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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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Tuesday - June 05, 2012

From: New River, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Privacy Screening, Shrubs
Title: Need suggestions for privacy hedge in New River, AZ.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Hi! I live on a acre that is fenced and cross-fenced with 6' chain link. I am desperate to find a drought tolerant, very low water, non-toxic, fast growing privacy hedge or vine that I can plant around my fenced perimeter. I'm in a wheelchair and cannot do a great deal of plant tending, nor can I afford a Gardner. I would just like to have some privacy since the area I came to 25 years ago is now being over-run with clueless, non desert dwellers. Thanks for your help.

ANSWER:

Well, we might be able to do drought tolerant and non-toxic, but fast growing in Arizona may be a stretch.
Lets start by going to  the Native Plant Database and use the Combination Search option. Select Arizona under State, shrub under General Appearance, and perennial under Lifespan. Check  sun under Light Requirement, and dry under Soil Moisture. Click the Narrow your Search button and you get 76 species that meet these criteria. Clicking on the scientific name of each species will bring up its NPIN page that contains the characteristics of the plant, its growth requirements and, in most cases, photos. As you go through the list, try to look for  plants that match your growing conditions.

Here are a few that could be possibilities

Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita)

Rhus virens (Evergreen sumac)

Ceanothus greggii (Desert ceanothus)

Cercocarpus montanus (Alderleaf mountain mahogany)

You are undertaking an extremely ambitious project! The perimeter of an acre is 832 ft if it is a square. Other shapes would increase that number. You are going to need some help; maybe this could turn into a Boy Scout project. I would suggest contacting the folks at the Maricopa County office of Arizona State University Extension who can put you in touch with groups that may help you with this, and can certainly give you advice about which plants to use.

 

From the Image Gallery


Agarita
Mahonia trifoliolata

Evergreen sumac
Rhus virens

Desert ceanothus
Ceanothus greggii

Alderleaf mountain mahogany
Cercocarpus montanus

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