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

Monday - July 01, 2013

From: Tampa, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Planting, Soils, Privacy Screening, Shrubs, Trees
Title: What grows in Tampa FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Please let me know what grows in the backyard in Tampa, FL to provide screening and privacy?


"From previous Mr. Smarty Plants Question:

1. Begin by mapping the sunny and shady areas of your garden. Check for several days and in different areas. Our way of quantifying sun and shade is: "Sun" is 6 hours or more of sun a day, "part shade" is 2 to 6 hours of sun and "shade" is 2 hours or less of sun. Also remember that most tree roots are very close to the surface and will defend their turf. If there are trees and they are valuable to you, don't mess with their roots. Be aware that the underground part of woody plants (the roots) extend out from two to three times the circumeference of the crown of the tree.

2. Don't insist on evergreen for your privacy plant. There are a few shrubs and trees that are evergreen, but shade tolerant, very few. We will teach you how to use our Native Plant Database to find appropriate plants. If you add "evergreen" to your requirements, you will get fewer plants on your list.

3. You sound like a beginning gardener, so we will throw in some extra tips free of charge. Read this article from Bill's Garden on The Challenges of Gardening in Central Florida.

4. A word from our sponsor: The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is committed to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America, but to the area in which those plants will be grown; in your case, Hillsborough County FL.

Next, read these How-To Articles;

A Guide to Native Plant Gardening

Caring for Your New Native Plants

Now, we are going to introduce you to our Native Plant Database. Since we don't know what kind of soil you have nor how much sun, we will have to improvise. Scroll down the home page of the database and, using the Combination Search, select on Florida for the state, "shrub" for Habit. Since we know nothing of the conditions in your garden, you will have to go back and make your own searches indicating Soil Moisture,  Light Requirements, Duration and  Height. We will check each plant we suggest with the USDA Plant Profile  (link at bottom of plant webpage) to make sure the plant grows naturally in or near Hillsborough  County on the west central coast of Florida. This is to try to find plants that work in your climate, soil and rainfall. You can  make subsequent searches on other Habits, including trees, herbs (herbaceous blooming plants), grasses, etc. After that you will know how to use our database and will be able to make searches on your own. We are searching for a shrub and then for trees this time; because privacy was the only specification you made. For privacy, we will specify a height of 6-12 ft for the shrubs and 12-36 ft. for the trees, and we did specify evergreen, since in Florida plants are more likely to be evergreen.

Shrubs for privacy screening in Central Florida;

Dodonaea viscosa (Florida hopbush)

Ilex glabra (Inkberry)

Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle)

Trees for Central Florida:

Ilex opaca (American holly)

Magnolia grandiflora (Southern magnolia)

Prunus caroliniana (Cherry laurel)

Follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to learn the growing conditions, ultimate expected size, propagation, sun and water needs. And don't plant woody plants (trees and shrubs) now. They need to be planted in cooler weather, like November to January.


From the Image Gallery

Florida hopbush
Dodonaea viscosa

Ilex glabra

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

American holly
Ilex opaca

Southern magnolia
Magnolia grandiflora

Cherry laurel
Prunus caroliniana

More Planting Questions

need recommendation for small evergreen shrub in Katy, TX
September 14, 2015 - recommendation regarding small to mediun evergreen palnt in full sun in 2feet by8 feet area.
view the full question and answer

Digging wild buttercup from roadside in Mechanicsville MD
May 28, 2012 - Mr. Smarty Plants, is it illegal to dig out wild buttercup in Maryland? I see them along the dirt road or just in the ditch. Since buttercup considered weed, I'm wondering what the law say about this...
view the full question and answer

Propagation information from Queens NY
October 04, 2012 - Hello. I would appreciate information on when to plant the following plants. I found on the USDA website that all these plants could withstand the cold. ALthough they can withstand harsh weather, ...
view the full question and answer

Quick and EZ way to cover bare spots in lawn with grass
March 09, 2015 - We recently had to dig up our lawn to have a pipe replaced. We now have a long strip of our yard that is either dug up or covered by some of the dirt that is dug up. We want to fill in the grass. W...
view the full question and answer

Yard Trees for Burleson, TX
July 24, 2011 - We need to replace 2 mature pear trees in our front yard, north side of the house in Burleson, TX. We are looking for faster growing trees that will last for decades that resist disease in clay soil....
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center