Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Tuesday - January 20, 2015

From: Santa Cruz, CA
Region: California
Topic: Privacy Screening, Trees
Title: Redwood as a Screening Tree for Santa Cruz Garden?
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I have a small yard in Santa Cruz, CA and we have to hide/distract from a power line. My husband is demanding a redwood. Is this sane? The space it will have to grow in is about 20x20. What species of redwood or evergreen would you recommend?

ANSWER:

The coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) is a magnificent tree and a natural treasure along the west coast where they have grown to amazing heights. But for a small backyard in Santa Cruz it is not so suitable. The tree grows 3-5 feet each year for the first five years when it is young and will reach a height that will screen the power line quite quickly. But as it surpasses its needed screening height and keeps growing, it may become a liability and it would be unfortunate if it had to be removed while it still is young in age. The tree could reach 400-500 years in age and grow to 200-300 feet. Eventually it will lose its lower branches and have a bare trunk for the first 50-100 feet from the ground.
Some of the cultivars of coast redwoods though may be suitable for your screening task. Michelee Le Strange, UC Master Gardener Advisor has published an article on Coast Redwoods as Landscape Trees and indicates that there are about 10 cultivars available in the nursery trade. She writes, “Nurseries sell about 10 cultivars of coast redwood.  Some of the most popular are:  ‘Aptos Blue’ (blue-green foliage, dense growth, horizontal branches), ‘Majestic Beauty’ (blue-green foliage, dense growth, pendulous branches, ‘Los Altos’ (dark green, dense growth, arching branches), ‘Simpson’s Silver’ (silver-blue, somewhat open growth habit, slower growing), ‘Soquel’ (medium green, finer texture, branches turn up at tips), ‘Filoli’ and ‘Woodside’ (blue, drooping branches, irregular shape), and ‘Santa Cruz’ (light green, softer texture, downward branches).  Notice how most are named after coastal CA towns.” She also cautions growing coast redwoods where it is too hot during the summer.  She says, “If you have a soil that is neutral in pH, drains well and water that is low in alkalinity, then they might perform well.  If your soil is heavy clay or high in pH and saline, then you will have less luck.  Redwoods like lawn watering, but give them a deep irrigation on a monthly basis.  It also helps to cut down on water evaporation from the soil surface by applying a thick layer of organic mulch.  This will also modify the surface temperature and help keep their roots cooler.”
Take a good look at the maximum spread of the cultivars that Michelle Strange lists above and perhaps there is one that is not quite as fast-growing, tall-growing or spreads as wide (many will ultimately be 15-40 feet wide) for your backyard.
Also, horticulture teacher, Peter Shaw has an informative blog about the Trees of Santa Cruz County where he posted an excellent article with pictures about the coast redwood and has some important messages about the do’s and don’ts of tree selection and cultivar selection.
The giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) is also a massive evergreen tree reaching 250 feet in height.
To find alternatives to the redwoods for your back garden, use the Combination Search feature of our Native Plant Database. Select the search categories: California, Tree, Perennial, Evergreen and the height you think would make the best screening plant. This will give you a list of alternate plants such as the firs, cypress, junipers, and pines to consider. Take a close look at the optimum space requirements, soil conditions, water needs and ultimate heights.

 

From the Image Gallery


Coast redwood
Sequoia sempervirens

Coast redwood
Sequoia sempervirens

Coast redwood
Sequoia sempervirens

Coast redwood
Sequoia sempervirens

Giant sequoia
Sequoiadendron giganteum

More Trees Questions

Color year round, welcome to Austin Texas.
December 04, 2011 - I am new to Austin and want to plant colorful flowers for fall and winter that get a "wow" reaction. I have not seen much at the local nurseries. Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated!
view the full question and answer

Stressed Texas persimmon, Diospyros texana
September 12, 2009 - I planted a 5' Texas Persimmon last May..it is watered by drip irrigation and has done well, putting on lots of new leaves and looking healthy as can be. That is, until several days ago when it began...
view the full question and answer

Elimination of live oak adventitious sprouts in San Angelo TX
July 28, 2009 - Live oak sprouts. The main tree was removed several years ago and we still have the sprouts coming up in the yard. How do we stop this?
view the full question and answer

Lemon cypress Goldcrest in Richland MI
September 15, 2009 - Can the shrub lemon cypress survive a southern Michigan winter? If so, how does one care for it?
view the full question and answer

Alternatives to tuliptree and red maple in Central Texas
August 03, 2007 - I live in southwest Austin, TX, nearby a creek. The soil is very heavy with clay. I've been perusing web sites for trees, and we like the "Summer Red Maple" and "Tulip Poplar" trees very much, m...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.