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?


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

Wednesday - August 14, 2013

From: Staten Island, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Dwarf, Evergreen Shrub Suggestions for Staten Island
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


I had two rows of bushes in the front of my house. The back row of bushes is what is commonly known as a hedge. Unfortunately due to Sandy I lost the front row of bushes. Please help me, I am in contact with someone that is going to remove and replace this row. I would like an evergreen or a shrub that is dwarf about two to three feet high that is hardy and low maintenance and will stay green all year round. We live in Staten Island, N.Y.


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 – New York, Habit – shrub, Duration – Perennial, Leaf Retention – evergreen, Light Requirement – Sun, Soil Moisture – moist, Size – 1-3 ft. You can narrow down this search further by indicating blooming time and bloom color too if you like.
These search criteria will give you two shrubs to consider (eliminating Kinnikinnick which is too short). Follow each plant link to our webpage for that plant to learn its growing conditions, bloom time, etc. You will have to determine a "hedge suitability rating" for each plant. At the bottom of each plant webpage, under Additional Resources, there is a link to the USDA webpage for that plant. Take a look there for more specific details about suitability before you put them on your final planting list.

Dwarf evergreen shrubs to consider:

Andromeda polifolia (bog rosemary) A low, evergreen shrub growing from 8 in to 3 ft. in height. The shrub does not have many branches, but many shrubs will grow together to form a clump. The small, firm, narrow leaves are blue-green. Leaf margins roll under. Several small, bell-shaped, pink or white flowers occur together in a curved umbel at the tip of a branch. Demands strongly acidic, moist soil. All parts are poisonous.

Ledum groenlandicum (bog Labrador tea) A low, evergreen shrub with densely hairy twigs and rounded, terminal clusters of white flowers. Rusty labrador-tea is a small, globular, broadleaf evergreen shrub, to 3 ft. tall, with a picturesque habit created by many erect stems and upright, spreading branches. The smooth, slightly cracked, bark is coppery-orange to reddish-brown. Thick, glossy, narrowly elliptic leaves are aromatic. Upright, bell-shaped flowers comprise flat-topped, terminal clusters.
This northern shrub, typical of acidic, boggy areas, can easily be recognized by the woolly brown undersurfaces of its leaves. A tea can be made from the leaves, as was done during the American Revolution. In northern Canada, the plant is known as Hudson’s Bay Tea. Ideally grown in acid, wet to moist organic soils. A slow-growing, short lived shrub that demands acid soil. All parts are toxic.

Dwarf deciduous shrubs to consider:
Betula nana (dwarf birch)
Rosa carolina (Carolina rose)
Vaccinium uliginosum (alpine blueberry)


From the Image Gallery

Bog rosemary
Andromeda polifolia

Bog rosemary
Andromeda polifolia

Bog labrador tea
Ledum groenlandicum

Bog labrador tea
Ledum groenlandicum

Carolina rose
Rosa carolina

Alpine blueberry
Vaccinium uliginosum

More Shrubs Questions

Vines and shrubs for Las Vegas, Nevada
November 17, 2010 - We live in Las Vegas and would like to put some vines up on the walls of our backyard. One wall is full sun, one is partial sun partial shade, and two are all shade. We want something that is non-in...
view the full question and answer

Screening Suggestions in Brooklyn, NY
March 08, 2013 - My neighbor directly in back of me has shrubs that are growing all over my fence. Also his 9-foot-tall shed facing me is rusted. What can I do to improve my view so that I can enjoy my backyard more?
view the full question and answer

Failure to bloom of Esperanza from Austin
June 06, 2012 - I have an Esperanza plant. I've had this plant for over 5 years. Its in a large pot. The plant has NEVER bloomed. I fertilize maybe once a month and dont seem to be over watering, only when I notice ...
view the full question and answer

Small Tree or Shrub for Northern Virginia
March 04, 2011 - I live in Northern Virginia in the metro D.C. area and we just had a large pine tree topple over in the front of our house. We would like to replace it with a native evergreen that wouldn't grow up a...
view the full question and answer

Enough sun from San Marcos TX
February 22, 2013 - I would like to plant both Lantana urticoides and Salvia farinacea in area that only has morning to 1pm sun..Will this amount of sun be enough?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center