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 - June 22, 2011

From: Arlington, VA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Need suggestions for plants for a privacy screen in Arlington, VA.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills


I am looking for a tall-growing tree/shrub to act as a privacy screen with neighbors on two existing borders, including, e.g., blocking out the neighbors tall swing set gym, deck, and other activity, which is only 10 feet from the back of our house. Due to the very small amount of yard space, I am looking for something that grows upright and is not wide.


You don’t mention your growth conditions or whether there is a fence on not, so let me introduce you to our Native Plant Database that can help with finding plants for particular situations. One way of using the Database is to go to the Recommended Species Lists. Click on View Recommended Species Page, and then click on Virginia on the map. This will bring up 122 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in Virginia. This is more information than you need, so go to the Narrow Your Search box to the right of the window and make the following selections: select Virginia under State, Shrub under habit, and Perennial under duration.  Click on the Narrow Your Search button and the list is reduced to 30. Clicking on the scientific name of each plant will bring up its NPIN page that has plant characteristics, growth requirements and photos. These can help you select plants whose growth requirements fit your growing situation.

You can control the height and width of your screen with careful pruning.

Another approach is to plant an evergreen vine on trellises. This time, use the Combination Search Box on the Native Plant Database page. It works similarly, so make the same selections as before, except select Vine instead of Shrub under habit, and click on the Submit Combination Search button. This brings up a list of 63 native species to choose from.

For help closer to home, you can contact the folks at the Arlington County office of Virginia Cooperative Extension.


More Privacy Screening Questions

Screen for utility box in Seabrook TX
February 21, 2011 - Utility box cover: Thinking of using star jasmine on a three sided fence/trellis. Each side 3 ft sq. I can send a picture. Not sure best fence style to use or way to plant. Suggestions? Need cove...
view the full question and answer

Plants for privacy hedge in North Las Vegas
October 29, 2007 - My lot is in North Las Vegas. Looking to plant something that will be a privacy hedge. Full sun with horrible soil. Local nursery suggested the following: Green Cloud and Gray Cloud Texas Sage, Feat...
view the full question and answer

Shrubs/ Trees for Privacy Screening on Cape Cod
April 17, 2012 - Hi, I need a recommendation for a row of trees/shrubs that I can put on my boundary line to block my neighbor. It's in a wooded area that I could thin somewhat. I would need them to be fast growing...
view the full question and answer

Plants for delineating property line
July 18, 2010 - I have a neighbor who does not mow his grass or take care of a strip that runs between my property and his. I would like to plant some inexpensive, low maintenance, shrubs, that would do well in full...
view the full question and answer

Screen plant for Austin
March 30, 2009 - I live in Austin Texas and am looking for a small tree or large shrub that will obscure the view from my kitchen window into my neighbors. I am looking for an evergreen plant that gets no wider than ...
view the full question and answer

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