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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - April 20, 2012

From: Thomasville, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Drought Tolerant, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Need a drought resistant, maintenance free tree in Thomasville, GA.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I have been through many tree forums and asked several nurseries about a good tree to plant but nobody has provided an adequate answer and I hope you can help. I live in SW Georgia (Zone 8) and need a noise barrier/privacy fence between the house and road. Because there isn't a lot of space between the house and road, it can't have that much spread and it is near the powerline so it can't be too tall either. I need something that doesn't need maintenance and is drought resistant as well. A tree that has 8' spread at most, 15-10 feet tall, provide adequate privacy and noise barrier, drought resistant and doesn't need maintenance. please help, thanks!

ANSWER:


It sounds to Mr. Smarty Plants that you are wanting shrubs to make a privacy hedge/noise barrier rather than a single tree. Let me introduce you to our Native Plant Database that can help with finding plants for this particular situation. This Database  contains 7,161 plants that are searchable by scientific name or common name.

One way of using the Database is to go to the Recommended Species Lists. Click on View Recommended Species Page, and then click on Georgia on the map. This will bring up 261 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in Georgia. This is more information than you need right now, so go to the Narrow Your Search box on the right of the window and make the following selections: select Georgia under State, Shrub under habit, and Perennial under duration. Check Sun under Light Requirement and Moist under Soil Moisture. Click on the Narrow Your Search button and the list is reduced to 18. 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 suitable for your location. Another approach is to use the Combination Search Box on the Database page. It works similarly, so make the same selections as before and click on the Submit Combination Search button.

What you need is a shrub that is evergreen (does not lose it’s leaves in the Fall), that can grow 6 -15 feet tall. It will have a similar spread. You didn’t mention the length of barrier that you want, but planting the shrubs in a row about 6 feet apart will allow the shrubs to fill in nicely.

Here are three plants that might fit the bill.


Ilex glabra (Inkberry) - 6 to 12 feet in height and spread 

Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon) - 12 to 25 feet in height

Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle)- 6 to 12 feet in height and spread, fragrant foliage, attracts a number of birds

Here is the part you are not going to like: if you are going to put these plants in your landscape and expect them to function as a privacy/noise barrier, there is going to be some maintenance involved. This link to the University of Rhode Island has a good description of the ins and outs of pruning.

 

From the Image Gallery


Inkberry
Ilex glabra

Yaupon
Ilex vomitoria

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

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