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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.

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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 - 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

QUESTION:

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

ANSWER:

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


Sweet-fern
Comptonia peregrina

Creeping phlox
Phlox subulata

Seaside goldenrod
Solidago sempervirens

Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Lyreleaf sage
Salvia lyrata

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