Suggestions for a tiny condo patio

Asked May 21, 2019, 10:16 PM EDT

I have a bleak little 6'x9' concrete patio with a 6.5' x 9' bed of dirt, which faces due south and gets full sun all day. Two downspouts pour water into the area, which pools on the sidewalk; one spout drains off the roof directly into the middle of the dirt patch. In rainy weather, the ground gets very wet, and at spring thaw the ground is contaminated with salt water from the sidewalk. I'm required to have two yew shrubs on a bed of rocks, and I can't do anything to the 5.5' strip of grass in the front. Photo 1 shows my front yard; my place is on the left, and the requisite shrub arrangement can be seen in the neighbor's patch on the right. All of the other plants belong to my neighbor, and I can't alter them. Photo 2 is a picture of my patch. Note the second downspout by the front door. Photo 3 shows the location of the downspout that drains directly into the bed. What can I plant here that will go with the yew shrubs, blanket the rocks with a carpet of flowers, and keep down weeds? I'd also like to have a little flowering tree to shade my patio. Is there a kind that will fit?

Macomb County Michigan trees and shrubs landscape design landscape water conservation

3 Responses

You indeed have a very difficult situation. Three site conditions have to be addressed: south facing, so full sun; periods of wet and drought conditions; and salt infiltration. You also want to plant in an area that is covered by rocks which have to be moved in order to plant. Do you know what the soil is like? It would make sense to assume that it is compacted because of the rocks. Compacted soil is difficult to grow plants in because there are no air holes left for the roots to move through. The first step would be to obtain a soil analysis if you have not already done so. Go to to obtain a kit.

Once you have established the soil type and whether you will be able to plant in it, you could consult your local nursery to discover whether there are dwarf trees that can tolerate the conditions--such as a dwarf cherry. Standing water in the spring, is also a concern and roots can drown if the water stays too long. Some perennials are salt tolerant and could handle the wet/dry conditions and fulls sun like day lilies, Siberian iris and Veronica spicata.

Because of the difficult growing conditions, have you considered planting the required yews and filling the rest of the bed with and interesting assortment of potted plants? You could use annuals, perennials and small shrubs. You will have control over the growing conditions except for the sun so you should pick plants that thrive in the sun.

I hope this helps.

Thank you! You told me exactly what I need to know.