Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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
5 ratings

Tuesday - December 06, 2011

From: Sugar Land, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Poisonous Plants, Privacy Screening, Shrubs
Title: Fast-growing non-invasive shrub for privacy fence in Sugar Land TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in South Texas in Sugar Land. I was going to plant oleanders in my backyard along the fence as a privacy hedge, about 20 feet from my house. However, I was told they were a bad choice because the root system is invasive and will interfere with pipes. I chose oleanders because they grow quickly, but am thinking that Yaupon is a better choice, because of the taproot system. However, they don't grow as fast. Do you have any suggestions for a fast-growing privacy hedge with a taproot system?

ANSWER:

If we could begin with a question you didn't ask, there are other reasons not to use oleanders in a residential area, besides their invasiveness. First, the oleander is non-native to North America, and therefore not recommended by Mr. Smarty Plants. The most important fact about oleanders, at least to us, is not that they will damage the ecosystem, but that they will damage YOU. Please read this excerpt and follow the links to a previous Mr. Smarty Plants question:

"This article from Floridata will give you some information on Nerium oleander. Please be sure to read the Toxic warning at the bottom of the page. All parts of this plant are toxic, and it is not even safe to burn it, as the smoke retains the toxicity. It is native to North Africa. For more information on the toxicity, read this Howstuffworks.com article on The Top 5 Most Poisonous Plants."

We get a lot of requests for "taproot" trees and shrubs. From a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer:

"The gist of our argument is that any shrub or tree that grows very tall is going to need lots of space under ground (and not very far down from the surface) to gather sufficient nutrients from the soil, storing water and, perhaps most importantly, anchoring that shrub in the ground. You have heard the expression "top-heavy" we are sure; apply that to a large shrub and you can perhaps visualize a plant that topples in a wind or even if someone leans against it. And with an instinct for survival, woody plant roots stand up for themselves, or perhaps we should say "push up" because they will push up sidewalks and driveways, as well as crack foundations in search of water. We realize you are probably looking for privacy in a narrow area, so you need to think in terms of relatively small shrubs. We don't know how much space you have available or how far the trunk would be from pipes (septic system?) but you need to remember that roots are radiating out in all direction from that trunk for as much as 2 to 3 times the width of of the top of the plant."

Here are three shrubs native to your area that we think will work in your situation, all are evergreen and drought-resistant. Follow each plant link for propagation instructions, time and color of blooms and projected height:

Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon)

Leucophyllum frutescens (Cenizo)

Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita)

Now, IF you have septic lines in the area in question here are some tall native grasses that will at least break the sightline to help with the privacy issue. All are perennials.

Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana (Silver beard grass) 

Dasylirion texanum (Texas sotol)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Tridens flavus (Purpletop tridens)

All of our suggestions, in both groups, are native to your area.

 

 

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Cenizo
Leucophyllum frutescens

Agarita
Mahonia trifoliolata

Silver beard grass
Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana

Texas sotol
Dasylirion texanum

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Purpletop tridens
Tridens flavus

More Non-Natives Questions

Non-flowering mimosas in Texas
July 08, 2008 - I have two mimosa trees, about 3 years old. Both were grown from volunteer seedlings. Neither have flowers nor have they produced seed pods. Are they too young or do they need a source of pollenation...
view the full question and answer

Suckers on non-native Mayten tree
April 26, 2009 - We have a Meyten tree that has lots of suckers coming up from the roots. We would like to keep the tree, but if we can't find a way to control the suckers, we are considering taking it out. Any sugg...
view the full question and answer

Non-fruiting squash
July 25, 2007 - With all this rain in Dallas why would our Zuchinni and Yellow squash be beautiful and green but not produce any squash?
view the full question and answer

Care for 'Winchester' honeysuckle?
June 05, 2009 - I have a Winchester honeysuckle that is now in full bloom. Do I "deadhead" the blooms after they die off?
view the full question and answer

Transplanting non-native invasive chinaberry trees
July 21, 2008 - I know most folk think Chinaberry trees are only for digging up, but I say that here in the Hill Country during a drought, they are the greenest and purtiest tree around. I have some tall fifteen foo...
view the full question and answer

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