En EspaŅol

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?

Share

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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

QUESTION:

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!

ANSWER:

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

Plant mistakes from Cedar Park, TX
April 09, 2014 - At our "Wilts End" in Cedar Park, TX. and are looking for a tall shrub/tree that will hide a 6-ft tall concrete wall and muffle the noise from a busy street. The wall forms a very wide-angled V shap...
view the full question and answer

Trees to replace Ligustrums, and evergreen vines for privacy screen
January 21, 2008 - We had 3 ligustrum trees growing along a creek bank in our back yard and under the City of Austin power lines. Our backyard is on a terrace about 7 feet above the creek's flood plain. The Ligustrums ...
view the full question and answer

Fence Vines for Austin, TX
August 31, 2013 - Hi, What are the best high density vine plants for coverage on chain link fence in Austin, TX? Thank you
view the full question and answer

Landscaping a Fence with Native Plants for Central Texas
March 08, 2013 - I'm looking to landscape my fence that I've lined with woven bamboo. The area gets the hot afternoon sun in summer and is pretty shady in winter. The plants need to be drought and heat tolerant. I'...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen pet-safe shrubs for house and screening in McKinney TX
April 15, 2010 - Looking for shrub, preferably evergreen, to plant near the house that can handle wet ground and is pet (dog, cat, horse) safe. The area became boggy after we had an underground water leak that is now ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center