Are you inspired by the big showcase gardens, but don’t think you have space at home to make a showy impact? Well, you’re in luck! Watch this webinar video to learn more.


Q &A from the webinar

Q– Can you give us names of some of the plants in your slides?
A- Most, if not all, are listed on the accompanying handout on the recommended plant list for small spaces. 

Q–Townhouses usually have very narrow lots. I see many shrubs and trees that seem to be too large for the property. Can you discuss scale for this shape of property? 
Those narrow spaces between townhouses can be tricky. A few pointers I would recommend considering are: 

  • How big does the shrub/tree get at maturity? Is there enough room to accommodate it when fully grown? 
  • Be aware of how wide the shrubs may get and plant them farther away from the foundation. I’ve often seen people plant shrubs only a foot from the foundation only to find they reach their full size of 5-6ft. across. 
  • Many neighborhoods have landscapes that were installed by the developer and in order to make a new landscape look full, they overplanted, sometimes by as much as 50%. Consider removing shrubs or trees if they’re too close together. 
  • Consider espaliered trees, slow growing shrubs (evergreens), upright narrow forms of trees/shrubs, or low-maintenance climbing plants on a trellis or arbor. 

Q– What planting medium do you use for container sedums?
I like to use a potting mix that is labeled for cactus and succulents. Generally, they have a coarse sand or grit added to them to help with drainage. They are available at garden centers and home improvement stores as well as online.  

Q–Do you have suggestions for use of an arbor in a small space?
Plant choices are dependent on light levels. See the recommended plant list for a more extensive list of vining plants, but some of my favorites are Lonicera sempervirens (our native honeysuckle), Clematis, Trailing Nasturtiums, and Pole beans such as yard long beans or scarlet runner beans. You can also train indeterminate tomato varieties on a trellis if you secure the stalks on the arbor or trellis.  

Q– I found that if I pushed all of my containers next to each other and then wrapped the whole group in bubble wrap it often works for overwintering.
That’s great first-hand experience and knowledge. Thanks for sharing! Another participant added that they recommend not leaving containers on the ground but elevating them off the concrete.  

Q–How do you minimize insects brought in when plants are brought indoors for the winter?
There are a couple of tips I recommend for minimizing pests when bringing in your plants for the winter. 

  • Cutting back/reducing the foliage of tender plants will make them easier to physically move and reduce the volume of foliage that could host pests or diseases.
  • Closely inspect your plants before bringing them inside. Cut off leaves and stems that have visible health issues and spot treat for insects using an insecticidal soap (which has lower toxicity, treats a broad array of pests and is often sold in small, readytouse spray bottles) .
  • Quarantine your plants for a week or two from the rest of your indoor plants. Keep a close eye to see if you notice signs of pests or disease. 

 Q–If you have evergreens on your deck, do you continue to fertilize them during fall and winter months?
I would greatly reduce or stop fertilizing in the fall and winter as the evergreens will be going somewhat dormant or growing very slowly. If I do fertilize, I like to use a slow-release granular fertilizer in containers so that they get fed each time they’re watered (and because I’m forgetful). 

Q–Any suggestions for using native plants in a small space? They tend to be larger than cultivars or alien plants.
Yeah! There are lots of more petite native plants (see the recommended plant list). Look for perennials 3 ft. and under such as Asarum canadense (native ginger), Asclepias tuberosa (milkweed) or Monarda bradburiana. Some of our native trees are smaller too, such as Amelanchier (serviceberry), Cercis canadensis (redbud) or Myrica (bayberry). Thanks to more gardeners looking for native plants that are ‘tidier and better behaved,’ there are more cultivars available. Nativars, as they’re called, are options for plants that are adaptable and can provide food and shelter for wildlife (although not all do). 

Q–How do you stake patches of coneflower and black-eyed Susan? Rain flattened mine and they won’t stand back up.
Nobody likes a floppy black-eyed Susan. There are a couple of maintenance techniques you could use to help with this. 

  • Make sure they’re getting enough sun. When they don’t, they can be weaker stemmed and flop.
  • Cut them back earlier in the growing season to reduce their height, and they’ll still bloom. (We call this the “Chelsea Chop.”)
  • In spring, install plant supports that the plant will grow into. (I’m thinking of those peony supports, for example.)
  • Interplant perennials that might flop with sturdier plants such as ornamental grasses or low shrubs such as Perovskia sp. 

Q–What do you suggest to naturalize on a steep slope with some runoff in Zone 7 with northeast light? 
The easiest and fastest way is probably native grasses (SporobolusMuhlenbergiaSchyzachrium etc.) and sedges (Carex sp.). Additionally, you could add some lowgrowing shrubs with a rhizomatous root structure such as Rhus aromatica, Amelanchier stolonifera or Leucothoe. 

