wildflowers Questions

Identification of Daucus pusillus, native alternative to Daucus carota
June 15, 2007 - What happened to "Queen Anne's Lace"? Growing up in Texas, I recall seeing "Queen Anne's Lace" growing wild. In my mind, the blooms were rather large. The plants I see growing profusely along th...
view the full question and answer

Wildflowers for leach field in Maine
October 31, 2010 - I am looking for a wildflower mix that would suitable to plant over a leach field. What plants should I look to avoid?
view the full question and answer

Large-scale wildflower maintenance
June 14, 2008 - We purchased the Texas/Oklahoma wildseed mix from your shop last year and planted them this past fall. The wildflowers came up beautifully, but at the beginning of June, after flowering just one time...
view the full question and answer

When is a good time to visit the Center
March 14, 2004 - When is a good time to visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to see the wildflowers?
view the full question and answer

Wildflowers for September wedding from Licking MO
June 02, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I am getting married this September in Licking Missouri back in the woods on my dads land. I would like to have wildflowers for the bouquets and reception decor. Can I get some...
view the full question and answer

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