Evergreen shrubs for NE Oklahoma

sally2_gwOctober 5, 2010

Hi, I'm an infrequent poster, as I'm not gardening in OK a lot, yet, but something has come up that I need some help with. I have a place near Tahlequah that we're planning to move to in a year or two. Most of the property (2 acres) is not irrigated. Our next door neighbor has just brought in 2 old, ugly mobil homes, one of which is just maybe 20 feet from our property line. There's hardly anywhere on our property we can't see the ugly things. He's not willing to build a privacy fence, and I can't afford to do so. So, we're hoping to plant a screen. I know all about how to do so in north Texas, but the climate and soil are different. I'm not sure what might be winter hardy in the Tahlequah area, can grow fast, and get very tall and survive with very little irrigation. I know, totally unreasonable. I'm afraid of bamboo, as I know how invasive it is, but that's what DH wants, and what lots of people have suggested. DH does make flutes out of bamboo, so he'd have use for it, but I hate the stuff. I'm all for planting a mixed screen that's good for wildlife, also.

We're heartbroken that what was once a beautiful view has been ruined, but maybe we can turn it back into something lovely.



Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I lived in Ft. Worth all my life until moving here at the age of 39, and almost everything that grows well in north-central Texas will grow well here in OK as long as it is cold-hardy enough. So, that eliminates a few zone 8 plants that often survive fairly well in zone 7b, but not too many.

How about Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)? They are very drought-tolerant, grow quickly and get nice and tall. The downside is that they can be invasive.

Normally, I'd recommend a holly because of their high quality (a lesson learned from years of exposure to Neil Sperry), but most hollies don't grow as fast as Eastern Red Cedar. Still, if you don't like the idea of Eastern Red Cedar, then holly is a great, if somewhat slower-growing, alternative. In the holly family, you'd have a lot to choose from, and probably nothing is better than Nellie R. Stevens or Burford hollies.

I've been really happy with Southern Wax Myrtle, but I'm a lot further south (near Thackerville) than you will be, and even here it sometimes shows a little freeze damage if the temps drop below about 5-10 degrees, which happens once or twice a year at our house. Also, since the Tahlequah area has more frequent ice storms than we do here in southern OK, I am afraid Southern Wax Myrtles might not hold up well to the ice.

If there's a fence between the neighboring property and yours, an annual vine is an option for a quick, short screen while you wait for your trees to gain some height.

I've linked Sooner Plant Farm for you because their website is very detailed and they have photos of most of the plants they sell, so I find them really useful when looking for a plant for a specific purpose. You might browse through their website when you have time to see if anything there gives you any ideas. You have lots of options for an evergreen screen in the Tahlequah area and I think you'll see a huge variety of evergreen screen type shrubs or trees on the linked website.

Also, do you have any of Sally Wasowski's books on landscaping with natives? I have used her books for all kinds of ideas in the past.

I love bamboo but I won't plant it on our property. We only have 14.5 acres and I'm afraid there's not enough room here for the bamboo and the rest of us. : ) If you do choose to plant bamboo, I'd put down a bamboo barrier to contain it.


Here is a link that might be useful: Sooner Plant Farm

    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 5:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks, Dawn. I'll peruse that website. Eastern Red Cedar, or Juniper, grows on my property, and I've transplanted some small ones to other parts of the property with mixed results. I was definitely planning on using them, but I've never thought of them as fast growing. They're actually one of my favorite trees.

I like wax myrtles, but had ruled them out because they'd never stand up to the ice storms that frequent the area. I wasn't sure if Nellie R. would be winter hardy there, but I looked them up today and they're hardy to zone 6, which should be safe. Same with Chinese Photinia, not to be confused with red tip photinia. I was surprised to find out they're hardy to zone 6, also. I may give some of them a try, too.

I'm liking the idea of a mixed thicket/hedge, which is what I always recommend to people who need a screen, but I just wasn't sure what grows in Tahlequah.

As for Wasowski's book, my copy is about worn out. It would be great if there were a similar book with Oklahoma natives.

Thanks for your time and good advice, Dawn.


    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 10:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Well, the Eastern Red Cedars are fast growing at our house. I'm in an area of mixed grasslands/post oak-hickory forests and the Eastern Red Cedars grow like mad here, even in poor, dense, red clay soil and periods of frequent summer drought. They are so invasive here that we spend an inordinate amount of time removing them because they pop up everywhere and grow like mad. One day they're small and you're thinking "I need to cut down that sucker" and the next thing you know, it is 3', 4' or 5' tall and you're wondering how that happened!

Because of our frequent grassfires/wildfires here, we have cut down and removed every cedar tree on our property that is within 100 yards of the house. When they burn, they can explode and send burning sap/resin flying from the air and that burning sap stuff ignites new fires wherever it lands. In your part of OK, there is not a serious, ongoing grassfire or wildfire issue like we have here in southcentral OK many years so cedars wouldn't be as big of a fire threat there as they are here.

