Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

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
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - February 03, 2015

From: Nashville, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Lists, Grasses or Grass-like, Wildflowers
Title: Plants for a Narrow Fence Line in TN
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


I have a very specific and difficult planting question. I have a narrow strip (about 2 feet at the widest) between my back privacy fence and a wire fence that marks the edge of my property. It is directly under power lines. An apartment complex behind my property blocks out the late-day sun and the fence blocks out the morning sun. This space is filled with aggressive exotics, like Amur Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), English Ivy (Hedera helix) and my arch-nemesis, Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei). I plant to clear out these exotics, but I need some pretty, suitably hardy and aggressive natives to take their place. I have considered some of the tall Panicum grasses or sedges, native sunflowers/false sunflowers/cup plant. One landscaper I talked to suggested Alabama Snow-wreath. I want to avoid vines that might tear the wooden privacy fence apart (as the wintercreeper and ivy are doing). What would you suggest for such a difficult planting area?


There are many tough, upright growing native plants that should fare well in your narrow strip between two fences at the edge of your property. Take a look at the Native Plant Database on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website and search for plants native to Tennessee with your sun, soil moisture and height requirements. Then narrow the lengthy list of possible plants down to the ones that are upright growing and fit your space (the search parameters won’t include width so you will have to look at each plant specifics).
Some possibilities include (besides plenty of attractive native grasses and sedges):
Ageratina altissima (white snakeroot) Upright plant with small, fuzzy white flowers in late summer.
Artemisia ludoviciana (Louisiana wormwood) Stiff, aromatic, silver perennial. A good choice for a low maintenance, taller groundcover. Barrier is needed to stop it from spreading under the fence.
Helianthus maximiliani (Maximilian sunflower) A native prairie perennial growing 3-10 feet tall. Excellent plant for birds who feed on seeds.
Liatris punctata (dotted blazing star) Upright growing perennial to 2 feet with dense heads of rose-lavender blooms in late summer.  Butterfly attracting plant.
Oligoneuron rigidum (stiff goldenrod) Upright growing from 1-5 feet tall. Yellow blooms during summer. Heavily self seeds but might be too aggressive for a small area. Attracts butterflies.
Silphium laciniatum (compassplant) Tall, course, sunflower-like perennial growing 3-12 feet tall.
Verbena stricta (hoary verbena) Small lavender flowers in terminal spikes late in summer. Perennial 1-4 ft tall. Does not compete well with vigorous grasses.

And not recommended is Neviusia alabamensis (Alabama snow-wreath) with its exfoliating  bark and white blooms in May would be an attractive garden plant but is too wide for your fence line site as it could grow to 6 feet in width.


From the Image Gallery

White snakeroot
Ageratina altissima

Louisiana artemisia
Artemisia ludoviciana

Louisiana artemisia
Artemisia ludoviciana

Maximilian sunflower
Helianthus maximiliani

Maximilian sunflower
Helianthus maximiliani

Dotted blazing star
Liatris punctata

Stiff goldenrod
Oligoneuron rigidum var. rigidum

Stiff goldenrod
Oligoneuron rigidum var. rigidum

Silphium laciniatum

Hoary verbena
Verbena stricta

Hoary verbena
Verbena stricta

Alabama snow-wreath
Neviusia alabamensis

More Plant Lists Questions

Cutting Garden Plants for TN
July 16, 2014 - I would like to know what would be in a year round cutting garden in Nashville, TN for a novel I am writing.
view the full question and answer

Native flowering plants for Frisco, Texas
August 12, 2015 - Hi There, I recently moved from Ohio, Cleveland to TX, Frisco. Could you please suggest me native flowering plants in my back yard and front yard. I like different flowers.
view the full question and answer

Climbing Roses for the Pacific Northwest
January 23, 2016 - I'm trying to find out which types of climbing roses may exist in the Pacific Northwest. I live in western Washington, and I have a small yard with several large hedges bordering it. I'm growing hai...
view the full question and answer

List of native plants found in South Texas counties
August 22, 2015 - Does the LBJ Wildflower Ctr. have a place on its site where lists of native plants found in each Texas county can be accessed? I am working on a comparative database of commonly used sources (e.g., La...
view the full question and answer

Number of plant species existing in South Carolina
December 21, 2014 - Where can I find the number of known or estimated number of plant species existing in South Carolina? I have tried several search engines, but perhaps I am not wording my query properly. Thank you f...
view the full question and answer

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