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
4 ratings

Tuesday - December 06, 2011

From: Sugar Land, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Poisonous Plants, Privacy Screening, Shrubs
Title: Fast-growing non-invasive shrub for privacy fence in Sugar Land TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in South Texas in Sugar Land. I was going to plant oleanders in my backyard along the fence as a privacy hedge, about 20 feet from my house. However, I was told they were a bad choice because the root system is invasive and will interfere with pipes. I chose oleanders because they grow quickly, but am thinking that Yaupon is a better choice, because of the taproot system. However, they don't grow as fast. Do you have any suggestions for a fast-growing privacy hedge with a taproot system?

ANSWER:

If we could begin with a question you didn't ask, there are other reasons not to use oleanders in a residential area, besides their invasiveness. First, the oleander is non-native to North America, and therefore not recommended by Mr. Smarty Plants. The most important fact about oleanders, at least to us, is not that they will damage the ecosystem, but that they will damage YOU. Please read this excerpt and follow the links to a previous Mr. Smarty Plants question:

"This article from Floridata will give you some information on Nerium oleander. Please be sure to read the Toxic warning at the bottom of the page. All parts of this plant are toxic, and it is not even safe to burn it, as the smoke retains the toxicity. It is native to North Africa. For more information on the toxicity, read this Howstuffworks.com article on The Top 5 Most Poisonous Plants."

We get a lot of requests for "taproot" trees and shrubs. From a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer:

"The gist of our argument is that any shrub or tree that grows very tall is going to need lots of space under ground (and not very far down from the surface) to gather sufficient nutrients from the soil, storing water and, perhaps most importantly, anchoring that shrub in the ground. You have heard the expression "top-heavy" we are sure; apply that to a large shrub and you can perhaps visualize a plant that topples in a wind or even if someone leans against it. And with an instinct for survival, woody plant roots stand up for themselves, or perhaps we should say "push up" because they will push up sidewalks and driveways, as well as crack foundations in search of water. We realize you are probably looking for privacy in a narrow area, so you need to think in terms of relatively small shrubs. We don't know how much space you have available or how far the trunk would be from pipes (septic system?) but you need to remember that roots are radiating out in all direction from that trunk for as much as 2 to 3 times the width of of the top of the plant."

Here are three shrubs native to your area that we think will work in your situation, all are evergreen and drought-resistant. Follow each plant link for propagation instructions, time and color of blooms and projected height:

Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon)

Leucophyllum frutescens (Cenizo)

Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita)

Now, IF you have septic lines in the area in question here are some tall native grasses that will at least break the sightline to help with the privacy issue. All are perennials.

Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana (Silver beard grass) 

Dasylirion texanum (Texas sotol)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Tridens flavus (Purpletop tridens)

All of our suggestions, in both groups, are native to your area.

 

 

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Cenizo
Leucophyllum frutescens

Agarita
Mahonia trifoliolata

Silver beard grass
Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana

Texas sotol
Dasylirion texanum

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Purpletop tridens
Tridens flavus

More Non-Natives Questions

Plants native to South Florida and the Caribbean
June 22, 2007 - What are the plants native to South Florida and the Caribbean?
view the full question and answer

Transplanting non-native mimosas in Braintree MA
August 10, 2010 - I want to transplant some baby mimosa trees. Have tried in past and they just die.
view the full question and answer

Non-native bamboo for a privacy fence in Smithville, TX
February 16, 2010 - I am considering planting bamboo along my privacy fence inside my back yard. I like the informality of it and durability. Is it safe for children and pets?
view the full question and answer

Yard Trees for Burleson, TX
July 24, 2011 - We need to replace 2 mature pear trees in our front yard, north side of the house in Burleson, TX. We are looking for faster growing trees that will last for decades that resist disease in clay soil....
view the full question and answer

Promoting bloom in Chocolate Summer Mimosa
January 11, 2008 - Please help! I purchased a Chocolate Summer Mimosa from one of our local nurseries. It was a brand new plant to them and they don't really know much about them. I planted it just 3 years ago as an...
view the full question and answer

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