En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - May 11, 2010

From: Cumming, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Evergreen shrubs or small trees for privacy in Cumming GA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have a eight foot fence in my back yard. My back yard is full of trees and is very shady in the late spring and summer months and in the winter when the leaves fall is very bare. I am looking for some way to screen out my neighbors as when you are in the house you can look out the windows and it feels like my neighbors are living in my house. Can you suggest a tree that would grow very quickly? I put in some Leyland Cyprus but I am afraid they will not get enough sun during the growing season. Also considered Bamboo..but the bamboo may go through the fence on the other side unless I buy the clumped variety and then I would have to buy a whole lot of them. Or thought of a evergreen vine that I would grow along the fence but would require some lattice on top of the fence to grow to a much higher height than the fence. Securing this might be an issue from blowing down from the wind. I am in zone 7. Thanks so much for any suggestions.


From About.com: Forestry Reconsider Planting Leyland Cypress in Your Yard, we extracted the following information:

"This rapidly-growing tree quickly outgrows its space in a typical yard unless properly and regularly trimmed. Leyland cypress only lives for twenty to twenty-five years. I've found that trees left to grow large may have limited root support and are the first to blow down during high winds. You should consider the work needed to maintain a Leyland cypress before planting."

Having said that, and admitting that the Leyland Cypress is a non-native hybrid and has some disadvantages, we don't know that we would cut down and take away already established trees, especially if they are where you think they will do the job you need done. It does need full sun, and requires a great deal of maintenance to keep it in check. If you don't have full sun for the trees to grow in nor the gardening energy to keep it pruned and under control, then you had probably better replace them with something else.

In terms of using bamboo, please don't do that. It is non-native, fast growing and predatory. It will take over your garden, your neighbors' gardens and your life if you are not careful. See this article from eHow on How to Get Rid of Bamboo. Our suggestion for getting rid of it is-don't plant it!

We are trying to visualize your situation; you say your yard has lots of trees and is very shady in warm weather, giving you the privacy from near neighbors that you desire. So the problem would seem to be, gaining that privacy in winter when the other trees are bare. You don't really need a hedge, and you already have 8 ft. of fence, so you need to survey exactly where the "holes" in the privacy are in the winter. A vigorous shrub or small tree, trimmed up as it grows into tree shape, would surmount the fence with a green crown, without crowding the other trees lower. This doesn't happen overnight, however, and in the meantime, that shrub/tree is going to need at least some sunshine and room to grow. If, for instance, you position such a plant closer to windows in your house, that will more readily close off your view of your neighbor's windows, and vice versa. We will look in our Native Plant Database for some trees or shrubs native to Georgia that we think might work for you. Follow each plant link to the page on that plant in our Native Plant Database to learn other characteristics and care.

Evergreen Shrubs or Small Trees for Cumming GA:

Ilex opaca (American holly) and Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) - both of these shrubs/small trees can grow in sun, part shade or shade, are evergreen and can make attractive dense-canopied trees

Magnolia virginiana (sweetbay) - part shade, relatively fast-growing, is considered semi-evergreen but would probably be evergreen in Zone 7, north central Georgia

Prunus caroliniana (Carolina laurelcherry) sun or part shade, 15 to 20 ft., seeds, twigs and leaves all poisonous so not appropriate for garden accessible by children or pets

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Ilex opaca

Ilex vomitoria

Magnolia virginiana

Prunus caroliniana




More Shrubs Questions

Non-native lilacs for Salt Lake City, UT
April 15, 2012 - Is the weather in Salt Lake City UT good enough to plant a lilac bush root? If not, how long should I wait?
view the full question and answer

Growing Evergreen sumac in clay soil of Texas
August 19, 2011 - I'm in need of a fast growing evergreen screening shrub/small tree. I'm considering the Evergreen Sumac but before I go further I need to know if this plant will thrive and remain evergreen in the D...
view the full question and answer

Sprouts at base of holly in Surprise AZ
November 15, 2010 - Friends have recently planted a holly tree in their front yard. They live in AZ and there is no grass (only rock) around their tree. It was planted as a fairly large tree (about 18 feet).My question i...
view the full question and answer

Montana native plants to create a garden with edible plants
January 14, 2013 - Hi Smarty Plants We are looking to create a native herb, vegetable, root, fruit, flower and ground cover garden for the area of Hot Springs, Sanders County, Montana. Our zone is 4 and soil is mostly ...
view the full question and answer

Failure of highbush blueberry plant to produce in New Hampshire
July 25, 2008 - One of my highbush blueberry plants completely stopped producing. What can I do to revive it?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center