Rent Shop 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

Wednesday - April 29, 2009

From: Fairview, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Privacy Screening
Title: Native plants under trees for privacy barrier in Fairview, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am looking for suggestions on what to plant for a Privacy Barrier. The area in question is a shaded area under a tree line of about 200+ feet long. I am hoping for year round coverage. The canopy of the trees is approx. 15 feet with trees height at 35+. I am open to any type of native plants.

ANSWER:

We get a lot of questions from people looking for privacy barriers, living fences, etc. We feel we need to put a Warning Label on our answers. We can certainly try to find some plants, probably shrubs, that will grow in your area in North Central Texas. What we cannot do is guarantee they will do what you are hoping for. The biggest factor is the shade. We consider "sun" to be 6 or more hours of sun a day, "part shade" 2 to 6 hours of sun, and "shade" less than 2 hours. There is also the issue of allelopathy, in which some mature trees exude substances to discourage competition beneath them. And you certainly need to consider the tree roots when you are digging holes for your plants. Furthermore, even a drought-resistant plant is going to need some extra care, especially water, during the initial year or so you have it in the ground, just to survive.  When you mention "year-round coverage," we assume that means you are looking for evergreen shrubs, which narrows the choices down even more.

We make these warnings because we would hate for you to spend the money and effort putting in shrubs (200 feet is a lot of shrubs), and then find they would not flourish and fit your purpose. We would suggest you visit some nurseries, price what it would cost just to buy the shrubs, plus hiring labor (if you are not going to do it yourself) to put them in, and installing hoses or waterlines to keep them irrigated. The larger the shrub, the higher the cost, and the more difficult the transplanting. Small shrubs will take that much longer to achieve the effect you're looking for. Compare that cost with fencing of some sort that will serve the same purpose and doesn't have to be watered. Frankly, we don't know which would be better, every situation is different, but much to our chagrin, native plants are not the perfect solution to every problem. You might even consider waiting to make your decision, as it is getting a little late in the season to plant woody plants. They really do much better, especially in the Southwest, if they are planted during their semi-dormant season of early winter. Easier on the planters, too. 

We went to our Recommended Species section, and did Narrow Your Search, selecting on "shrub" for Habit, and "shade" and "part shade" for Light Requirements. We only came up with 3 possibilities, and none of those is a perfect fit. You might take a look at our Native Plant Database, using Combination Search, select on "Texas" and "shrub" and see what other plants might present possibilities. If you are willing to consider something other than a shrub, or a non-evergreen plant, there are other choices, too. 

Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) - evergreen, 12 to 15 ft. tall, blooms whie April and May, part shade, low water use

Mahonia trifoliolata (agarita) - evergreen, 3 to 6 ft., blooms yellow February to April, sun to part shade, low water use

Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) - evergreen, 6 to 12 feet, blooms green March and April, sun to part shade, high water use


Ilex vomitoria

Mahonia trifoliolata

Morella cerifera

 

 

 

More Privacy Screening Questions

Evergreen sumacs for privacy along fence
August 02, 2014 - I would like to plant enough Evergreen Sumacs along our fence for privacy for the length of our backyard which is 60 ft. Fifteen feet on the left and right ends are shaded with the right side being d...
view the full question and answer

Year-round privacy screen of evergreen plants.
November 02, 2010 - We need a year-round privacy screen of evergreen plants.
view the full question and answer

Additional screening under yaupons in Georgetown TX
November 09, 2011 - We live on a corner and have a berm along the south side of our yard which blocks our backyard from the street. It was planted with uprights yaupons. With the drought, deer have eaten the bottom por...
view the full question and answer

Need trees to screen view of parking garage in Houston, TX.
December 29, 2011 - We live in Houston, TX with a beautiful lot except a 4 story parking garage has been built behind us. How can we screen this and the lights out of site. It looks terrible from the second story espec...
view the full question and answer

Privacy screen and windbreak plants
June 14, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I am searching for ideal plants to provide a privacy screen and windbreak for the north side of my yard. I live in Pflugerville..the soil seems mostly caliche but hits limest...
view the full question and answer

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