Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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
2 ratings

Saturday - April 21, 2012

From: Millbrook, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Container Gardens, Planting, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Shrub that will grow outside in Zone 5 from Millbrook NY
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Is there any shrub, tree or other sort of plant that will grow well in zone 5 in a very large container outdoors?

ANSWER:

Any plant being grown in a container outside in Zone 5 is going to be a difficulty. Plants' root are ordinarily insulated by the Earth itself, both from heat and, certainly, from cold, as in your case. The only insulation your outdoor pot has would be a few inches of potting soil and a very thin container wall, whether it were pottery, plastic or stone. You are correct that your area in Duchess County is in Zone 5b, which means your average annual minimum temperature ranges from -15 to -10 deg. F. We don't have any way to rate cold resistance of plant roots, but we will bet there are not any that would go for those temperatures from such an exposed situation. The main problem with exposing plants to cold is that the water in those plants, especially that stored in the roots, would freeze, expand and rupture cell walls in the plant, resulting in death for the plant.

Please read our How-To Article on Container Gardening with Native Plants. Of course, down here in Texas we are more in fear of heat damaging container plants than cold, but the criteria for selecting pots are still valid. There are a number of trees and shrubs native to your area that would be just fine planted in the ground, but not in a pot. If you purchased a large pot, it would be a considerable expense, and the likelihood is high that you would have to replace the plant every year, also expensive.

Smaller pots that could be taken into a protected area, like a garage, seasonally could give you some outdoor color and form in warm weather, but that's about the best you could hope for. If you have a particularly attractive pot already, and it has drainage holes, you could plant blooming annuals every Spring and leave the pot empty as a decorative feature in the cold weather.

 

More Planting Questions

Planting bluebonnets on UT Campus in Austin
January 07, 2012 - Hello! I am with a student organization on the University of Texas campus. Walking around campus, I have noticed the lack of the state flower of Texas, the bluebonnet. Our organization is hoping ...
view the full question and answer

Male and female possumhaws for berries from Georgetown TX
April 23, 2012 - Do I need to plant two ilex decidua (possumhaws), a male and female to have red berries on the tree in the winter?
view the full question and answer

Moving a large red horse chestnut tree in Jackson MI
April 20, 2012 - I have a red horse chestnut that is maybe 12 inches around, can I move it after the sap goes down about 10 miles to our new place? Sadly, I cannot afford to hire a tree truck. What are its chances?
view the full question and answer

Huisaches in pots from Houston TX
May 20, 2012 - I have special (and probably weird) affinity to huisaches (acacia farnesiana). As a child I used to admire the three that elegantly guarded our backyard looking almost like fingers reaching for the s...
view the full question and answer

Flowers for an August wedding in Driftwood TX
March 25, 2012 - For an August 4th wedding in Driftwood, Texas we want fragrant flowers and wildflowers that we can grow in our garden. We have four raised beds (12 ft. x 6 ft.) in a fenced area in which we've grown ...
view the full question and answer

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