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

Wednesday - May 19, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Plants for privacy shield in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We are looking for a tall hedge on the lot line between us and our neighbors. Thinking Prunus caroliniana (Carolina laurelcherry) would be a good choice. Question: how close should we plant them together to get both good privacy and healthy growth? Also thinking about tall Italian Blue Cypress. Same question: How close can we plant them together?


Starting with the last question first, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the use, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North Amerca but to the area in which the plants are being grown. Cupressus sempervirens, Italian Blue Cypress, is native to Africa, Temperate Asia (including, of course, Cyprus) and Greece. Here is an extract from a USDA Forest Service website Cupressus Sempervirens:

"Italian Cypress is often used for framing, as a strong accent around large buildings, or in the formal landscape but does not lend itself well to many home landscapes. It quickly grows much too tall for most residential landscapes, looking much like a green telephone pole." The article also says that if they are planted 3 ft. apart, they make a dense screen.

Going back to a native plant, Prunus caroliniana (Carolina laurelcherry), we have another quotation, this time from a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer:

"Although a little west of its eastern limit, Prunus caroliniana (Carolina laurelcherry) would be a good choice for a small evergreen tree in your landscape. You might also consider Ilex vomitoria (yaupon)." 

As a general rule, the diameter of a shrub is about equal to the height of the shrub. In other words, if you have a six-foot tall shrub, it should spread about three feet in every direction for a total of 6 feet in diameter. So, if you want a screen effect, a distance of 5 to 6 ft., trunk to trunk would allow the outer tips of the shrubs to mesh. You can plant them closer if you wish, but they would begin to shade each other, and the interiors of the plants would become scraggly and less of a screen. 

Pictures of Cupressus sempervirens from Google

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Prunus caroliniana

Prunus caroliniana

Ilex vomitoria

Ilex vomitoria






More Privacy Screening Questions

Privacy screen from Simpsonville SC
May 04, 2013 - My neighbor cut down his part of our shared woods so now we see his whole "outside patio area". What kinds of fast growing shade loving trees and shrubs can we plant on our property line that will c...
view the full question and answer

Deer-resistant screening tree/shrub
April 17, 2008 - Can you recommend a deer resistant screening tree/shrub? We would like to use privet but are not sure which variety or if the deer will really stay off it, we've had conflicting views! We live on th...
view the full question and answer

Decorative Trees for Scenic Bench in Fairhope IL
June 10, 2012 - I am looking for a recommendation for a pair of small trees (does not grow taller than 18-20 feet) that can provide shade on either side of a stone bench. The site is in full sun, western exposure an...
view the full question and answer

Fast-growing evergreen shrub/tree as a screening fence
January 25, 2008 - Our commercially-zoned property is adjacent to a residential area. The city planning and zoning board has said okay to a vegetation boundary instead of a fence for blocking headlights. The requireme...
view the full question and answer

Need suggestions for plants to form a privacy hedge in Austin, TX.
April 14, 2011 - I live on a corner lot with the backyard facing a busy street. My lot is 4 feet lower than street level. I am looking for a privacy screen to plant along this North facing side. I have a canopy of ...
view the full question and answer

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