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
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - July 10, 2016

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Laws, Drought Tolerant, Privacy Screening, Shade Tolerant, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Drought Resistant Privacy Screen for North Side of Austin Texas House
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

We live in the densely populated Mueller development, where there's barely 3 feet from our home to the 6 foot high privacy fence between us and the house next door. Since the houses are 2 stories, we need to add a high privacy screen, one reaching at least 8-10 feet on both the north and south sides of our home. For the south side we are considering clumping bamboo...but we are at a loss for what to plant on the north side. Given this area was previously an airport, the soil is poor...plus we want something that's reasonably drought tolerant once established. Suggestions please.

ANSWER:

Sorry for the delay in answering your question. A look at the Native Plant Database on the www.wildflower.org website did turn up some suggestions for you to consider. The search selected Texas shrub or tree natives that tolerate part shade, dry conditions, is an evergreen and will grow to 12 feet tall. These include:

Castela erecta ssp. texana (allthorn goatbush)

A thicket forming, spiny shrub with bitter bark. Found on exposed hillsides and in prairies. Branchlets light colored, terminating in stout spines bearing lateral ones. Leaves firm textured, up to 1 inch long by 1/4 inch wide, with a pointed or rounded tip and smooth, turned down margins, the upper surface shiny, the lower covered with fine hairs visible under a 10x hand lens. Flowers small, red to orange, occurring singly or in small groups. Fruit fleshy, red, roughly spherical, slightly flattened, up to 3/8 inch long. Bark reputed to have medicinal properties. 6-12 feet tall.

Celtis ehrenbergiana (desert hackberry)

One of the few shrubs in the Celtis genus, this deciduous plant rarely reaches 10 ft. in height. Its numerous spiny branches are whitish gray. The bark is smooth and gray. Leaves are small, roundish, and somewhat rough. Clusters of small, fairly inconspicuous, white flowers are followed by shiny red, orange and yellow fruit ripening in fall but persisting long after leaf-fall.

Garrya ovata ssp. lindheimeri (Lindheimer's silktassel)

Evergreen shrub or small tree. Frequent on limestone ledges and rocky slopes of canyons and ravines. Twigs with leaf scars that go completely around them and gray streaks (lenticels) running lengthwise in the reddish brown bark. Leaves opposite, petioled; blade leathery, variable in shape, roughly elliptic, up to 2 1/2 inches long, with a very small, abrupt tip and smooth margins, smooth on the upper surface, velvety on the lower. Flowers about 3/16 inch wide, in simple pendulous clusters from the bases of the leaf petioles, opening in March and April. Fruit fleshy, round, with a short tip, blue with a white coating easily rubbed off, about 3/8 inch in diameter.

Rhus virens (evergreen sumac)

Evergreen sumac is a shrub or small tree, from 8-12 ft. in height with spreading branches. Its shiny, evergreen, pinnate foliage is tinged with pink in early spring and maroon after frost. Leaves are alternate, 2–5 1/2 inches long, with 5–9 fleshy leaflets on stiff stems. The 5-petaled, inconspicuous, greenish or white flowers grow in clusters 1–2 inches long at the end of stout branches. When the fruit matures in mid-September it is red, broader than long, and covered with fine hair.

Evergreen sumac can be used to make a nice, thick hedge or screen, but can grow tree-like with a long, straight trunk. Only female plants produce flowers and berries. It is fast growing, generally insect and disease-free, and drought-tolerant. Not a true evergreen – leaves are green through the winter, then are dropped, to be replaced within a week with a new crop.

Sophora tomentosa (yellow necklacepod)

Yellow necklacepod or yellow sophora is an evergreen shrub with a delicate, multi-stemmed shape and chartreuse branches. Silvery-green foliage provides a backdrop for the 4-16 in spikes of yellow flowers. Seedpods hang on the shrub for a year or more. This plant grows 3-6 feet in height.

A native of southern Florida and South Texas, where it is infrequent along and near the coast as far north as Aransas county. Its overall natural range comprises just about every tropical and subtropical coast in the world. This shrub is hardy to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit (often freezes back at our latitude behaving as a subshrub).

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Allthorn goatbush
Castela erecta ssp. texana

Desert hackberry
Celtis ehrenbergiana

Lindheimer's silktassel
Garrya ovata ssp. lindheimeri



Evergreen sumac
Rhus virens

Yellow necklacepod
Sophora tomentosa

More Shrubs Questions

Different kinds of plants living in subarctic areas
March 10, 2008 - What are the different kinds of plants live in the subarctic areas?
view the full question and answer

Steep slope from Charlotte NC
May 03, 2012 - I live near Charlotte, NC and I have a very steep sloped area from the edge of our front yard down to the road. It's a huge eyesore mainly because it is red clay dirt and has nothing growing on it. W...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen shrub for northwest-facing wall
June 09, 2012 - Can you suggest a tall (8-10') evergreen shrub for a site against a northwest-facing wall which gets no sun in the winter but full sun in the summer? Texas sage got too leggy and viburnum will be to...
view the full question and answer

Sages in Catasauqua, PA
August 08, 2014 - I want to buy a Texas Sage tree but I live in PA. Can I bring the tree indoors during winter?
view the full question and answer

Roses being attacked by spider mites
January 18, 2008 - My roses are being eaten alive by spider mites. I read that this area of Texas has a huge problem with these devils! I've tried everything to kill them to no avail! Can you help me? Gratefully yours,...
view the full question and answer

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