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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 - 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

QUESTION:

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?

ANSWER:

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

Compassplant
Silphium laciniatum

Hoary verbena
Verbena stricta

Hoary verbena
Verbena stricta

Alabama snow-wreath
Neviusia alabamensis

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