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

Wednesday - June 26, 2013

From: Winston-Salem, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Privacy Screening, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Privacy Screening of House Next Door in NC
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


Hello, I live in the house my parents bought in 1971 in Winston-Salem, NC. The house beside me is an eyesore and for sale at a very low price. I am afraid the condition of the house and yard next door will continue to deteriorate or I may end up with undesirable neighbors. I need to put up a privacy screen between my driveway and the yard next door ASAP (hopefully before the house next door sells). What kind of tree or bush grows best for my area, hopefully something fast growing that will provide a good privacy screen? The area is in partial sun.


The first place to go to find a list of potential plants for your privacy screen is our Native Plant Database.  Use the Combination Search feature instead of Recommended Species. This will provide a bigger selection with much more choice to narrow down. The volunteers and staff at the Wildflower Center who maintain the database have partners in different regions to help with these recommended species lists based on what is easy to access in local nurseries.
Under Combination Search, select the following categories: State – North Carolina, Habit – tree, shrub, Duration – perennial, Leaf Retention – semi-evergreen and evergreen, Light Requirement – part shade, Soil Moisture – moist, Size – 12-36 ft. You can narrow down this search further by indicating blooming time and bloom color too if you like.
These search criteria will give you several trees and shrubs to consider then you will have to look at the ultimate width to see if they will fit in your space, how dense of a plant you need, and how tall they have to be to screen your view. Follow each plant link to our webpage for that plant to learn its growing conditions, bloom time, etc. At the bottom of each plant webpage, under Additional Resources, there is a link to the USDA webpage for that plant. Take a look there for more specific details about suitability before you put them on your final planting list.

Some trees and shrubs to consider:

Ilex coriacea (large gallberry)

Ilex glabra (inkberry)

Ilex myrtifolia (myrtle dahoon)

Ilex vomitoria (yaupon)

Juniperus virginiana var. silicicola (Southern red-cedar)

Leucothoe fontanesiana (drooping leucothoe)

Lyonia lucida (fetterbush lyonia)

Morella cerifera (wax myrtle)

Osmanthus americanus (devilwood)

Rhododendron maximum (great laurel)

Prunus caroliniana (cherry laurel)

Taxus canadensis (Canada yew) 


From the Image Gallery

Ilex glabra

Myrtle dahoon
Ilex myrtifolia

Ilex vomitoria

Ilex vomitoria

Highland doghobble
Leucothoe fontanesiana

Fetterbush lyonia
Lyonia lucida

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

Osmanthus americanus

Osmanthus americanus

Great laurel
Rhododendron maximum

Cherry laurel
Prunus caroliniana

More Trees Questions

Need fast growing deciduous trees for Austin, TX
February 14, 2015 - We'd like to plant several fast growing deciduous trees in a full sun yard with a hard alkaline soil in the western edge of Travis Heights in South Austin. I've noted several locations in our neighb...
view the full question and answer

Corkscrew willow damage to roof in Detroit, MI.
August 13, 2009 - I have a corkscrew willow (Detroit, MI) that is huge and whose branches hang on top of the asphalt shingles of my mobile home. It has now been discovered that these shingles, under the branches, are ...
view the full question and answer

Removing Texas cedar Juniperus ashei from Blanco River banks
February 26, 2014 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Should cedar trees be removed from our Blanco River banks to prevent them from sucking too much of our precious water before it makes it into the river system? If so, what s...
view the full question and answer

Final size of a Texas mountain laurel
August 11, 2014 - I have purchased a Texas Mountain Laurel. The plant tag says it will grow 25 to 35 feet. LBWF plant data base says 10 to 15 feet. Which data should I go with? It's either plant close but not close to...
view the full question and answer

Safe branch length of oaks in Clayton NC
November 06, 2011 - I have 2 very large oak trees in my yard and I am concerned about the length of the branches over the house and driveway. Most seem larger than 4" in diameter. What is a safe length for these branc...
view the full question and answer

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