Q–You presented several pictures of Yucca plants.  I love the vertical structure of the plant for design purposes and I have a great spot for it in my yard.  Someone warned me against this plant due to its tough root system.  Do you agree with this assessment?
Yucca are tough and adaptable and once established the root system can be pretty extensive. I would probably only plant them in a challenging site where you have trouble getting other plants to establish, or be sure that you want the plant there for the long-term. If you’re unsure, plant it in a pot and “install” it in your garden. That way, if you don’t like it, it’s easy to move. 

Q–My property has established white pines with an extensive root system. Is it possible to plant anything underneath? if so, do you have any suggestions on how to address moisture control for the new plants?  
Yes! You want to look for droughttolerant shade to part-shade plants such as Asarum canadense (native ginger) and ferns such as Dryopteris autumnalis or barrenwort (Epimediums). Also, bulbs!! Both spring and fall blooming bulbs such as daffodils, crocus, snowdrops, naked ladies (Lycoris), autumn crocus (Colchicum), and winter aconite. 

Q–When should one trim houseplants that have been outdoors during the summer? Before bringing them in in the fall, or in the spring?
I like to cut back before bringing them indoors because 1) then they’re easier to move 2) they take up less room 3) reducing the foliage helps reduce transpiration (water loss) in dry winter air 4) and reduces the surface area for pests to ride inside on. 

Q–What was the shade plant with the red flowers in the presentation? Was it asparagus fern? The burgundy shade plant was probably Coleus (there are hundreds of varieties). Asparagus ferns have green foliage, tiny white flowers and red fruits. 

Q–Did you say that flowering bulbs could be planted in shade?
Yes, many bulbs do well under deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves in the winter) because they are exposed to more sunlight. Additionally, woodland bulb and bulb relatives such as Leucojum, Scilla, Colchicum, Dicentra, and more are adapted to shady spots. 

Q– Can I build a paver patio close to a magnolia tree?
I would always recommend giving the root zone and tree trunks as much room as possible to grow. Often what happens when pavers or concrete are installed over the rootzone of trees is that the roots displace the pavers and will actually shift the concrete or crack it. Maybe consider crushed stone or gravel with some stepping stones or having small trees in containers on top of the pavers or in a raised bed instead?  

Q–Do you have instructions on how to attach roses to a trellis, whether the trellis is made of metal or wood?
I am no rose expert. However, my personal experience with trellising roses is: 

  • Cut back dead/diseased/dying canes to the base when dormant and sanitize the pruner before and after cutting each rose to prevent the spread of disease. 
  • Trellis material doesn’t necessarily matter as long as it can hold the weight.  
  • The more important factor is how the stalks are attached to the trellis. What you want to avoid is using a technique or material that damages the stalks. I recommend a gardener’s jute twine tied to the trellis and stalk loosely enough that when the wind blows the stalk can move a little. If it doesn’t then it’s too tight. Natural twine degrades and will need to be replaced each year. A perfect time for this is when you’re doing your winter pruning.  

 Small Space, Big Impact Plant Suggestions 

Sun/Shade Needs  Common Name  Scientific Name  Notes 
Full Sun  Okra  Abelmoschus esculentus ‘Red Burgundy’  Annual 
Full Sun  Dwarf Japanese Maple  Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Tamukeyama’, ‘Crimson Queen’, et al.  Perennial– woody 
Full Sun  Hyssop (smaller)  Agastache ‘Black Adder’ or ‘Apache Sunset  Perennial– Woody 
Full Sun  Agave  Agave parryiAgave ‘Blue Glow’ et al.  Perennial/Houseplant- herbaceous 
Full Sun  Aloe  Aloe vera  Perennial/Houseplant– herbaceous 
Full Sun  Butterflyweed  Asclepias tuberosa  Perennial– herbaceous 
Full Sun  Ponytail Palm  Beaucarnea recurvata  Tropical, Houseplant 
Full sun  Cannas  Canna sp.  Annual 
Full Sun  Peppers  Capsicum annuum 

(sweet, hot, or ornamental) 

Full Sun  Squash and Melons  Cucurbita pepo; C. maxima; Citrullus lanatus et al.  Annual 
Full Sun  Artichoke  Cynara cardunculus  Annual 
Full Sun  Fig (dwarf)  Ficus carica ‘Little Miss Figgy’- dwarf  Perennial– woody 
Full Sun  Strawberry  Fragaria sp.  Perennial– herbaceous 
Full Sun  Dwarf Ginkgo  Ginkgo biloba ‘Troll’ or ‘Chi Chi  Perennial– woody 
Full Sun  Daylily  Hemerocallis sp.  Perennial– herbaceous 
Full Sun  Hops  Humulus lupulus  Annual 
Full Sun  Junipers (prostrate versions)  Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Carpet’; Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ (and many more)  Perennial– woody 
Full Sun  Birdhouse/Bottle/ 

Calabash Gourds 

Lagenaria sp.  Annual 
Full Sun  Lavender  Lavandula x intermedia ‘Phenomenal’  Perennial- tenderwoody 
Full Sun  Native Honeysuckle  Lonicera sempervirens  Perennial– woody 
Full Sun  Determinate tomatoes  Lycopersicon esculentum 

‘Bush Beefsteak’ ‘San Marzano’ ‘Roma’, ‘Tumbler’ ‘Windowbox’, ’Zebra Cherry’ and more 

Full Sun  Columnar apple   Malus ‘North Pole’  Perennial– woody 
Full Sun  Apple (dwarf)  Malus sp.  

