Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

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

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 Hedge for Maryland Porch
July 03, 2014 - I am working on a screen/fence, which is a barrier hedge between our house and our next door neighbor's house to add privacy to our screen porch and dining area, especially in winter. The fence would...
view the full question and answer

Combining native shrubs for hedge in Austin
April 15, 2009 - Smarty, Please tell me what the definitions are for all the various water, soil moisture, drainage and light requirements mean. Are the definitions global? I live in Central East Austin and inten...
view the full question and answer

Privacy Screen options for Seymour CT
June 03, 2011 - Hi Mr. Smarty Pants: Looking for a quick growing privacy hedge for a home in Seymour CT. Thank you very much, I appreciate your help.
view the full question and answer

Vine for Chain Link Fence in Virginia
March 25, 2015 - I am from Great Falls, Virginia. I would like to know what the best vine is to grow on aluminum fences to cover them up quickly but also doesn't damage expensive fences in a long term?
view the full question and answer

Privacy screen for Sedona AZ
August 02, 2013 - I live In Sedona Az. A builder just built a house next to my house and the new house is ugly to look at. What plant or tree would grow fast and reach 18 foot in height fast. It can be about 5 to 6 foo...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.