Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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

Thursday - May 05, 2011

From: Washington, DC
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Shrubs for a screen in DC
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

Live in Washington DC vicinity (zones: 7-8). Looking for hardy shrubs to screen a 47 foot long picket fence and provide barrier to neighbor. It is western exposure with sun light. Ideally evergreen, drought resistant, moderate growth, and not susceptible to insect/ disease. Have considered Compacta Holly, Laurel and Euonymous. Any thoughts and suggestions would be appreciated. Many thanks in advance.

ANSWER:

It is a very long picket fence so I expect you would like to plant a mix of different plants. It is not always a good idea to plant a monoculture (many plants, all the same) as it creates an environment where insects and diseases can destroy the entire planting, under the right conditions.

We understand why you would like an evergreen, but there are none that are native to your area that will thrive in your conditions of sun and dry soil.  If you do a Combination Search of our Native Plant Database for DC and select: shrub/sun/dry soil and both 3-6ft & 6-12 ft sizes, it generates a list of 12 suitable shrubs, none of which are evergreen.  If you repeat the search selecting trees 6-12 ft, you get one more, Ilex verticillata (Common winterberry), which is actually a very large shrub anyhow.

So we recommend you consider a deciduous planting instead.  It will be interesting and attractive, easy to maintain and will offer flowers for you and habitat for birds (food and cover).  A few from that list we think you should consider are:

Physocarpus opulifolius (Atlantic ninebark) which is "tough as nails" and has attractive red seeds after the flower is spent

Rhus aromatica (Fragrant sumac) which produces bright red fuzzy berries on the female plants and has great fall color

Rosa setigera (Climbing prairie rose) which will produce a huge amount of blossoms when attached horizontally along the fence and produces bright red rose hips that birds love

Vaccinium corymbosum (Highbush blueberry) that will give you blueberries for your cereal if you get them before the birds do and also has wonderful red fall foliage

Viburnum acerifolium (Mapleleaf viburnum) which produces red to blue/black fruit and turns pink/burgundy in the fall

and of course

Ilex verticillata (Common winterberry) whose females produce red berries that persist along the bare arching stems well into winter and are great for holiday arrangements

Here are some photos from  our Image Gallery:


Physocarpus opulifolius


Physocarpus opulifolius


Rhus aromatica


Rhus aromatica


Rosa setigera


Rosa setigera


Vaccinium corymbosum


Vaccinium corymbosum


Viburnum acerifolium


Viburnum acerifolium


Ilex verticillata


Ilex verticillata

 

 

More Privacy Screening Questions

Screening plant for pool
June 16, 2008 - i am building a pool i have a neighbor whom im trying to shield out of seeing us. i would like to plant an evergreen tree the pool will be used year round. i need an evergreen that wont have an ov...
view the full question and answer

Need trees to screen view of parking garage in Houston, TX.
December 29, 2011 - We live in Houston, TX with a beautiful lot except a 4 story parking garage has been built behind us. How can we screen this and the lights out of site. It looks terrible from the second story espec...
view the full question and answer

Hedge in Desert Full Sun
March 25, 2012 - We want a short hedge, 2-3 ft tall, small leaves that fill in to full looking hedge. It is in Phoenix Arizona area and gets full sun all afternoon
view the full question and answer

Thorny plants for a security perimeter in Austin TX
October 16, 2013 - Hello, I am trying to establish a security perimeter around my property that incorporates thorny or otherwise deterrent shrubs and vines. Can you recommend some attractive native plants that would su...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for a barrier hedge
October 13, 2008 - Is there a native hedge I can plant to provide privacy? I have hostile neighbors behind me and would rather plant a hedge than put up a fence. I looked through the Virginia native species and didn'...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.