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?


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
5 ratings

Tuesday - June 03, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Tree and vine for shade and privacy
Answered by: Nan Hampton


We recently added a deck in our backyard which faces west, we live in Circle C (southwest Austin). The afternoon sun is intense so we're looking to plant something along our fence line to provide shade and privacy. We want something quick growing that will grow tall (20 or so feet) but not wide, since we don't want it to take up valuable yard space, maybe a tree? Also, can you recommend a flowering vine that can grow from the ground and climb to cover our brick patio columns. I'd love something fragrant, but nothing poisonous or that would attract bees.


Here are tree species that have rapid to moderate growth rates. I have suggested some trees that can grow very tall (the oaks) and have a large spread. However, by the time they have the large spread their foliage will be high enough above the ground to not interfere with yard space and they will provide a great deal of shade.

Prunus caroliniana (Carolina laurelcherry) evergreen and moderately fast growing, 15 to 20 feet

Acer grandidentatum (bigtooth maple) moderate growth and beautiful fall foliage, 15 to 40 feet

Fraxinus albicans (Texas ash) rapid growth and beautiful fall foliage, 30-45 feet

You might consider one of the oak species that isn't susceptible to oak wilt, such as:

Quercus polymorpha (netleaf white oak) rapid growth, 40 to 80 feet

Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak) rapid growth, 40 to 100 feet

Quercus muehlenbergii (chinkapin oak) moderate growth, 40-60 feet

Here are recommendations for three evergreen vines. I can't guarantee that there won't be any bees attracted to their flowers since bees are attracted to nectar sources. However, I can almost certainly guarantee that hummingbirds and butterflies will be attracted especially to the crossvine and honesuckle.

Bignonia capreolata (crossvine), somewhat fragrant

Lonicera sempervirens (trumpet honeysuckle), not particularly fragrant

Gelsemium sempervirens (evening trumpetflower), very fragrant

Prunus caroliniana

Acer grandidentatum

Fraxinus albicans

Quercus polymorpha

Quercus macrocarpa

Quercus muehlenbergii

Bignonia capreolata

Bignonia capreolata

Lonicera sempervirens

Lonicera sempervirens

Gelsemium sempervirens

Gelsemium sempervirens



More Shade Tolerant Questions

Enough sun from San Marcos TX
February 22, 2013 - I would like to plant both Lantana urticoides and Salvia farinacea in area that only has morning to 1pm sun..Will this amount of sun be enough?
view the full question and answer

Plants for water park
January 03, 2013 - Hi, I usually have no problem locating the right species for a given situation, but I may need some advice for this. I am looking for plants -- from annual & perennial flowers to shrubs and small t...
view the full question and answer

Philadelphus ernestii under live oak in Pflugerville TX
April 05, 2010 - Will Philadelphus ernestii thrive in the root zone of live oak, or would the oak inhibit its growth? I'd like to plant it just at the edge of the canopy.
view the full question and answer

Native shade plants around fountain in California
March 18, 2009 - Hi, we just put a fountain in our front yard. It is in a mostly shady area. I need to know what plants would go best around the fountain and survive in the shade.
view the full question and answer

Deer resistant, drought and shade tolerant plants to go under oak tree in Austin
March 21, 2011 - What is the best deer resistant, drought resistant native plant to grow under my huge Oak tree? Grass does not grow. Will iris bloom?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center