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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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Tuesday - June 23, 2009

From: Manhattan, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Evergreen shrub for pot in Manhattan
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What is the best evergreen shrub or waxy leaved woody evergeen plant to use in a large concrete container in front of a doorman building in manhattan. Our building faces west and is directly on Riverside Drive. It gets very, very, windy and lots of sun. Would it help to line the INSIDE sides of the container (not the bottom or top) with some sort of plastic to help retain moisture on windy days?

ANSWER:

First, we need to tell you that the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center deals only with plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. One of the reasons for this is because non-natives can become invasive and take over native habitats, damaging the ecology and possibly removing food and shelter sources for valuable wildlife. We're not sure this is necessary for a plant in a pot in Manhattan. However, we will take a stab at it, and would like for you to start by reading our How-To Article on Container Gardening with Native Plants, which should answer some of your questions. Do not, repeat, DO NOT, line the pot with plastic. Regardless of wind, every plant needs good drainage for its roots. You will lose the plant far more quickly to root rot and drowned roots than you will to wind. If your building has a doorman, buy him a watering can and make sure he knows to water that plant when the soil is drying, and that it is draining freely. Another problem you will need to deal with is the cold. Roots in a pot are much more likely to freeze than roots in the ground. Roots in the ground have the whole world insulating them. Roots in a pot have a few inches of soil and a clay or plastic pot between them and freezing temperatures. It's possible you will want to move the plant inside in the coldest part of the winter.

We are going to recommend our favorite shrub for cold northern climes, which is Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (kinnikinnick). Partly we like it because of its common name. Follow the plant link to the page on that individual plant to learn its care, propagation, size, etc. It is evergreen, trailing (which would look great in a big pot), growing 1 to 3 ft. in height. The kinnikinnick has red berries, and blooms white or pink March to June. It gets along fine in sun, part shade or shade, so should adapt well to your specifications. 


Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

 

 

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