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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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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

QUESTION:

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 (

ANSWER:

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


Crossvine
Bignonia capreolata

Swamp leatherflower
Clematis crispa

Purple leatherflower
Clematis pitcheri

Coral honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens

Purple passionflower
Passiflora incarnata

Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia

American wisteria
Wisteria frutescens

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