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Thursday - April 09, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant, Shrubs
Title: Hedge for Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Hi. I live in West Austin and am having trouble finding plants for our heavily shaded yard (thanks to our beautiful large live oaks). I love glossy, dark green leaves and big flowers. I love the camellias, but heard they don't do well here in Austin. What about Cleyera? I would love a nice dark green glossy hedge, preferably with some large flowers; but one that would do well without much maintenance here in Austin.


The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower is dedicated to the care, preservation and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plant is being grown. A plant already accustomed to an area's climate, rainfall and soil will be much more likely to prosper with less water, fertilizer and maintenance. 

Camelia sinensis, is native to China and India. This USDA Plant Profile Map shows it growing only in southeastern coastal states in the United States. Did you know that tea is made from the leaves and buds of this plant? Ternstroemia gymnanthera (Cleyera) is native to China and Japan, has been naturalized in the Southern U.S. and other semi-tropical climates. Both of these plants like moist, acidic soil, which doesn't sound much like Austin's dry, alkaline soil, does it?

To be honest, there really aren't any native shrubs that fit your ideal hedge description. Plants in Central Texas are conditioned to be tougher, with smaller leaves to avoid losing too much precious moisture, and usually small blooms. Further, it's going to be a real challenge to get much of anything to grow in that much shade, especially under live oaks, which are known to produce toxins to discourage competitive plants beneath them, in a process called allelopathy.  

Magnolia grandiflora (southern magnolia) is native to Texas, has dark, glossy green leaves, big, white fragrant blossoms, and fits your specifications. Of course, it grows from 50 to 100 feet tall, is fairly fast growing, and is not recommended for Central Texas, again, because of its need for moist, acid soil. And the magnolias are even worse than oaks about not letting anything grow under them, and casting deep shade. 

We're going to go to our Native Plant Database, and try to find some shrubs that would make nice, evergreen hedges that would do well in Central Texas. Not knowing the exact layout of your yard, some of these shrubs may need more sun that you have, so we will note the light requirements of each. We consider "shade" to be less than 2 hours a day of sun, "part shade" to be 2 to 6 hours of sun a day, and "sun" 6 or more hours of sun. Follow the plant links to each plant's individual page and learn their expected height, culture, etc. These plants are all commercially available and belong in Central Texas.

Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) - 12 to 25 ft. tall, part shade

Leucophyllum frutescens (Texas barometer bush) - 2 to 8 ft. tall, sun, part shade

Rhus virens (evergreen sumac) - 8 to 12 ft. tall, sun, part shade

Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) - 6 to 12 ft. tall, sun, part shade

Ilex vomitoria

Leucophyllum frutescens

Rhus virens

Morella cerifera



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