The Q&A Archives: Annuals or Shrubs?

Question: I manage a condo building in a busy area of Chicago. In front of the building is a 3 foot by 3 foot cement brick planter probably about three 3 feet deep as well. Last year I planted some annuals and it actually looked kind of wimpy next to the grand building. They also only get partial if any sunlight. This year I was wondering if it would be easier for me to just plant a shrub. Could you suggest one (possibly one that's colorful)? I really do not have a green thumb, and I'd like NOT to do this again next year.

Also what I would have to do to the dry soil that is currently in the planter before adding the shrub?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Julie Hernandez
Chicago, IL

Answer: I'd plant a shrub in the planter. Start by loosening the soil and adding a bag of compost, digging it in to a depth of 8-10". Then thoroughly water the planter to make sure the soil is moist before planting. After planting you'll need only to water once a week. Here are a few suggestions for medium sized shrubs:
Compact European Cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum opulus 'Compactum'); very adaptable to sun or shade; flowers in spring; grows 4-6' tall.

Carolina Allspice (Calycanthus floridus), same as above except can reach 8'.

Glossy Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), same as above.

I mention these three shrubs because they are very adaptable and very hardy so you won't have much maintenance.

Best wishes with your planter!

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