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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - March 30, 2009

From: Austin , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Screen plant for Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in Austin Texas and am looking for a small tree or large shrub that will obscure the view from my kitchen window into my neighbors. I am looking for an evergreen plant that gets no wider than 8 feet and is at least 6 feet tall to block the window. I would like a native plant, one that will tolerate dry limestone filled soil. The tree would be located on the south side of our house. Thank you for your help.

ANSWER:

You probably would prefer something evergreen for this purpose, but we will also suggest some small deciduous trees that would make a lovely view out of your kitchen window, and in the winter, even the bare branches would block the view somewhat. We do want to caution you about roots and foundations. Even if you plant a small tree, you need to be aware that most of the roots will be in the upper 6 to 12 inches of soil, and can extend beyond the canopy (shadow line) of the tree. A smaller tree or shrub is not going to be much of a threat to your foundation, especially as long as you keep the soil around the foundation from settling by making sure it is kept moist during dry times. We would still suggest that you plant a shrub about 4 feet from your foundation, and a tree at least 6 feet. This will also keep the mature shrub or tree from being so close to your window that it has to be pruned back to keep it from banging on the side of the house. You didn't say, but we are assuming, since you plan to plant on the south side of your house, that it will get a fair amount of sun. We are going to go to our Recommended Species for Central Texas, and look for shrubs and trees that require sun (6 hours or more a day) to part sun (2 to 6 hours). Since they will be native to this area, they will already be adapted to our dry limestone filled soil, and require less water, fertilizer and maintenance.

Shrubs for Central Texas

Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) - evergreen

Rhus virens (evergreen sumac) - semi-evergreen

Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) - evergreen

Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) - evergreen

Small trees for Central Texas

Bauhinia lunarioides (Texasplume) - deciduous

Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud) - deciduous

Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) - deciduous

Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum) - deciduous


Ilex vomitoria

Rhus virens

Sophora secundiflora

Morella cerifera

Bauhinia lunarioides

Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Chilopsis linearis

Prunus mexicana

 

 

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