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
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

QUESTION:

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.

ANSWER:

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.

SHRUBS:

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.

 SMALL TREES:

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.

CACTUS:

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


Coralbean
Erythrina herbacea

American holly
Ilex opaca

Huisachillo
Vachellia bravoensis

Devil's walking stick
Aralia spinosa

Huisache
Vachellia farnesiana

Texas hawthorn
Crataegus texana

Tasajillo
Cylindropuntia leptocaulis

Texas prickly pear
Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri

More Shrubs Questions

Propagation of blackberry from Williamsport PA
January 18, 2014 - I have been told that if you cut a branch off of a black berry bush and stick it in water for a few days, and then put it in the ground it will grow into another bush. Please tell me if this is true a...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a creek bank in Northern Illinois
March 26, 2009 - Hello. I live in Northern Illinois. The creek (northern exposure in a wooded area) on the back of my property has bare muddy banks and is subject to seasonal floods. I want to plant something hardy t...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for gravesite in North Central Massachusetts
May 18, 2008 - I live in North Central Mass. Would like to plant something on my parents gravesite that would not be invasive or require a lot of care. Any suggestions? I just took 2 shrubs out that had become way...
view the full question and answer

Shrubs for North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
March 19, 2010 - What shrubs can I plant on the west-facing side of my home? The way the house sits, these shrubs will only get 2-3 hours of sun, but those 2-3 hours are end-of-the-day hot! Thanks!!
view the full question and answer

Lantanas with brown leaves
December 18, 2008 - I have several lantana plants here in Austin, TX. They did extremely well all summer long up until our first freeze. It looks like they have all died. Are they just dormant or are they dead? Their lea...
view the full question and answer

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