Fast growing screen

texasshutterbug(Z8 TX)December 28, 2008

Hi Folks,

I have a next-door neighbor who neither waters, fertilizes, nor cuts their grass unless threatened by the city. I'm tired of looking at their run-down mess. So, I want to plant something to screen my yard from theirs (Front yard). Water lines run along that side of the yard, so I can't plant anything with a a large, invasive root structure. I'm looking for something that is dense, fast-growing, and requires little pruning, since I won't be able to prune his side.

I live in Central Texas, north of Austin. My soil is heavy clay with limestone (thus alkaline). Area is full sun. I have considered Italian Cypress, which would give me the perfect shape, but is slow-growing, and Red-Tip, which is fast growing, but needs trimming to keep its shape. I have also considered a "clumping" bamboo. Whatever is planted will be in a 2' wide bed.

Any ideas/suggestions are GREATLY appreciated. I want to plant between now and March.

Thanks and happy gardening.


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You & I have similar problems...I have a neighbor who comes over almost every time he's outside and sees me in the yard. I was looking for a dense screen for the side of my back yard so he couldn't see me so easily.

I don't know that I have any great answers for you, but I would not go with red-tipped photinia. It gets a disease that kills it eventually, and it really wants to be a tree.

I personally am thinking of going with a mixture of natives and antique shrub roses, but I'm in a very informal semi-shady setting. Perhaps Mountain Laurels? They're evergreen and have a pretty purple bloom, but not exactly fast growing. Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 2:00PM
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PKponder TX(7b)

Pampas grass?

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 6:33PM
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debndal(8a DFW, TX)

I was going to suggest some kind of clumping grass too, like pampas if you have room. It gets rather large. I do think a mixture of different shrubs/grasses would be the best for interest. My neighbor across the street uses knock out roses (they get really large in full sun) and a grass of some type together and it looks really nice. It is about 5-6' tall.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 7:03PM
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I live in Georgetown and have the exact soil you described.

A 2' wide bed is pretty tight for anything that would get large enough to make a good screen, unless you plan on doing alot of pruning. That said, here's two selections I've had good luck with...

If your looking for something very tall, Oleander might be one to consider. We planted a 1 gal. "Hardy Red" this summer that was maybe 1.5' tall. By this fall it was already pushing 5'.

We also have a hedge of mature ones that are around 12' tall. My only complaint with the mature ones is they aren't as full as they were a few years back, but they still make a good screen overall.

One other thing to be aware of is it's very poisonous, which is a consideration if you have pets or young children.

If you want something native (and non-poisonous) and don't mind something a little shorter, "Silverado" TX Sage might be something to consider. This variety stays very full right to the base and supposedly gets up to around 5' tall and wide.

We planted a bunch of 1 gal. Silverados last winter and they're all around 3' tall and wide now. Definitely a success story for us.

I should note also that while both these shrubs are drought tolerant, we do have an irrigation system, which I'm sure contributed greatly to their rapid growth.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2008 at 7:26PM
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luvs2plant (zone 9TX)(z9 TX)

I started to suggest bottlebrush shrubs, but most sites list hardiness zones 9-11. If you wanted to chance it, they're gorgeous when in bloom and hummingbirds love the blooms.

I'd second the oleander suggestion. The dwarfs usually top out @ 6'. If that's not tall enough, go with the larger ones. Pruning is relatively easy and promotes a more dense shrub.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2009 at 3:31PM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

I'd plant evergreen vines. Crossvine(not trumpet vine it's decidious),Coral honeysuckle, and Carolina Jessamine are vigerous growing everygreens without being like Kudzu. PJ

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 9:57AM
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plantmaven(8b/9a TX)

FYI oleanders will really mess up your water lines.

You might consider checking on the Lady Bird wildflower site for natives grasses.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lady Bird etc.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 12:06PM
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texasshutterbug(Z8 TX)

Well, after a visit to a local nursery that deals with native Texas plants or those adapted to our climate, etc. I beleive that I have narrowed it down to Italian Cypress. However, given the number of trees I would have to plant, I'm looking at $500 for the trees ($35-$40 a pop) and probably $100 for the bed prep. Man this is expensive.