You probably noticed I didn't mention red-tippped photinias which, as I'm sure you know, are very overused in north central Texas and also plagued by disease. I don't see many of them here in our very rural part of OK, but they might be a possibility for your new place too if you like them. We had them in Fort Worth in the 1980s and they grew like mad, giving us a nice privacy hedge in about 7 years from small one-gallon plants. However, in northeastern OK, there generally is a lot of humidity most years so the fungal diseases that plague photinias in Texas might be a problem for them in NE OK. I have seen a few old Chinese Photinias here and they are beautiful and healthy although not always easy to find in stores.

I generally recommend mixed hedges too, and still would stick more with hollies than with cedars if I were putting in a screening hedge and didn't mind waiting a couple years longer for the shrubs to get nice and big. My hollies, which are Burford hollies, are more slow-growing than cedars. I think it has taken them about 8 or 9 years to reach about 12-15' in height, but that is in dense, Red River-type clay soil. In better soil, they might be more fast-growing. I am not sure how quickly you're expecting your privacy screen to grow, hence, the cedar tree recommendation.

If I were trying to put in a screening hedge here, I'd likely mix deciduous trees (assuming a power line isn't a issue where the border or hedge will be) with shrubs and perennials for a much more interesting look. However, if doing that, I'd expect slower growth and would have to resign myself to looking at the unsightly area next door for a bit longer.

Sally, there's a book or two with some Oklahoma natives, and I think you'll be surprised to see how many of the plants in it are also in Sally W.'s books. Of course, there are several geographic regions in OK that vary wildly from one another (just like in Texas) so some of the OK natives are more for western OK. I'll try to find and link info about at least one of those books.

There are not a great many books specifically about gardening in Oklahoma. Many of the regional gardening books in bookstores here in southern OK are the some ones you'll see in Texas---Neil Sperry, Howard Garrett, etc. I don't know if that is true in the rest of the state, but it certainly is true in southern OK.

In your part of the state, with its usually abundant rainfall (notwithstanding the horrid drought in that area this spring and summer) and great soil (in most places), I think you'll find that many plants grow incredibly well there and you'll probably see faster growth than you're used to seeing in the Dallas area, which is somewhat more rainfall-challenged. A lot of the gardeners in NE OK grow lovely plants, like hydrangeas, that I can't grow in southern OK because we have so many recurring droughts here in this part of the state.

In my part of the state, the most popular natives for borders or hedges seem to be Eastern Red Cedar, oak trees, trumpet creeper vines and plum trees (the small thicket-forming types).

Someone near Thackerville has a trumpet creeper vine hedge that runs along a fence line and it is about 150' long and about 8' tall and is beautiful, but it isn't tall enough to fully screen off a bad view and it isn't evergreen. Possomhaw hollies are also abundant in my part of the state, but they're also deciduous.

I suspect you can grow a much wider variety of plants in NE OK than we can in southern OK. Probably the most popular non-native in southern OK is the holly family. I am out in a very rural area, though, where not many people plant a screening hedge because we're so far apart from one another that we can't see each other's houses and a privacy screen isn't that essential.

Here in southern OK, what passes for privacy screening is just the native plants that grow up along the fencelines, so that means lots of thicket plums, rough-leaved dogwoods (which are more a shrub than a tree here), shining sumac, smooth sumac, greenbrier, trumpet creeper vine, blackberries, winged elm, cedar elm, redbuds, American beautyberry, persimmon, poison ivy, osage orange, western hackberry, several kinds of ash, Kentucky Coffee tree, pepper vine (ampelopsis), black cherry, chokecherry, virginia creeper and several native grapes. So, in areas where the birds have planted a fenceline, all you have to do is engage in selective pruning to turn a messy fenceline row into a lovely, mixed hedge of native plants and when folks here do that, they tend to eventually end up with a hedge of Eastern Red Cedar because it eventually outgrows everything else.

I don't think either of Steve Dobbs books focus exclusively on native plants, but both include many natives. I've linked one below, and the other one is referenced on the linked page too. Other than the books by Steve Dobbs, the books that I've used most since moving here are two small books by Doyle McCoy called "Roadside Trees and Shrubs of Oklahoma" and "Roadside Wild Fruits of Oklahoma". Really, though, I use my Texas gardening books as much as I use the Oklahoma ones.


Here is a link that might be useful: Oklahoma Gardener's Guide

    Bookmark   October 6, 2010 at 6:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


There's also the ever popular Leyland Cypress. They are pretty inexpensive at the big box stores and they grow pretty fast, 3-4' per year. They do have their problems though. Just google them and you'll find all kinds of people vehemently opposed to them. But if you really want to cover up those mobile homes quickly, I think they would do the job.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2010 at 9:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Almost 40 years ago I planted 4 euonymous plants in front of our porch--the deck of which is three feet off the ground. Those things made 8 ft tall shrubs in just a few years. The cabin plantings are not maintained now and the plants have had only the water that falls as rain for over 25 years. Every few years Dad whacks them off to the porch rail with a chainsaw and within 2 years they are roof high again. (He calls it "that jungle bush.") I didn't know how big they would get. In the spring I cut slips and have rooted a dozen or so to plant here along my fence row. (The branches will root in water if cut when young and tender in the spring.)

