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
3 ratings

Tuesday - May 21, 2013

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, User Comments, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Native replacement for bamboo from Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I've read one reply where you do not advise using Bamboo as a privacy fence plant. What do you suggest in its place? The suggestions on the one I read will not work for me. Your suggestions were Myrtles, Texas Sage, etc. which are nice but the myrtle is to tree like and the sage is too bush like. I need something tall (>10'), fast growing, dense (


We are sorry, what you have described IS bamboo. Trees, native or not, are tree-like and shrubs are bush-like. There is no law saying you must grow natives; if there were, the courts would be packed all the time with offenders. All Mr. Smarty Plants can do is propose plants that are not injurious to the environment. We believe bamboo is injurious to the environment.

We did find one clumping bamboo referred to as Fargesia that is apparently not so invasive. It still is non-native and we know nothing more about it. From Wikipedia:

"Fargesia is a genus of flowering plants in the bamboo family Poaceae. They are medium to small mountain clumping bamboos, native to alpine conifer forests of East Asia, from China south to Vietnam and west to the eastern slopes of the Himalayas."

We don't think Houston's climate would be good for plants accustomed to alpine forests.

Beyond that, if your desire is for a privacy screen, how about a nice wooden fence? For color it could have some vines native to the Harris County area such as:

Bignonia capreolata (Crossvine)

Clematis crispa (Swamp leatherflower)

Clematis pitcheri (Purple clematis)

Lonicera sempervirens (Coral honeysuckle)

Passiflora incarnata (Purple passionflower)

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)

Wisteria frutescens (American wisteria)

Of course, you may not care for any of these; they are all rather vine-like.


From the Image Gallery

Bignonia capreolata

Swamp leatherflower
Clematis crispa

Purple clematis
Clematis pitcheri

Coral honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens

Purple passionflower
Passiflora incarnata

Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia

American wisteria
Wisteria frutescens

More Trees Questions

Weird growth on oaks in Middleburg FL
February 05, 2011 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants; I have this plant/fungus that grows on my trees here in northeast Florida & nobody has been able to identify it for me. It looks like a clump of pine needles growing on the ba...
view the full question and answer

Life expectancy of Desert Willow in Tucson, AZ
April 06, 2013 - What is the life expectancy of a Chilopsis linearis under ideal circumstances.
view the full question and answer

Privacy screen from Simpsonville SC
May 04, 2013 - My neighbor cut down his part of our shared woods so now we see his whole "outside patio area". What kinds of fast growing shade loving trees and shrubs can we plant on our property line that will c...
view the full question and answer

Failure to thrive of pecan trees in Las Vegas NV
October 11, 2009 - In April this year I purchased two 8-foot tall pecan trees in 3-foot square boxes from a local nursery and planted them here in Southern Nevada. I'm sure I dug a large enough hole to provide plenty ...
view the full question and answer

Living fence of native plants for Ojai, CA
September 20, 2008 - I would like to build a "green fence" about 10-15 feet tall. I live in Ojai, CA where we have VERY hot summers and it goes below freezing every winter. The soil does not seem to drain well..it is e...
view the full question and answer

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