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
11 ratings

Wednesday - May 28, 2008

From: Redondo Beach, CA
Region: California
Topic: Trees
Title: Native trees for small backyard in California
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have a small backyard and very close to my neighbor. I want to plant trees that grow 15/20 high that can work as a screen although I have to be very careful with invasive roots. Also I have two small kids that love to be outside. Any suggestion?

ANSWER:

Here are a few suggestions for large shrubs/small trees that should work well.  Dr. Connie Vadheim, a professor at California State University and a specialist in native plants of the area, provided suggestions for the selections below.   These all are found in Los Angeles County, California.

Amelanchier alnifolia (Saskatoon serviceberry), 3-18 feet tall, deciduous

Comarostaphylis diversifolia (summer holly), up to 20 feet, evergreen

Heteromeles arbutifolia (toyon), 8-20 feet tall, evergreen

Juniperus californica (California juniper), 10-15 feet, evergreen, photos from CalFlora

Morella californica (California wax myrtle), 10-25 feet, evergreen, photos and more information from University of Washington, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber (birchleaf mountain mahogany), 8-20 feet, semi-evergreen

Cornus nuttallii (Pacific dogwood), 15-40 feet, deciduous

Cupressus forbesii (tecate cypress) around 20 feet high, evergreem and here are photos

Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp. aspleniifolius (Catalina ironwood), 30-50 feet, evergreen and here are photos

Umbellularia californica (California laurel), up to 40 feet, evergreen

According to the Poisonous Plants of North Carolina or Cornell University Poisonous Plants Informational Database, none of the plants above has any toxic parts that you should be concerned about for your children.

You can find other suggestions for native plants by visiting our "Recommended Species" page and choosing Southern California from the map.


Amelanchier alnifolia

Comarostaphylis diversifolia

Heteromeles arbutifolia

Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber

Cornus nuttallii

Umbellularia californica

 

 

More Trees Questions

Swarming insects on non-native willow in Washington PA
September 25, 2011 - I have had a very large, beautiful pillow willow bush/tree growing next to our garage for about 8 years. Last year at the end of August, it began to attract white-faced hornets and yellow jackets by t...
view the full question and answer

Flower color under large pine tree from South Elgin IL
April 05, 2013 - I have a very large pine tree that I would like to plant some flowers under. I have hostas, stonecrop and fern, but like to add some color. What do you suggest? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Ecosysystem with pecan at center from Austin
February 21, 2014 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I would like to create a native tree guild around a mature pecan. It shares its space with native shrubs and ephemerals but I would like to add a nitrogen fixing plant. I am...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of shrub with thorns and purple flowers
July 05, 2011 - I have a small tree or shrub, it has very small or thin thorns on the branches. It blooms in April / May. The flowers are purple. My mother-in-law said that it has been around for over 100 years, b...
view the full question and answer

Recently planted Chinquapin Oak with browning leaves in Marlin, TX.
July 31, 2012 - We planted a Chinquapin Oak this in March 2012. As of July 21, 2012, the tips of the leaves on the lower branches are turning brown. We cannot see any insects. There does not appear to be any fungu...
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