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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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Saturday - April 21, 2012

From: Southlake, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Privacy Screening, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Privacy screen for pool from Southlake TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a row of 7 live oaks that help block my neighbors two story house. Unfortunately, there is a gap between each tree of about 8 feet wide and 15 feet tall (from ground to the first branches/ leaves.) What can I plant in between the live oaks which will fill in these gaps? My landscaper suggested Cherry Laurels, but as they will be planted directly under the live oaks I need something that enjoys a lot of shade. My pool is also located in this immediate area (less than 7 feet away) so I also need something that will not create a continual mess with droppings. Thank you!!!! (PS - I'm happy to email a picture if that helps!)

ANSWER:

Thank you for offering us a picture, but we are no longer equipped to accept photographs. We love to look at them, but are overloaded just answering questions.

In terms of plants between your live oaks, you have a couple strikes against most plants. One, as you already know, is pretty dense shade. The other is that of allelopathy, often present in oaks. This is a process by which oaks emit a substance discouraging competition from other plants growing beneath them. This can be in the leaves, twigs or soil. Another problem is your request for "tidy" plants that will drop nothing in your pool. Plants must all bloom in order to set seed. The blooms and/or seeds or berries will drop, period. The nature of plants requires that they propagate themselves, it's hard to counteract that. Also, although the live oak is "evergreen," as well as Prunus caroliniana (Cherry laurel) and Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon), another possibility, in actuality all will drop leaves periodically throughout the year, depending on weather, moisture and what mood they are in when they wake up in the morning.

As those live oaks grow, their canopies will expand, and if they are not pruned too high, should provide pretty good privacy screening by themselves. However, if you are determined to have something between them, you could follow the plant links to the two shrubs mentioned above. Both would require pruning to keep them from getting too high, but both take pruning very well. The cherry laurel will tolerate sun (6 hours or more of sun a day) or part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun. The yaupon tolerates sun, part shade or shade.

Of course, as the oak canopies expand, their branches (and leaves) will soon be over the pool, and you will be getting leaves, twigs and acorns in your pool. We have never found any very good pool-tolerant plants.

 

From the Image Gallery


Carolina cherry-laurel
Prunus caroliniana

Carolina cherry-laurel
Prunus caroliniana

Carolina cherry-laurel
Prunus caroliniana

Yaupon
Ilex vomitoria

Yaupon
Ilex vomitoria

Yaupon
Ilex vomitoria

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