Var.- ‘Liberty’, ‘Empire’ and more 

Full Sun  Banana, dwarf  Musa ‘Truly Tiny’  Tropical/Houseplant 
Full Sun  Bananas  Musa acuminata ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ 

*more dwarf ornamental var. 

Annuals (some overwinter) 
Full Sun  Basil  Ocimum basilicum  Annual/Houseplant 
Full Sun  Thornless Prickly Pear Cactus  Opuntia ellisiana; O. tuna; O. humifusa  Perennial– herbaceous 
Full Sun  Parsley  Petroselinum crispum  Annual 
Full Sun  Beans  Phaseolus vulgaris (many varieties)  Annual 
Full Sun  Mugo pine dwarf  Pinus mugo ‘Teeny’ or ‘Pumillo  Perennial– woody 
Full Sun  Pomegranate (dwarf)  Punica granatum var. nana  Perennial- tender woody 
Full Sun  Radish  Raphanus sativus  Annual 
Full Sun  Dwarf Rose  Rosa ‘Roxy’  Perennial– Woody 
Full Sun  Rosemary  Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Arp’  Perennial- tender woody 
Full Sun  Texas sage, hummingbird sage  Salvia coccinea ‘Lady in Red’,’Forest Fire’, ‘ Summer Jewel Series’  Perennial- tender woody 
Full Sun  Sage  Salvia officinalis  Perennial- tender woody 
Full Sun  Western Redcedar  Thuja plicata ‘Whipcord’  Perennial– woody 
Full Sun  American cranberrybush  Viburnum opulus var. americanum  Perennial- woody 
Full Sun  Yucca, Adam’s Needle  Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’  Tropical/Houseplant 
Full Sun to Part Shade  Elephant Ear  Alocasia sp.  Annual 
Full Sun to Part Shade  Dwarf Juneberry, Servicebery  Amelanchier ‘Standing Ovation’ or Amelanchier alnifolia vars.  Perennial– woody 
Full Sun to Part Shade  Arkansas Bluestar  Amsonia hubrichtii  Perennial– Herbaceous 
Full Sun to Part Shade  Taro, Colocasia  Colocasia ‘Tea Cups’  Perennial- tender/Annual (herbaceous) 
Full Sun to Part Shade  Slender Deutzia  Deutzia ‘Chardonnay Pearls’  Perennial– woody 
Full Sun to Part Shade  Dwarf panicle Hydrangea   Hydrangea paniculata ‘Jane’  Little Lime  Perennial– woody 
Full Sun to Part Shade  Passionflower  Passiflora incarnata (native); 

Passiflora coccinea (tropical) 

Perennial– herbaceous 



Full Sun to Part Shade  Japanese Pieris Dwarf  Pieris japonica ‘Prelude’  Perennial– woody 
Full Sun to Part Shade  Blueberry  Vaccinium corymbosum  Perennial– woody 
Full Sun/ Part sun  Lettuce  Lactuca sativa  Annual 
Full to Part Sun  Dwarf St. John’s Wort  Hypericum calycinumHypericum ‘Hidcote’  Perennial-woody 
Part Shade  Japanese Forest Grass  Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureaola  Perennial– herbaceous 
Part Sun to Full Shade  Sedge  Carex pensylvanicaCarex eburnea (both native) et al. and non-native Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’ et al.  Perennial– herbaceous 
Part Sun to Full Shade  Dwarf Fothergilla  Fothergilla gardenii ‘Mt. Airy, ‘Blue Shadow’  Perennial– woody 
Part Sun to Full Shade  Coralbells, alumroot, heuchera  Heuchera sp.   Perennial– herbaceous 
Part Sun to Full Shade  Hosta  Hosta sp. (many varieties)  Perennial-herbaceous 
Part Sun to Full Shade  Ferns (soooo many!!!)  Matteuccia struthiopteris , Osmundastrum sp.; Athyrium sp., Et al.  Perennial and Annual-Herbaceous 
Part Sun/Shade  Fatsia  Fatsia japonica  Perennial – herbaceous 
Part Sun/Shade  Cranberry  Vaccinium macrocarpum 


Perennial– woody 
Part to Full Shade  American Ginger  Asarum canadense  Perennial– herbaceous 
Part to Full Shade  Dragon Wing Begonia  Begonia ‘Dragon Wing Red’  Annual/Houseplant 
Part to Full Shade  Climbing Hydrangea  Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris   Perennial– woody 
Part to Full Shade  Coleus sp.  Plectranthus scutellarioides var.  Annual/Houseplant 
Part to Full Shade  Indian Pink  Spigela marilandica  Perennial– herbaceous