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

Tuesday - February 05, 2013

From: Sugar Land, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Privacy Screening, Cacti and Succulents, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Thorny shrub for deterring break-ins in southeast Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Looking for a very, very, thorny three or four foot tall shrub for in front of windows to deter break-ins. Considering Rosa Rugosa rose but it is not native.


Unfortunately, there aren't any roses native to your part of Texas, but I can offer a few prickly shrubs, trees and cactus bushes that are native to Fort Bend County or adjacent counties.


Erythrina herbacea (Coralbean) grows to 6 feet but usually dies back in winter (depending on the winter low temperature).  It's long branches are very thorny and would certainly discourage anyone trying to get past them.  It has beautiful red flowers in the spring.  Here are more photos and information from Aggie Horticulture, the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Texas and from the Florida Native Plant Society.

Ilex opaca (American holly) is evergreen and has very prickly leaves.  It is a slow grower but can reach heights of over 30 feet.  There are, however, dwarf cultivars (e.g., Ilex opaca 'Maryland Dwarf') that grow to only 3 or 4 feet high. 

Acacia schaffneri var. bravoensis (Huisachillo) grows 4 to 12 feet tall with thorny branches.  Here are more photos and information from Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension Center at Uvalde.


Aralia spinosa (Devil's walkingstick) can grow to 12 or 15 feet all in one season and dies back in the winter.   It has very prickly stems and leaves.  It really is a small tree rather than a shrub.  Here are more photos and information from Duke University.

Acacia farnesiana (Huisache) is really a small tree growing to over 15 feet.   It is semi-evergreen and has straight spines on stems.  Here is more information from University of Arizona Pima County Cooperative Extension.

Crataegus texana (Texas hawthorn) can grow to a height of 20 feet but is armed with 1 to 3-inch thorns.   Here is more information from Aggie Horticulture.


You might also consider cactus such as Cylindropuntia leptocaulis (Christmas cactus) or Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri (Texas pricklypear).  Both can grow as high as 5 feet and are certainly armed with impressive spines.


From the Image Gallery

Erythrina herbacea

American holly
Ilex opaca

Acacia schaffneri var. bravoensis

Devil's walking stick
Aralia spinosa

Acacia farnesiana

Texas hawthorn
Crataegus texana

Cylindropuntia leptocaulis

Texas prickly pear
Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri

More Privacy Screening Questions

Evergreen sumacs for privacy along fence
August 02, 2014 - I would like to plant enough Evergreen Sumacs along our fence for privacy for the length of our backyard which is 60 ft. Fifteen feet on the left and right ends are shaded with the right side being d...
view the full question and answer

Alternate native plants for bamboo as a privacy screen in Austin, TX.
July 26, 2011 - Can you recommend a bamboo that I can plant, acting as a privacy screen, reaching at least 10'-12'? We are looking for a bamboo that does not spread, and can take the afternoon sun. It will be pla...
view the full question and answer

Draought-tolerant screening shrub for Shasta County, California
July 08, 2015 - It has been suggested to me that I plant phodocarpus 'maki' along my fence for needed privacy due to it's dimensions. I need something that does not grow too wide. I would not be pruning them as I ...
view the full question and answer

Need evergreen hedge and groundcover for shade in Carmel, Indiana
September 27, 2010 - Our property is bounded by a fencerow that is wooded and mostly shaded by mulberry and hackberry trees during the growing months. We'd like to create a 5'+ tall evergreen barrier on the property li...
view the full question and answer

May 01, 2015 - Greetings! I am hoping to gain privacy on a 30' swath with existing 6' privacy fence, I need about 14' of height to hide unsightly apartments. Location is full sun without a nearby spigot, I can ...
view the full question and answer

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