If I were planting a privacy hedge here--I'm only 18 miles from Tahlequah--I would definitly use these along with the large hollies that Dawn mentioned. My second row, inside the evergreens would be deciduous shrubs that are drought tolerant--see my post about the drought of 2010 for the ones I have and how they did.

Pine trees don't grow as fast as cedars and as they grow the lower limbs tend to drop, but we planted some 3 ft tall pines 28 years ago that are now 30 ft tall. I love the way they smell.

In addition to Eastern Red Cedar being a fire hazard, as Dawn mentioned, they also carry Cedar-Apple Rust, so if you want to raise apples you won't want cedars.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2010 at 9:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks, everyone!

Dawn, Your idea of letting the native brush grow up along the fence line is one I've toyed with. In one of Wasowski's books, Requiem for a Lawnmower, a method they recommend for a cheap way to plant is to put up perches for birds. The fence belongs to the neighbor, so what I'll have to do is to string a wire along our property about 10 - 15 feet away from his fence. There's trees growing near there, but not thick enough low enough to hide the eyesores.

Matt, I'm considering Leyland Cypress. They're pretty trees, but I think of them as borer magnets, not to mention other problems. A neighbor down the street has planted a LC hedge. They've planted them way too closely together, but they'll have a nice screen fairly soon. I just worry about when they all start to die at the same time.

Mulberry, I've thought about that problem with cedars and apples, since I do want to grow some apples. However, there are cedars in the area on other people's property, so I don't know if it would make any difference if I kept or transplanted a few. I'm not sure if there's a distance away from the cedars that I could plant apples and not worry about cedar apple rust. I'm guessing I'll have to just try to plant resistant varieties and hope for the best.

Thanks again, everyone, for your input. It helps a lot!


    Bookmark   October 7, 2010 at 11:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

With only 2 acres you aren't going to keep the cedars and apples far enough apart so might as well not worry about it.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2010 at 1:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Hey, I read 'Requiem For A Lawnmower" many, many moons ago! (I don't even want to think about how long ago it was.)

I planted one Leyland Cypress here and it lived about three years and was not happy at all. Your soil will undoubtedly be better than ours, though, so your results might vary.

I think the distance for cedar apple rust is approximately one mile (or more) if the cedar trees are to your south or southwest and one-quarter mile if the cedar trees are to your north or northwest, so I'd be inclined to plant the most cedar apple rust-resistant varieties possible if I wanted to grow apples. I probably would break down and spray them preventively with Immunox or something else labeled for apples (even though I otherwise shun the use of chemicals) because there are so many cedar trees around me that there's no way apples would stay a chance. Some of our neighbors have more cedar trees than grass in their cow pastures.

I'll find and link the OSU factsheet on CAR because it is very detailed and very helpful.

Sally, you know we're always happy to 'talk gardening' here endlessly, so keep coming back with your questions.


Here is a link that might be useful: OSU Factsheet: Cedar Apple Rust

    Bookmark   October 7, 2010 at 1:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Please do not plant any Eastern Red Cedars. They are a nuisance tree taking over many acres in Oklahoma. contact your Oklahoma State University Extension agent for a list of recommended trees for your area. The information is free!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 11:49AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
helenh(z6 SW MO)

I have a Canadian Hemlock tree that I like very much. In some areas it has been attacked by insects so you would have to investigate that. Mine has been here for 20 or 30 years and I have not had a problem with insects or disease. I am sure I watered it when it was small and I did water it during a drought.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 1:23PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
pine shavings yes or no
I have access to alot of pine shavings/bedding from...
Tomatoes in Oklahoma: Part II, Soil Prep/Planting
WHAT TOMATOES NEED: Tomatoes grow best in loose, sandy...
Okiedawn OK Zone 7
Okay. So, I was overly optimistic when I purchased...
Tomatoes in Oklahoma: Part I, Varieties/Types
We've been discussing several tomato-related topics...
Okiedawn OK Zone 7
2015 Tomato Grow List
Seed-starting time is approaching, so here's my grow...
Okiedawn OK Zone 7
Sponsored Products
7.5-foot Glittery Bristle Pine Hinged Tree with White Tipped Cones and 750 Clear
Braided Area Rug: Jefferson Copper 12' x 15'
Home Depot
Estate Pre-Lit Christmas Wreath - 30" dia. Christmas Decor
$149.00 | FRONTGATE
Area Rug: Fronds Spruce 5' x 8'
Home Depot
7.5-inch Cedar Ball Set (Set of 3)
Evergreen Medium Gold White Iridescent Sycamore Outdoor Pendant
$416.00 | Bellacor
Evergreen Classic Dish Towel Set
$12.99 | zulily
Evergreen Medium Off White Pine Needle Outdoor Pendant
$416.00 | Bellacor
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™