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
1 rating

Tuesday - September 28, 2010

From: Berkeley, CA
Region: California
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Evergreen tree for California screen
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, I need a tree for screen and privacy. Our neighbors are building a second story. We will loose our privacy and our patio will be like a fish bowl. I will plant it about 2 feet from the fence at the property line. Our houses are close together here in the city. I would prefer a Evergreen or semi-deciduous, a tree with hardly any litter and pest free. The tree will be in full sun and clay soil. I need non invasive roots since it will be plated in my patio and not far from the foundation of my house. I need FAST GROWING with an Umbrella Shaped or rounded shape 25 ft spreading form and 25 ft high. The tree needs to be malleable to shape. I would like to plant asap. Please help. Thank you.


You are asking for a 'Magic" tree and I am afraid we don't perform magic, but we'll do the best we can.  All the small trees listed below are native to your part of California and are evergreen.  All of them will produce a moderate amount of litter of some sort—berries, acorns, or leaves.  Your best bet is to visit a park or a nursery that has the trees to observe the amount of litter. You can check our National Suppliers Directory to find nurseries in the Berkeley area that specialize in native plants.  The California Native Plant Society East Bay Chapter is having a plant sale in October that you might like to check out since they list some of the plants below for sale.

Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber (Birch-leaf mountain-mahogany) has a moderate growth rate of 8 to 20 feet and is evergreen.  Here is more information.

 Prunus ilicifolia (Hollyleaf cherry) is evergreen and grows rapidly to 40 feet once it is established.  Here is more information.

Umbellularia californica (California laurel begins growth slowly but once established grows rapidly to 40 feet.  Here is more information.

Torreya californica (California nutmeg) is slow-growing up to 50 feet.  Here is more information.

Quercus wislizeni (Interior live oak) is evergreen and grows slowly to 50 feet.  Here is more information.

Here are photos of three of the trees above from our Image Gallery:

Cercocarpus montanus var. glaber

Prunus ilicifolia ssp. lyonii

Umbellularia californica






More Privacy Screening Questions

Screening plants for Alaska
March 28, 2009 - Just purchased a house and want more privacy along the fence lines. Which plants would work well in the cold environment but provide privacy without taking over the yard.
view the full question and answer

Hiding a chicken house from Glen Rose TX
February 06, 2013 - To hide a chicken house, which do you recommend, crape myrtles or chinese photinias?
view the full question and answer

Arborvitae as privacy screen in Maine
November 17, 2006 - I want to plant privacy bushes (arborvitae shrubs) around my back yard. My husband built a wall to retain the soil behind it. My neighbors' yards abut mine. They have a fence, but not high enough to...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen pet-safe shrubs for house and screening in McKinney TX
April 15, 2010 - Looking for shrub, preferably evergreen, to plant near the house that can handle wet ground and is pet (dog, cat, horse) safe. The area became boggy after we had an underground water leak that is now ...
view the full question and answer

Fence Shrub for Sugarland, TX
June 08, 2015 - Hello I live in Sugar Land TX, I am looking for a fast growing shrub to plant along my six foot wood fence for a privacy screen. There is not a lot of room for them to grow in width but there is pl...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center