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Monday - February 15, 2010

From: Marble Falls, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Screen plants to replace non-native Chinese raintrees in Marble Falls, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Five four year old Koelreuteria bipinnata (Chinese Rain) trees were mistakenly cut to the ground. They were planted fairly close together, perhaps ten feet apart. The purpose for them was to provide a screen. Can they be left to resprout for the roots, and will they achieve the purpose of the screen in an attractive manner? Or would it be better to grind them out and start over. They were planted in a line in an orchard, and I believe they might also be a huge water hog and that Basham Party Pink or other large crepe myrtle might be a better choice in the long run. So two questions here..Much appreciate your help!


Koelreuteria bipinnata, Chinese Rain Tree, is native to China, and therefore out of our range of expertise at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  We are dedicated to the use, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. Under the same genus and species name, this article on Chinese Flame Tree from Henderson State University refers to it as invasive, and with a tendency to fill whole areas with a thicket-like tangle. In a warm winter climate, it may reseed and become invasive. We're not going to say that we are glad the trees got cut down, because that was a waste of resources, but we would certainly recommend that you take this opportunity to get the roots and any sprouts or seedlings that might have appeared out now, and replace them with trees native to Central Texas. 

In the same vein, although there is Malpighia glabra (wild crapemyrtle) endemic to Texas, the crapemyrtles you are referring to are hybrids of crosses between Lagerstroemia indica (from China) and Lagerstroemia faurei (from Japan). These trees are subject to disease and mildew, as well as  numerous insect pests, especially aphids. Since they are not evergreen, they are not as useful as a screen.

There are several shrubs and small trees native to Central Texas, some of which are evergreen, that will make good screens. They might not be as spectacular as your other choices, but should be a lot less trouble and much better for your purpose. A plant native to an area is conditioned by millennia of experience to deal with the climate of the area, resist disease and get by on the rain and soil that is available. Follow each plant link below to our webpage on that plant to learn more about its growth requirements.

Eysenhardtia texana (Texas kidneywood) - deciduous, 3 to 10 ft. tall, blooms white May to October, low water use, sun

Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) - evergreen, 12 to 25 ft., blooms white April and May, low water use, sun, part shade or shade

Leucophyllum frutescens (Texas barometer bush) - evergreen, 2 to 8 ft. tall, blooms white, pink, purple intermittently January to December, low water use, sun or part shade

Mahonia swaseyi (Texas barberry) - evergreen, 3 to 6 ft. tall, blooms yellow February to April, sun

Rhus virens (evergreen sumac) - evergreen, 8 to 12 ft., blooms white, yellow July and August, low water use, sun or part shade

Senna lindheimeriana (velvet leaf senna) - deciduous, 3 to 6 ft., blooms yellow August to October, sun or part shade

Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) - evergreen, 10 to 15 ft., blooms blue, purple February and March, low water use, sun or part shade

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Eysenhardtia texana

Ilex vomitoria

Leucophyllum frutescens

Mahonia swaseyi

Rhus virens

Senna lindheimeriana

Sophora secundiflora




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