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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 - January 26, 2016

From: Wilmington, DE
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Plant Lists, Privacy Screening, Shrubs, Vines
Title: Shrub Recommendation for Chain Link Fence in DE
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

What shrub would you recommend for covering a chain link fence and providing a screen between mine & my neighbors yard? They have kids, so it would have to be non-toxic. I'd like flowers/berries for myself & wildlife, and no thorns. Eastern/Northern exposure, with shade to partial shade (maple & oak trees). I was thinking of elderberry, but are there other options?

ANSWER:

You are on the right track in looking toward elderberry (Sambucus spp.) as a good shrub to cover a chain link fence. Sambucus will create a large, broad shrub and is very wildlife friendly. Be wary of the red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) which is toxic. It is the black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) that is the edible one.

If you want a vine that is evergreen so that the screening plant is effective during the winter perhaps you might consider Lonicera sempervirens (coral honeysuckle). It is semi-evergreen and the flowers and fruits are frequented by hummingbirds, birds and bees. Indiana Poison Center lists this plant as non-toxic.

An evergreen shrub to consider is Morella cerifera (wax myrtle). A 6-12 foot tall multi-trunk, evergreen shrub. The light olive-green foliage has a spicy fragrance. Pale blue berries occur on female plants in winter. Handsome gray bark is almost white on some plants. An excellent screen plant, both standard and dwarf varieties are available. Because there are separate male and female plants, if you want berries you must have male plants close enough to berry-producing female plants for pollination to occur. Colonists used the waxy fruit covering to make fragrant burning candles.

 

From the Image Gallery


Coral honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens

Coral honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens

Coral honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens

Coral honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

Common elderberry
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

Common elderberry
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

Common elderberry
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

Common elderberry
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

Red elderberry
Sambucus racemosa

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