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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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Thursday - May 13, 2010

From: Guerneville, CA
Region: California
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Evergreen drought-tolerant screening plant for shade
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I am renting my place and looking for a screening, green all year, native plant or shrub. I plan to grow it in large planters along my street and to create privacy in my back yard. It has to be a non-allergy, fast growing, drought tolerant species! Shaded by 2 huge redwood trees 10 feet from either side, The space is 15 feet tall and 10 ft long, and 4 feet deep, nestled between overgrown shrubberies flanking the space. Its an old driveway entry which is grassed over and gated looks just like the fence. We want to be able to move the plant if we ever have to open the gate again, but at the moment we don't care to use it. We live in Sonoma County, CA in Guerneville, 10 minutes to the beach. At the top of the hill with brighter sun than most, I guess it's partial shade with dappled sunlight and full sun.

ANSWER:

That's a very big order—evergreen, drought- and shade-tolerant plant that is fast-growing and non-allergenic to be grown in large planters!  But, let's start by looking at our California-Northern Recommended plant list.  Here are a few possibilities that are native to Sonoma County:

Ceanothus velutinus (snowbrush ceanothus) grows 3 to 5 feet high in dry soils and has fast growth.  According to PollenLibrary.com this is mildly allergenic.

Heteromeles arbutifolia (toyon) grows 6-8 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide and drought tolerant, fast growth rate.  Here is more information.  This plant is on the San Diego Regional Asthma Coalition Allergy Plant and Tree List.

Polystichum munitum (western swordfern) grows 3-5 feet high and is drought tolerant.  Here is more information.  May be very mildly allergenic.

Rhamnus crocea (redberry buckthorn) grows 2-3 feet high and grows in dry soils, moderate growth rate.  Here is more information.  No information indicating that this plant causes allergies.

Rhododendron macrophyllum (Pacific rhododendron) 5 to 25 feet and grows in dry soils, but may require some moisture.   Here is more information.  According to PollenLibrary.com the pollen from this plant does not cause allergies.

Here are photos from our Image Gallery:


Ceanothus velutinus

Heteromeles arbutifolia

Polystichum munitum

Rhamnus crocea

Rhododendron macrophyllum

 

 

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