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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - February 15, 2010

From: Moscow, ID
Region: Midwest
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Privacy screen in Idaho
Answered by: Anne Bossart


Hello Mr. Smarty Plants, I need to add privacy to a chain link fence. The fence is shaded by large trees.They add shade from up high but little privacy at fence level.What would you recommend I plant to cover my fence.I am open to anything, vine, shrub, whatever will give privacy and grow well in the shade. I live in North Idaho, we have fairly cold Winters and hot Summers.Thank you for your help!


This is a bit of a challenge as you are dealing with two issues: shade and dry soil.  Large shade trees are a huge asset but they can out-compete grass and other plants a gardener would like growing underneath them. It can be tough to get plants established in these conditions but not impossible.  You will have to hand water them until they are well established and keep an eye on them in drought conditions.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the promotion of native plants and landscapes.  That means that we can only recommend plants to you that are native to your area.  If you visiit our Native Plant database and do a Combination Search by selecting Idaho and then "dry" and "shade" conditions you will see that the choices are somewhat limited.  You are hoping to cover a fence and provide some privacy, so you are probably looking for evergreens to fit the bill, but you will see there is only one.

Ultimately, your choices will be limited by the selection of plants available in your local nurseries, but here are a few plants we have selected from the list.


Amelanchier alnifolia (Saskatoon serviceberry)

Mahonia aquifolium (hollyleaved barberry)

Rhus glabra (smooth sumac)

Rosa nutkana (Nootka rose)

Symphoricarpos albus (common snowberry)

You will have difficulty finding a vine (except poison ivy!) that will grow in these conditions but if you have at least two hours of sunlight you might look for these.


Clematis columbiana (rock clematis)

Parthenocissus vitacea (woodbine)


Amelanchier alnifolia

Mahonia aquifolium

Rhus glabra

Rosa nutkana

Symphoricarpos albus

Clematis columbiana




More Privacy Screening Questions

Evergreen for privacy screen in Virginia
December 02, 2008 - Last year we lost a large pine that was part of privacy screen and we replaced it with two Eastern red cedars. There is still a substantial gap that won't be filled in by the cedars and we were cons...
view the full question and answer

Hedge to cover chain link fence
September 04, 2010 - Hi, I would like to hide 250 feet of 6' tall chain link fence on a western facing, sloped, very rocky soiled back yard I had to use a jack hammer to dig the holes. Esthetically I would like to be abl...
view the full question and answer

Trees for privacy screen in California
May 31, 2013 - Hi Mr. Smartypants, We are first-time home-buyers of a cute little house and a relatively large lot in Pacific Grove, CA. Unfortunately the neighbors to the north have built a second story with a nic...
view the full question and answer

Plant for privacy hedge in Oklahoma that is not poisonous to dogs
April 01, 2012 - Hello! I am looking to put a privacy hedge fence in my yard. I love the look of American Holly, however, I have a dog who eats everything so I worry that this will not be a wise choice with the b...
view the full question and answer

Tree for screening along road
August 20, 2008 - What would you recommend for a linear tree lined street that needs to act as a buffer to hide less desirable backyards of ugly houses. The road is on lake travis near austin, texas. was hoping for a...
view the full question and answer

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