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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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Wednesday - July 31, 2013

From: La Quinta / Palm Desert, CA
Region: California
Topic: Drought Tolerant, Privacy Screening
Title: Privacy screening shrubs from La Quinta CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I need a solid row of screen tree / shrubs that are at least 10 feet (prefer 12) tall and can be kept trimmed to a narrow (6 foot or less?) width. Will be planted against a 6' cement wall facing west in a HOT climate (goes from dry to humid). I see Ficus around and they seem to do okay, but would like another water friendly option?

ANSWER:

First, please read this excerpt from a previous answer on Ficus.

"Please don't even consider Ficus pumila (climbing fig). Regardless of where you plant it, it will go wherever it wants, including up trees, which it will choke to death. It will strip the paint off wooden structures, and stain and damage brick walls. It exudes a sticky substance to hold it to walls, and stucco wouldn't stand a chance. On top of that, it is native to China, Taiwan and Vietnam. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the use, care and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. One of the reasons for this is the danger of a non-native becoming invasive in an environment, like Texas or California, where it has no natural inhibitors. If you don't believe us, read the negative comments in this Dave's Garden Forum on Ficus pumila."

Next, we assume you do know that we cannot recommend planting a 10 to 12 ft. shrub or tree; it would be prohibitively expensive, very difficult and they might die anyway from transplant shock. Move a woody plant that big and you are going to have to destroy a lot of roots, but you won't get a refund if the plant dies. We can certainly recommend some shrubs that could grow into that size and are native to Riverside County or somewhere near in Southern California.

We will go to our Recommended Species List for Southern California and, using the specifications list on the right hand side of the page, select on "tree" for habit, "sun," for Light Requirement, "dry" for Soil Moisture and 6 to 12 ft. for a range of mature sizes under Height. This yielded a list of 19 shrubs, from which we chose 6. Follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to learn its growing conditions, water and soil needs.

Amelanchier alnifolia (Saskatoon serviceberry)

Ceanothus leucodermis (Chaparral whitethorn)

Ceanothus greggii var. vestitus (Mojave ceanothus)

Forestiera pubescens (Stretchberry)

Quercus dumosa (Coastal sage scrub oak)

Rhus virens (Evergreen sumac)

We would also suggest you contact Las Pilitas Nursery. They specialize in California native plants and sometimes have more information than we do in our Native Plant Database. Their Southern California location is in your area.

 

From the Image Gallery


Saskatoon serviceberry
Amelanchier alnifolia

Chaparral whitethorn
Ceanothus leucodermis

Fendler's ceanothus
Ceanothus fendleri

Elbowbush
Forestiera pubescens

Coastal sage scrub oak
Quercus dumosa

Evergreen sumac
Rhus virens

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