As a side note: Vines would not work - I'm talking about the front yard and I can't build trellises across the front yard.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 3:00PM
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If you go with something that comes in a 1 gallon size, it shouldn't cost more that $5-$10 per plant. If it's fast growing, you should have your screen before you know it, even with the smaller size.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 11:33PM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

OOOpsie! FRONT YARD I kin read on a good day:) Italin Cypress are VERY common in the area I spent most of my life in (mojave desert CA).
One of my friends had a wall of Italian Cypress along her back wall to block the view of a two story house behind her for privacy.The "big green fortress wall" worked very well for privacy. It was 40 feet high, 100 or so feet across dense,dark and overbearing. It gave an almost prison like feel to her yard. We softened it up with a lot of ornamental trees, roses and a draping ground cover (they were in a raised bed). I wouldn't recommend them for the front yard unless there was at LEAST and acre of land and the house was set way back on both sides. They would make seeing traffic backing out of the driveway a serious hazard. I wouldn't be surprised if there is some sort of limit on how tall a front yard hedge can be and how far forward. My opinion is this would be serious overkill in the front yard.
I would pick something shorter,lighter in color,evergreen and layered. I would skip very large or tall conifers altogether. There are many ornamental evergreens around 15-20 feet tall interplanted (zigzagged a bit to prevent the lined soldier look) in soft greens that would be well over anyone's head without a fortress look to it. My windbreak (in front) is going to be fast growing,short lived wax myrtles interplanted with slower growing,long lived Tx mountain laurels and yaupon hollies with an evergreen layer over the bottom of the bed. I'm using different plants but the link shows the effect ( mine will be tidier tho) that I'm looking for. I'm only 5'9" so a 40 foot hedge isn't necessary for privacy. Good luck! PJ

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 4:41PM
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I found this evergreen shrub that looked a lot like red tip photinia, but wasn't, growing as a privacy screen in my friend's side yard in New Braunfels. A nursery owner identified it as Xylosma congestum. It was 10 ft. tall, and the plant trunks were spaced about 18 inches apart. Very pretty, and not disease prone like the red-tip photinia are. Not sure if their roots would disturb a water line, but I don't think so. You could ask a local nursery owner. Anyway, here is a link with some more info on them, if you want to look into them further. I am able to get them in 5 gal. containers (about 3 ft. tall specimens) at Bloomers Nursery in Elgin for 20 dollars apiece. They are said to be fast growers. Again, ask someone who knows them better than I do to make sure they are fast growers. I have planted 5 already. Have more area that needs them and will get more. They look like they will fill in nicely. I am pruning the elongated branches to make them fill out better. They only get partial sun where I need them for privacy screen. But they are doing fine. I think they'd be bushier in full sun.
Here is the site:

Here is a link that might be useful: San Marcos Growers

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 8:15PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)

What about yaupon holly 'Will Fleming'? It grows to be 15' tall and 2-3 feet wide. No berries (male clones). I'm thinking about doing a screen between my back patio and next door as well. Also, break up winter winds too that tend to make things feel colder and cause a mess too.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 8:17AM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

Time to bump this very useful thread up.

I found this while looking for ideas to screen my neighbor's um.. car collection. We like the neighbors, just tired of the view. This area is mostly in shade.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 11:05PM
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pjtexgirl(7b DFW)

Same answer from me. Both shrubs are understory too. PJ

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 6:45PM
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little_dani(9, S. Tex Coast)

'Will Fleming' must be pruned regularly to be pretty. Left to his own devices, he gets just plain sloppy and ugly.

Clumping bamboo would do the trick, and the roots are not huge. It grows quickly, and can be sheared into a pretty hedge.


    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 11:10PM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

Thanks, Janie. The Yaupon was on the list, but not sure I want the maintenance. Native Yaupon is always popping up under the oaks anyway. Do not have experience with "Will Fleming" though. Clumping Bamboo is a good possibility and would tie in with future plans for the area.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 2:42PM
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bobbi_p(z8/9 Cypress, TX)

I wonder what Texasshutterbug went with? I considered the Italian Cypress for a narrow area in need of a screen in my yard, but left brain would not have coped well when 1 in a line of 5 trees would die seemingly randomly a few years out. It sounds like the Italian Cypress are too finicky for my taste.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2009 at 4:43PM
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hibrick(Z8 HoustonTX)

Italian Cypress grow great in Houston.. for about 15 to 20 years. About that often, we will get a multi-day hard freeze, and they all die.

Been through it myself, had a beautiful 15-year-old hedge, then my Italian Cypress and thousands of others in Houston all died at the same time. That was back sometime around 1990, so I'm guessing that we are due for another hard winter within the next few years.

