Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

Saturday - October 10, 2015

From: Farmington , CT
Region: Northeast
Topic: Groundcovers, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Evergreen for sunny, dry area under a maple in Connecticut
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I have a sloped, very sunny, dry area under a maple. I was wondering if Sweet Fern would be a likely candidate for this area. I would like it to be evergreen and to be able to survive under mounds of snow, which we occasionally get. It would also be a plus if it had some bee, butterfly, and/or bird interest. I live in some zone 5 and I am making every effort to support the bee population. Thank you, Cheryl Lawless


Comptonia peregrina (Sweet fern) should do well in the areas under the maple tree that are sunny to partly shaded.  It is a host plant for the grey hairstreak butterfly and attracts other butterflies and birds.  The fragrance when its leaves are crushed is wonderful.  It is effective in erosion control.  It is not evergreen, however.  Here is more information from the Boston Natural Areas Foundation and from Northern Woodlands.

Phlox subulata (Creeping phlox) is a low-growing, evergreen plant that does well in sun and part shade in dry soils.  It is good in erosion control and attracts butterflies.  Here is more information from North Carolina State Extension Service, Missouri Botanical Garden and from Go Botany (New England Wild).

Solidago sempervirens (Seaside goldenrod) is evergreen, grows in sun and is tolerant of salt spray.  It generally grows in wetlands but will also grow in drier habitats and grows well along roadsides that are heavily salted in winter.  Its flowers attract birds and are beneficial to bees.  Here is more information from Chesapeake Bay Program, Connecticut Botanical Society and Go Botany (New England Wild).

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick) is a trailing evergreen shrub that grows in sun, part shade and shade in dry or moist soils.  It produces red berries eaten by birds and small mammals.  It also attracts butterflies.  Here is more information from Go Botany (New England Wild) and Missouri Botanical Garden.

Salvia lyrata (Lyreleaf sage) is evergreen and grows in sun, part shade and shade in dry soils.  It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.  Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden and Go Botany (New England Wild).

You can examine more commercially available native plants in our Connecticut Recommended list.  Use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH feature in the sidebar to select your criteria.


From the Image Gallery

Comptonia peregrina

Creeping phlox
Phlox subulata

Seaside goldenrod
Solidago sempervirens

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Lyreleaf sage
Salvia lyrata

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Why do Turk's cap plants have such a variable growth habit?
December 10, 2015 - In visiting the Family Garden at the Lady Bird Wildflower Center yesterday (10-21-15,) I admired a large bunch of Turks Cap that had more blooms than I had ever seen on Turks Cap, and I've loved that...
view the full question and answer

What to do about bastard cabbage in the Austin area?
May 08, 2015 - I am noticing bastard cabbage taking over roadsides and medians at an alarming rate where a mixture of native flowers used to bloom. Is it allowable to organize efforts to pull the invasive plants ou...
view the full question and answer

Wildflower Meadow for Poth, TX
January 22, 2014 - I recently cleared some underbrush from a virgin pasture, with large oaks and mesquites scattered through it, and was wondering if it was too late to plant wildflowers? If not, what varieties of wildf...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a Shady Woodland in MA
June 09, 2013 - Hello, I am looking for natives to plant in full shade or part shade. My house is in the mountain woodland area of Mt. Washington, MA. I am looking for grasses, flowers and shrubs. Also I am looking f...
view the full question and answer

Plants under Oak Trees in Austin TX
December 10, 2012 - Half of my small yard is in the shade of one big live oak and one kumquat. Nothing I plant grows in this shade. The other half of my yard gets sunlight. It is planted with Jasmine grass which grows w...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.