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any ideas for a tough cool location?

Posted by bizzylizzy (My Page) on
Mon, Mar 6, 06 at 14:58

I have some ideas for a less than wonderful location for my spring/summer flower plantings. It's a ground level patio/balcony on a north side of a large building. Main problems is it's almost completely in shade, secondly it has some ??? bug problems - mostly small brownish winged gnat like bugs and an army of spiders happily moving in to enjoy. I think the bugs are attracted by the night lights for the building entrance. I had time to clean the patio out a few times last year (we just moved in last spring), but I'm sure I can spend more time this year cleaning out the bugs if need be.

Ideas I am hoping to hear about:
Any tough durable plants that will survive at least a few years in containers in this location (zone 3)? I'm thinking bulbs like hyacinths, snowdrops, etc.? I bought some hosta and some ivy type plants last year and they did not thrive.

I'd also like to mail order if need be, some woodland plants - e.g. trillium, hardy violets, etc. but don't know if these will survive in containers over winter.

I guess I'm really hoping to hear from northern gardeners about your miracle plants that can survive anything. I'm not a big fan of annuals, I love the challenge of perennials and really like bulbs as well.

Also, are there bug repellent plants? non-harmful patio bug sprays (not harmful to people or fauna - lol) that any one can recommend. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: any ideas for a tough cool location?

Hi Bizzylizzy, first of all those bugs you describe are not going to harm your plants. They likely are just moths and such, and the spiders are attracted to them as food. They're not very nice if you don't like bugs but they aren't going to harm your plants. If you have the choice to turn off the light at night it will clear up the problem.

Second, I can't think of perennials that that like shade and that will be happy sitting in a pot all winter in zone 3. I would be inclined to try some shady bulb/tuberous-type plants such as begonias which can easily be brought indoors for the winter. You just have to dig them up and leave the pot where it is. I would also suggest that some houseplants do well outdoors in a shady summer environment then brought in for the winter, but I'm guessing you have a north-facing apartment and this wouldn't provide enough light for those same plants in the winter.

Other than that, there are a ton of nice annuals you could grow if you change your mind. Hope you find something to suit.

RE: any ideas for a tough cool location?

I agree with Northspruce, that there's not much that will survive in a pot in our winters. I've tried tulips and hostas in a half barrel with no success, and I can't even get hyacinths to over-winter in the ground. The only chance you have in anything surviving in a pot, is if you can bury the whole thing in the ground for the winter or bring it inside. Unless you have a spot where you could do this, then annuals may be your only option.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news :(


RE: any ideas for a tough cool location?

Thanks for helping me decide what to do. I think this year I'll try some bulbs. I had moved from a south facing apt. in another building, and had lilies, hens and chicks, crocus and hyacinths growing there, but they had some good sun all summer for strength I think. I know of a north side lady who had really nice begonias (tuberous?) and she mentioned she had to store them over winter, she also had some houseplants outside (I probably won't do that because of the bugs) lol. Thanks again, Liz

RE: any ideas for a tough cool location?

Our old place in Spokane WA - no idea what zone that is - had a north flower bed up against the house. It got very little sun and even less attention. We got regular sub zero temps.

It grew a bumper crop of Lilly of the Valley and 2 kinds of Mint all mixed together for years. We never paid them much attention until tea time.

The mint was tallish. One dark one shorter and pale green.

They both grow in pots ok I think.

My mom wraps her pots in bubble wrap for the winter. She likes all those bulb things.

RE: any ideas for a tough cool location?

Not much is going to survive the winter in your zone in containers, unless you can bring the pots in to store for the winter. Do you have a basement storage area?

Woodland plants would do well in the ground in the shade, but you'll need woodland soil or good rich garden soil. Beside an apartment building, you'll probably need to supplement your soil with lots of manure. Its very cheap at garden centers. Lily of the valley, trilliums (although they don't bloom for long) will do well. If you have acidic soil, rhodos like the shade.

Bulbs need a lot of sun to collect enough energy through the leaves to bloom the following year. You'll get a good bloom the first year, though. Begonias need a lot of sun, too, to continue blooming all summer. They're usually in bloom when you buy them.

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