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
3 ratings

Tuesday - June 17, 2008

From: Detroit, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Evergreen shrubs for Michigan
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I'm seeking a small-medium, ornamental, fairly compact, evergreen shrub to complement my front yard woodland wildflower garden. I want a shrub that will flank both sides of my front porch steps. I want something that is not to "rangy" or broad in growth.


There are lots of groundcover height native evergreens in Michigan (e.g., Arctostaphylos uva-ursi(kinnikinnick), Epigaea repens (trailing arbutus), Empetrum nigrum (black crowberry), to name a few), but there aren't too many taller evergreen shrubs. Nevertheless, for your first shrub Mr. SP suggests the following. You will need to check the growing conditions listed under each of these to see if they match that of your yard.

Kalmia angustifolia (sheep laurel) and more information and still more

Hypericum kalmianum (Kalm's St. Johnswort), described by Missouri Botanical Garden as evergreen, by American Beauties Native Plants, based in the Northeast, as semi-evergreen; but Michigan State University Extension reports it as being deciduous. Its leaf retention appears to be dependent on the latitude at which it grows. Still, it is an attractive shrub.

Chamaedaphne calyculata (leatherleaf) and more information and photos.

Mahonia aquifolium (hollyleaved barberry) and more information. This shrub can grow to a height that could also satisfy your more erect shrub requirements.

Here are more suggestions for the second shrub:

Juniperus virginiana (eastern redcedar). Although this tree can grow to heights of 40 feet or more, there are varieties that are shorter and would serve as a shrub.

Thuja occidentalis (arborvitae) also has cultivars that can be used as a shrub. Here is more information from Michigan State University Extension.

Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock) also has shorter cultivars with more information from Michigan State University Extension.

You can also see a variety of decicuous shrubs that could be used as a screen by doing a Combination Search in our Native Plant Database by choosing 'Michigan' from the Select State or Province option and 'Shrub' under Habit (general appearance). There are also other characteristics you can choose to limit your search results.

Here are a few suggestions from these deciduous shrubs:

Cornus sericea (redosier dogwood) and more information.

Lindera benzoin (northern spicebush) and more information.

Physocarpus opulifolius (common ninebark) and more information.

Kalmia angustifolia

Hypericum kalmianum

Chamaedaphne calyculata

Mahonia aquifolium

Juniperus virginiana

Thuja occidentalis

Tsuga canadensis

Cornus sericea

Lindera benzoin

Physocarpus opulifolius



More Shrubs Questions

Shrubby options for a bird lover in New Jersey
September 07, 2011 - Could you please recommend a native shrub to NJ that grows to about 3-4 feet, is very low maintenance, does well in afternoon sun and is also something the birds will like? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Propagation of wax myrtle from Lafayette LA
December 10, 2012 - Hello, I have a good portion of Wax Myrtle Seeds. How do I get them Started for planting? Have been told to put several seeds in a Jar lid in a very damp paper-towel & leave them there till they ...
view the full question and answer

Final size of a Texas mountain laurel
August 11, 2014 - I have purchased a Texas Mountain Laurel. The plant tag says it will grow 25 to 35 feet. LBWF plant data base says 10 to 15 feet. Which data should I go with? It's either plant close but not close to...
view the full question and answer

Preventing weeds in kinnikinnick in Richland WA
May 29, 2011 - We planted our kinnickinick last Nov. and we live in Richland, WA, where it gets hot in the summer. We planted almost 500 of them on a hillside. Weeding is taking over our lives, to say the least. ...
view the full question and answer

Landscaping with native plants in Austin
October 06, 2005 - I'm expanding a flower bed in front of my house and would like to keep it all natives. 1) How do I find out what type of soil I should add? (I live near Hyde Park, Austin and haven't had a soil te...
view the full question and answer

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