En Español

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

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
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

Colorful native plants for oak tree shade in Houston
August 26, 2009 - I live in Houston Tx - our subdivision entrance has many oak trees. We cannot find anything that will "stay alive" around these trees. It is mostly shady, but gets a slight bit of sunlight. we wo...
view the full question and answer

Plants for no sun in Austin
May 12, 2010 - I need recommendations for shrubs that can withstand no sun, something that possibly blooms but does not attract bees, wasps, or any stinging insects (hummingbirds or butterflies ok).
view the full question and answer

Vines for Shade in Upstate New York
April 23, 2013 - Hello! I am looking for a non-invasive vine that will grow in heavy shade near my house in upstate New York.
view the full question and answer

Tree as shade alternative to carport in Austin
April 21, 2010 - Hello, I'm looking for a small tree that could provide afternoon shade for two cars, as an alternative to a carport. When mature, the tree would need to be tall enough to grow around (and above) the...
view the full question and answer

Michigan native plants for shady, low traffic area
May 10, 2006 - Hello, I am looking for a recommendation for a Michigan native groundcover. I live adjacent to the Rouge River watershed and want to buy the right thing. The location is shady, infrequently walked ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center