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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - March 10, 2014

From: Pace, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Privacy Screening, Shrubs
Title: Privacy screen for Pace Florida
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We live in the Florida panhandle and I wondering what we could use as a natural fence line between our property and the neighbor's. I love the look of oleander, but upon research found it to be toxic. We have a 2 year-old and one on the way, which makes this DEFINITELY not an option. We were thinking of bamboo, but so many people say it spreads uncontrollably, but maybe there's a type that doesn't? Ultimately I'd love a flowering plant that reaches at least 6 feet and would grow quickly. Thanks in advance!

ANSWER:

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is dedicated to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown; in your case, Santa Rosa Co., FL. on the far western tip of the Florida Panhandle.

In that light, Oleander is not recommended on two points: It is non-native to North America and poisonous in every part. From Wikipedia:

"Nerium oleander is an evergreen shrub or small tree in the dogbane family Apocynaceae, toxic in all its parts. It is the only species currently classified in the genus Nerium. It is most commonly known as oleander, from its superficial resemblance to the unrelated olive Olea. It is so widely cultivated that no precise region of origin has been identified, though southwest Asia has been suggested. The ancient city of Volubilis in Morocco may have taken its name from the Berber name oualilt for the flower. Oleander is one of the most poisonous of commonly grown plants."

Plantings for natural privacy screens is a very popular subject right now. Here is one we answered just a few minutes ago, although it is from Northern Kentucky. Previous answer. Besides giving you information on one of the few native bamboos, Arundinaria gigantea (Giant cane), that plant is also native to your area according to this USDA Plant Profile.

Since you did not give us information on how much sunlight your site has nor whether you wanted evergreen plants, we will search for suitable plants, check that they are native to your area and you can follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant for further information, making your own choices. We prefer to recommend a variety of shrubs for this purpose, as they will be denser and also while one may be in full bloom and looking spectacular, another may be gathering its strength before it begins to bloom. It's more interesting than a line of the same plant and, should something  go wrong with that plant, you won't lose your whole privacy screen at once.

Plants for a "living fence" for Pace FL:

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) USDA Plant Profile

Illicium floridanum (Florida anisetree) USDA Plant Profile

Ilex glabra (Inkberry) USDA Plant Profile

Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle)  USDA Plant Profile

Rhododendron austrinum (Orange azalea) USDA Plant Profile

Viburnum dentatum (Southern arrowwood) USDA Plant Profile

 

From the Image Gallery


American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

Florida anisetree
Illicium floridanum

Inkberry
Ilex glabra

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

Orange azalea
Rhododendron austrinum

Southern arrowwood
Viburnum dentatum

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Looking for shrubs to replace Photinia as a privacy screen in Arlington, VA.
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