En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - March 16, 2011

From: Arlington, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Need Fast-Growing Screening Shrub for Arlington, TX
Answered by: Marilyn Kircus


What fast growing shrub/tree could be planted along side a fence to provide additional privacy? We have a pool in our backyard and the view behind our house is less than enjoyable. We would like to block out the rear view of the neighboring house with something more soothing in appearance. Because of the pool we would like to find something that would remain green all year. Also, we have pets and young children close by. Is there such a thing?


I used the Recommended Species feature from our site and chose North Central Texas.  Then I narrowed the list to only shrubs or trees that grow 6 - 12 feet high and will grow in full sun in dry conditions. Then I selected the best (for you) of the lot.

Rhus aromatica (Fragrant sumac)  should fit the bill admirably.  It is fast growing, aromatic, with berries in the fall.  Fragrant sumac likes to make lots of root shoots and build a thicket and likes to grow in drifts in nature. If you plant them in staggered rows, eventually you will get "drifts" of them kind of like you get drifts of daffodils as they multiply out from the centers.  So you could plant it in two staggered rows and it should soon start making a thicket and give you a living screen that has aromatic flowers that attract butterflies, beautiful berries that feed birds in winter, and wonderful fall leaf color. It is also disease free.  The only drawback is that it is deciduous; but, if you plant it back from the fence in two staggered rows, it will still screen as it makes thickets of stems covered with berries. Plant it a little back from the fence so it has room to send up suckers and make a thicket without moving over to your neighbor's yard.

Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon) is another shrub/tree that I got when I asked for trees that are recommended for your area.  It comes in red berry and a yellow berry form.  It will form a dense hedge and is evergreen but is slow growing so you would have to spend a lot of money to get plants that are already big enough to make a statement. It has winter berries and birds love it for nests and the berries in winter. Only the females have berries but that is usually what you buy.  You have to have a male plant nearby to provide pollen to get the berries.

Rhus aromatica

Ilex vomitoria



More Privacy Screening Questions

May 01, 2015 - Greetings! I am hoping to gain privacy on a 30' swath with existing 6' privacy fence, I need about 14' of height to hide unsightly apartments. Location is full sun without a nearby spigot, I can ...
view the full question and answer

Need drought resistant screen at Lake Whitney, Texas
April 14, 2009 - Need drought tolerant shrub for use as screen at Lake Whitney. Will have to survive with little watering.
view the full question and answer

Pfluegerville Screening Hedge
May 25, 2014 - We live just north of Austin in a subdivision built on farm land so we have relatively flat land with good soil. We just put in a pool and are needing a privacy hedge along our 66 ft back fence. We ...
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

Evergreen sumacs for privacy along fence
August 02, 2014 - I would like to plant enough Evergreen Sumacs along our fence for privacy for the length of our backyard which is 60 ft. Fifteen feet on the left and right ends are shaded with the right side being d...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center