En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
3 ratings

Tuesday - March 11, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Native plants for privacy screen in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I would like some suggestions for plants to form a privacy screen between our backyard and our neighbor's. The site is shady, under old Texas Ash and pecan trees, and is located in North central Austin. I very much desire to plant natives, but my husband and my landscaper are pushing for non-natives such as ligustrum and bamboo. Thank You, Mr. Smarty Pants!


Pleeeease, it's Mr. Smarty Plants. And thank you for resisting the suggestions that you plant non-native ligustrum and bamboo.

Both the suggested plants are natives of the Far East and the Himalayas, hardly appropriate for a Texas garden. Apparently, one of the perceived advantages of both is that they are readily available, fast-growing and cheap. Let's start with the bamboo. Once you get it started, it can be really hard to stop. It is considered invasive in several parts of the United States, and your neighbors probably wouldn't thank you for the shoots that move into their space. Ligustrum sinense, according to this USDA Plant Profile, also can be weedy or invasive. So, allow us to make some suggestions you can use as ammunition when the battle of the privacy screens heats up again.

We went first to the GardenSmart Plantwise page on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website, under "Conservation." We clicked on "View List" under Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants. From the dropdown list we selected Phylostachys aurea (Golden Bamboo), and clicked on "find alternatives." Out of several suggestions we chose two with which we have personal experience and like very much:

Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) - evergreen, female plants have bird-attracting berries

Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) - evergreen, fragrant leaves, also has berries attractive to birds

When we used the same procedure to find alternatives to Ligustrum obtusifolium (Garden privet), we got several suggestions, one of which was, again, Morella cerifera (wax myrtle). But you don't have to confine yourself to just those shrubs. A couple more you might consider are:

Cordia boissieri (anacahuita) - semi-evergreen to evergreen 

Leucophyllum frutescens (Texas barometer bush - evergreen 

Because these shrubs are native and already accustomed to the soils and conditions of this part of the state, they will need less water, less (or no) fertilizer and will not be as susceptible to insects and diseases as the exotic non-natives.

Ilex vomitoria

Morella cerifera

Cordia boissieri

Leucophyllum frutescens




More Privacy Screening Questions

Evergreen, deer resistant privacy screen for Villanova PA
March 29, 2013 - Looking for something that is deer resistant and ideally evergreen to block a shed and fence that my neighbor recently installed. Live in Eastern PA. Not the best drainage and also shade for most of...
view the full question and answer

Additional screening under yaupons in Georgetown TX
November 09, 2011 - We live on a corner and have a berm along the south side of our yard which blocks our backyard from the street. It was planted with uprights yaupons. With the drought, deer have eaten the bottom por...
view the full question and answer

A Bounty of Edibles for New Braunfels Texas
October 25, 2013 - I was hoping you could suggest a few plants that would serve several purposes. I live in New Braunfels, TX and would like to incorporate as many drought tolerant plants which would support birds, but...
view the full question and answer

Dog and kid barrier in East Wenatchee WA
October 01, 2009 - I have about a 8 foot section between my driveway and the neighbor's yard, and their kids and dogs like to run through it! I would like to plant a non-invasive 4-6 foot growing shrub/bush of some s...
view the full question and answer

Screening plant for wall in Florida
February 26, 2010 - Hi Mr. Smarty Pants, I live near Tampa, FL and I want to put a line of privacy plants/hedges along a brick wall. The wall is 6' high with openings in the top 3' of the wall. The length of the w...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center