En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - June 24, 2012

From: Boones Mill, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Privacy Screening, Shade Tolerant
Title: Evergreens for privacy in VA
Answered by: Anne Bossart


I need fast growing evergreens or large shrubs, flowering or non-flowering, for privacy. They will need to flourish among large oak and hickory trees that are 75 plus years old. We don't want to damage established tree root systems, which may or may not be a problem. There is little to no direct sun due to the trees. We live in Roanoke, Virginia.


I imagine that you already suspect that your situation is difficult and your choices limited.

As a matter of fact, when you consider all the variables, the only evergreen that will grow in dry shade to a height of more than six feet and is native to your area is Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon).  If you are willing to give the plants supplemental water you can add Ilex glabra (Inkberry) and Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle) to the list.  They are all plants that are commonly used for screening and could do the job for you.  It is unlikely that they will grow quickly, though, as life is not easy in the soil between the roots of 75 year old trees.

It is impossible for us to make a recommendation about a situation we cannot actually see, but you may need to look at alternative ways to create the privacy you need.  A landscape designer may have suggestions of how to combine sections of fence and plant groupings in strategic locations to avoid planting directly below those grand old trees.


From the Image Gallery

Ilex vomitoria

Ilex glabra

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Will Texas kidneywood grow in dappled shade?
December 09, 2008 - Will Texas Kidneywood be successful as an understory plant in dappled shade? There is a location near the house, under a small grove of established live oaks and cedar elms, that needs an airy screen...
view the full question and answer

Straggler daisy as a ground cover in Florida
April 21, 2015 - I live in Hillsborough county,FL. My yard has two large oak trees and is very shady. I am looking for a shade resistant ground cover that will do well for a yard used by children to play. I was told...
view the full question and answer

Will Thunder Turf do well in shade from Iola TX
June 23, 2010 - Will the Thunder Turf do well in shady areas or is there a better blend of native grasses that would thrive better?
view the full question and answer

Native groundcovers for bare, shady space in Oklahoma
August 22, 2008 - I have recently acquired a new residence that has very little lawn to speak of. The backyard is in an unfortunate position to catch significant amounts of rainwater from nearby yards, and is sloped. ...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for shade in Paris, Texas
November 02, 2009 - I have a south exposure with 2 large sycamore trees. Noon sun in patches and mainly dappled shade but not dense. I'm consideering planting asian ivy. The soil is "sandy loam" but it's very sand...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center