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Thursday - January 21, 2010

From: Shrewsbury, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Landscape buffer in Bluffton SC
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have to install an irrigated landscape buffer along the outside of a 6'high x 42'long privacy fence about 8' from a public sidewalk in Bluffton, SC. The property owners association requires 4' to 6' tall shrubs or trees. They suggested leyland cypress, wax myrtle, pine or holly or some combination. I want to install 8 leyland cypress trees - 6' apart to form an 8' hedge in front of the fence. Should I choose a different shrub or tree?


We could not recommend Cupressocyparis leylandii on two counts. First, this tree is a hybrid, developed in England and, as such, falls out of our of range of expertise which is the conservation, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plants are being grown. 

The second reason is explained in the following article: Reconsider Planting Leyland Cypress in your Yard

From that article: "This rapidly-growing tree quickly outgrows its space in a typical yard unless properly and regularly trimmed. Leyland cypress only lives for twenty to twenty-five years. I've found that trees left to grow large may have limited root support and are the first to blow down during high winds. You should consider the work needed to maintain a Leyland cypress before planting."

Consider: You would probably be putting in 2' tall trees from the nursery. They grow 3-4' in a year; at the end of two years they have reached your desired 8' in height. Now what do you do? If it is growing that fast, you are going to be pruning all the time. This tree can grow up to over 100' tall, with corresponding girth. Six ft. apart is not going to be enough, and it is going to be a constant battle to keep it at the mandated height. 

So, on to the other suggestions, beginning with wax myrtle. Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) is the variety usually seen in the Southeast, and it is native to South Carolina. It is evergreen and will grow as tall as 12 ft., but can easily be pruned within the limits. Please read this previous answer on wax myrtle to give you not only the birds it may attract but information on assuring that you have berries on your shrubs (if you want berries). This USDA Plant Profile shows the plant to be native to Beaufort County, so you should have no difficulty obtaining and growing it. 

Of the other choices, we would opt for one of the Ilex, or holly, genus. There are 13 members of this genus native to North America and 11 native to South Carolina. One point we need to make is that, like wax myrtle, this plant is dioecious. Here are comments on the Ilex from our Native Plant Database. 

"You must have both a male and female plant to have berries. The male must be the same species as the female and bloom at the same time. Because hollies are such popular landscape plants, it may be worth the risk to plant a female and hope there is a male nearby. Withstands heavy pruning and renewal of old plants is suggested. Pest free."

We are going to recommend several of these that are evergreen and native to Beaufort County. Follow the links to the page on that individual plant to learn its growing conditions.

Ilex for Bluffton, South Carolina:

Ilex glabra (inkberry) - 6 to 12 ft tall, blooms white May to July, high water use, part shade, moist, acid soil

Ilex myrtifolia (myrtle dahoon) -15 to 18 ft. tall, blooms white April to June, part shade, moist soil

Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) - 12 to 36 ft., blooms white April and May, low water use, sun, part shade or shade, although will fruit better in sunnier location

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Morella cerifera

Morella cerifera

Ilex glabra

Ilex glabra

Ilex myrtifolia

Ilex myrtifolia

Ilex vomitoria

Ilex vomitoria






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