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

Privacy screen in Idaho
February 15, 2010 - Hello Mr. Smarty Plants, I need to add privacy to a chain link fence. The fence is shaded by large trees.They add shade from up high but little privacy at fence level.What would you recommend I plant...
view the full question and answer

Hiding a chicken house from Glen Rose TX
February 06, 2013 - To hide a chicken house, which do you recommend, crape myrtles or chinese photinias?
view the full question and answer

Drought tolerant privacy plants for Flagstaff AZ
March 19, 2013 - We need a fast growing drought tolerant tree that will grow in Flagstaff AZ/Parks AZ. Neighbors are hoarders and we want privacy fence to cover the mess. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
view the full question and answer

Screening Suggestions in Brooklyn, NY
March 08, 2013 - My neighbor directly in back of me has shrubs that are growing all over my fence. Also his 9-foot-tall shed facing me is rusted. What can I do to improve my view so that I can enjoy my backyard more?
view the full question and answer

Vines for fence in Bentonville, Arkansas
June 12, 2013 - I have about 600 LF of 8ft high chain link fence I would like to grow vines on in Northwest Arkansas for screening. I would like some to cover quickly but be maintenance friendly. I heard alternating ...
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