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 - March 23, 2011

From: Garrison, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Trees for privacy and filtering dust in NY
Answered by: Anne Bossart


I live on a very busy, DUSTY, dirt road in Putnam County NY. (zip code 10524) What is the best, fast growing evergreen that I can use for dust control and privacy? I would prefer something that requires little or no maintenance and can hold up being planted very close to the road. My house is about 25 feet from the road. I would like to be able to open my front windows without road dust blowing in!!! Thank You!!


Are you sure you want an evergreen?

Fast growing is always a challenge as most fast growing plants don't live long and most evergreens will grow to be very large at the base, ultimately eating up much of the space between your house and the road or encroaching on the road allowance and any overhead power/telephone lines.  Many evergreens are not tolerant of winter road salt either.

So the only evergreen suggestion we could make would be Thuja occidentalis (Arborvitae) which is commonly known as cedar in the north.  The plants can be inexpensively obtained and planted close enough together to create a hedge that could be kept pruned.  If you have deer in your area, though, they will eat it bare as high as they can reach.

Seeing as how dust and privacy are not as much of a priority in the wintertime, why don't you consider multi-stemmed small deciduous trees or large shrubs?  Their branch structure and leaves would give you the privacy and dust (and noise) reduction you seek in the summertime.  They also could be planted in a more imaginative way than a green wall and could provide the added benefits of flowers for you and fruit for the birds.  Plus, you get a fresh set of leaves every spring!

Here are some small trees to consider:

Amelanchier laevis (Allegheny service-berry)

Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud)

Cornus drummondii (Roughleaf dogwood)

Rhus typhina (Staghorn sumac)

Sassafras albidum (Sassafras)

and some large shrubs:

Calycanthus floridus (Eastern sweetshrub)

Clethra alnifolia (Coastal sweet pepperbush)

Ilex glabra (Inkberry)

Physocarpus opulifolius (Atlantic ninebark)

Viburnum dentatum (Southern arrowwood)

Viburnum opulus var. americanum (American cranberry bush)

Using a combination of these plants you could have a "hedgerow" with flowers in spring and summer, fall colour, summer fragrance and the wildlife benefits of cover and food.  Plus it would meet the practical requirements of your situation.

Amelanchier laevis

Cercis canadensis

Cornus drummondii

Rhus typhina

Sassafras albidum

Calycanthus floridus

Clethra alnifolia

Ilex glabra

Physocarpus opulifolius

Viburnum dentatum

Viburnum opulus var. americanum





More Trees Questions

Privacy Screen for Heavy Clay and Full Sun in Louisiana
April 19, 2013 - What would be a fast-growing plant for privacy in Louisiana? I have heavy clay and full sun.
view the full question and answer

Tulip tree with white spots on leaves in Mississippi
July 31, 2008 - I have a tulip tree in my yard that blooms in the spring that is about 10-15 years old. However just this past week or so we have noticed that there is lots of white spots on the leaves and the branc...
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

Texas native peach from Elmendorf TX
January 30, 2013 - Does Texas have a native peach tree that grows wild?
view the full question and answer

Need help with a fungal disease in oak trees in Austin, TX
April 26, 2012 - Two adjacent oak trees in my yard are showing distinct symptoms of Sudden Oak Death. Most notably, the lowest ten feet of their trunks have several bleeding cankers with thick, tarry ooze and no accom...
view the full question and answer

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