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Mr. Smarty Plants - Privacy screening from Phoenix AZ

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Sunday - April 14, 2013

From: Phoenix, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Privacy Screening, Shade Tolerant, Trees
Title: Privacy screening from Phoenix AZ
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in the center of Phoenix, Az. On the eastern side of my house we have some 2 story condos next door. The width of the side yard is about 12'-15' and it gets lots of shade. I also have my power line on that side about 8' from the block wall. I am looking for something to plant that would shield my yard from the condos. I would plant it about 2'-3' from the block wall. I am thinking of italian cypress as planting 3' apart would make a nice screen but I'm concerned about too much shade. Oleanders are way too messy and I don't want something I have to trim since it will be close to the wall and I won't have access to the condo side of the wall. I thought about ficus but have seen too many get killed by the very cold temps we have had the last 3 winters. It has got down to mid to high 20's. I am befuddled over this dilemma and would appreciate any suggestions

ANSWER:

First, a word from our sponsor. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is committed to the growth, propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants grow naturally; in your case, Maricopa County AZ.

Cupressus sempervivens, Italian Cypress, is native to the eastern Meditteranean area. 

Nerium oleander is native to southeastern Asia. WARNING: Oleander is toxic -- do not ingest. Contact with skin may cause reaction. Avoid smoke when burning cuttings. Do not use in playgrounds or other areas frequented by young children and pets. 

Ficus benjamina, fig tree, is native to the tropics, southwest Asia and the Meditteranean area. The plant sap from all areas is toxic.  

Now that we have warned you off some of your ideas, lets talk about a couple of your concerns. You want screening from a 2-story building that towers over you, so one would think of a nice tall tree. Unfortunately, it will take a while for that tree to get tall enough, and by then it will be into the power lines. Let us suggest an alternative way of looking at separating yourself from that condo next door. From a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on privacy screening:

"First off, we're not satisfied with the word "hedge." That always brings to mind something squared-off and boxy looking, and somewhat unnatural. How about calling it a "linear grove"? (We just made that up.) We have in mind several shrubs we can recommend for your purposes, all evergreen, but they are not all going to grow uniformly, especially when they transition from sun to shade. You'd probably be happier leaving them casual and mostly untrimmed, because if they manage to get up to 15' tall, it's going to be a challenge to prune them back and keep them out of the power lines. Also, you can mix your choices according to the amount of sun or shade each area receives and each plant requires."

First, go out and survey the area for sunlight. We consider "sun" to be 6 hours or more of sun a day, "part shade" 2 to 6 hours of sun and "shade" 2 hours or less of sun.

We will go to our Recommended Species page, click on Arizona on the map and find a list of 224 plants recommended for your state. Using the right-hand sidebar on that page, we will sort on Arizona for the State, "shrub" for Habit and 6-12 ft. for size range. You can repeat the search with "tree" for Habit and different size ranges, and also the Light Requirements you have discovered for the area. This is just an example to show you how to use the database. If you rethink your requirements for total screening, you will see that a mixed planting between the two different size buildings will distract the eye and differentiate the two structures. These examples are almost all evergreen and all are native to Maricopa County so they will be adapted to your weather changes. Follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to discover its growing conditons, water and sun needs, soil preferences, etc.

Acacia constricta (Whitethorn acacia)

Artemisia tridentata (Big sagebrush)

Dodonaea viscosa (Florida hopbush)

Fremontodendron californicum (California flannelbush)

Justicia californica (Beloperone)

Mahonia haematocarpa (Red barberry)

 

From the Image Gallery


Whitethorn acacia
Acacia constricta

Big sagebrush
Artemisia tridentata

Florida hopbush
Dodonaea viscosa

California flannelbush
Fremontodendron californicum

Beloperone
Justicia californica

Red barberry
Mahonia haematocarpa

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