For a really fast annual hedge, plant a couple of rows of corn or sunflowers. Fast growing, decorative, make a good screen, and they are edible! Morning Glories or Moonflowers on a wire or string trellis also make an quick and attractive screen.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 12:38AM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

After some research, I am looking at Pomegranate. The site gets more sun than I originally thought. We are in North Central San Antonio, does anyone have experience with Pomegranate?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 11:40AM
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I found this post out of desperation! I too need to "screen" the back of my property line...HOWEVER...I don't need anything that gets over about 8-10' and I want it very full and bushy! PLUS I can't spend a ton of money on a privacy screen to block out my 'backyard' neighbors. I have NO privacy when entertaining out back. I have 3 acres, but it's all in front of the house and the 'mess' is behind my house...also where patio, deck, BBQ, entertaining is! Hubby thinks putting up an 8' privacy fence will do the trick, but I think bushes/shrubs (not trees) would be much friendlier to the area! I was leaning toward bamboo? Will it be thick, bushy & tall? And, how fast?! lol? Will Carolina Jasmine do the trick? Truthfully, I'm looking for the fastest & 'cheapest' initial investment!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 4:46PM
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For the last poster.... Golden Goddess Bamboo, won't get much above 10' in CenTex.
For the OP, either Aplhonse Karr, clumper with variegated canes, 15-20', or Bambusa Textilis, gets 30' or more. You can make a lot of unslightly things go away with those two.

Other good screen shrub is the Japanese Blueberry, and a fairly fast grower. Hard to beat a hedge of Japanese Yew, but will require pruning.
The Will Fleming, I'd stay away from those if it's a dense hedge you are after.

Italian Cypress, wouldn't plant a whole bunch of those close together, you'll end up with problems down the road. Plus they are slow growers.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 5:09PM
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I shopped for bamboo a while back, and was astonished to see 5 gal. containers of it sporting $50 to $70 price tags. I ended up digging up some roots along a county road, and I'm trying to get it started in a planter box.

Seems like a lot of people are really down on photinia. I've got a hedge of photinia, and have had little trouble with it. I've lost one plant to fungus in 20 years. Originally, there were apparently 30 of them, set out maybe 25 years ago, with two of them dying before I came along.

Virburnun Suspensum makes a great hedge, and will grow fairly rapidly to 8 ft. or so. It knows its place, and doesn't try to become a tree. I may water mine twice, on average, during the summer. Mine get only 4 or 5 hours of direct sun, and I'm not sure how they would do in full sun.

If you're looking for something that's tough as a boot, and will grow like a weed in sun or light shade, I don't offhand know of anything that can match the old Japanese Ligustrum.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 10:51PM
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It probably isn't kosher though to be planting Ligustrums, they are so invasive.

Viburnum Suspensum is definitely an underrated hedge, and require surprisingly little regular pruning.

Photinias can work, if you don't have to prune them and just let them get as big as they want. The constant pruning tends to exacerbate the Entomosporum leaf spot that kills many of them.

Wax Myrtle is another option.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2010 at 2:31AM
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I don't know that Ligustrum is any more invasive than our native elms and hackberries. In Central Texas, you're going to have it sprouting up whether or not you have one on your property.

You can't just let Photinia go, if you want a screening hedge. If you don't frequently make low cuts, the foliage migrates towards the top, leaving you with bare trunks where you wanted dense greenry. You don't have this problem with the Viburnum. You can see an impressive planting of it between the parking lot and entry of the San Antonio Botanical Gardens.

The old fashioned, plain Jane Nandina might make a good screening hedge for some situations. It will get a good 8 ft. tall, and seems indestructible.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2010 at 8:14AM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)

With 3 acres, I would not hesitate to plant Vetiver Grass. It is wonderful for screening, fast growing, beautiful, can withstand all kinds of weather, wet, dry, even salt water, and the best part is that it is non-invasive. I have 5 of them planted in my yard, since I live on 1 acre of land. Check out some pictures of vetiver from The Herb Cottage. Yes, it is an herb.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2010 at 9:16AM
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Put me in the anti-ligustrum column too. Unlike elms and hackberries, they're not native.

If the fact that they're highly poisonous isn't an issue, Oleander makes a fast growing and attractive screen. Mine were badly freeze damaged here, but seeing how you're z9, it should be less of a concern.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2010 at 10:24PM
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Also looking for a screen-type planting of some sort. I'm going for a more formal garden look, so was considering the Italian Cypress, until I read hibrick's post. He's in Houston, and i'm in Austin, so maybe that makes enough of a difference?? I have neighbors who planted them 2 years ago, and they look like giants already. Made it thru the last couple of winters, so is that the 'proof' I need for survival in my area? TIA

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 1:51PM
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I just need 2 fast growing plants for privacy at my back fence area. I thought about red tips because of the color but don't want to do a lot of pruning. How about Leyland Cypress? Has anyone ever used them before?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 3:00PM
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