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
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - March 30, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Privacy Screening, Shrubs
Title: Noise buffering by native plants in Austin, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in Austin in a neighborhood that is bordered on one side by highway 183 and on the other by MoPac and the train tracks. Even though I am least a three blocks from the closest highway, the traffic noise is horrific on all sides of my house, even at night. What might the best native plant or plants to put near the house to mitigate the noise coming inside and to plant around the perimeter of the property for the same purpose? I have a large yard, which I like, but I notice that the smaller properties, with smaller yards and close-by houses on all sides, are quieter because the buildings shield each other from the noise. Thank you for any suggestions.

ANSWER:

How refreshing, to not be asked for a deer-resistant plant, in the bargain. Perhaps the deer don't like the noise any more than you do. You probably already realize the mature, evergreen trees are probably the best noise buffer among plants that you could have. If you have large trees already on your property, coddle them. If you don't, although you could plant some, it would be years before they would get big enough to do you any good. So, we have selected some evergreen bushes, most of which are moderately fast-growing and dense. Take the links to each plant page and read its characteristics and see if it would fit your requirements in terms of placement, sun requirements, etc.

Several of these plants also have berries that will attract birds. You should be aware that the seeds of Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) are very poisonous.

Leucophyllum frutescens (Texas barometer bush)

Mahonia trifoliolata (agarita) - a very stickery bush, will also keep joggers from cutting across

Rhus virens (evergreen sumac)

Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) - slow growing

Morella cerifera (wax myrtle)

Ilex vomitoria (yaupon)

These shrubs will all do nicely in creating a perimeter hedge for buffering the noise. They are all native to Central Texas, and should do well with not too much maintenance in the Austin area. They could also be planted closer to the house, even in front of the windows, but this is going to cut out the interior daylight, which you probably don't want.

We are not in the business of recommending products, especially products that are not plant-related, but have you considered replacing your windows with double-paned windows that can more effectively shut out the sound? We understand that this is an expensive proposition, but in your location, it might be worth it. Here is an article on the advantages of double paned windows.


Leucophyllum frutescens

Mahonia trifoliolata

Rhus virens

Sophora secundiflora

Morella cerifera

Ilex vomitoria
 

More Shrubs Questions

Privacy screen for Canyon Lake, TX
February 07, 2014 - I need some help. I live near the Guadalupe River in Canyon Lake, TX and my backyard faces a busy street. I need a fast growing thick shrub for my backyard for privacy since I cannot afford a fence at...
view the full question and answer

Native Azaleas for Southeast USA
April 03, 2012 - Where can I purchase wild azaleas?
view the full question and answer

Native NW Pennsylvania Plants for Soap
November 06, 2014 - Are there any plants in northwest Pennsylvania that can be used as soap?
view the full question and answer

Berries on cultivars of Ilex verticillata from Oak Park, IL
February 19, 2014 - I have three ilex verticillata cultivars (2 Nana, 1 Jim Dandy) planted on the west side of my house in a very shady site (there's a mature over-spreading hackberry on the parkway just to the west and...
view the full question and answer

Native tree or shrub with fruit to espalier on fence
July 23, 2010 - I live in the Austin, TX area and I would like to choose a native tree or shrub to espalier on a fence in my garden. Ideally, I would like to use a tree that bears fruit. Any suggestions?
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center