Shrubs and small trees to create privacy in your Tucson yard

Shrubs and small trees to create privacy in your Tucson yard
Mamta Popat, Arizona Daily Star

Sometimes you want to make your garden a private retreat. In fact, one principle of landscape design is that a garden is defined as an enclosed space. While walls and fences can enclose your garden, many people prefer to have a more natural look, particularly if they want to blend their garden in with their surrounding landscape.

A great way to do this is to use plants to delineate your garden space. The plants I’ve chosen here are evergreen and the fast growers will give you privacy within a couple of years. The slower growers will take a few years, but are worth waiting for.

Hopseed (Dodonaea viscosa): This shrub is native to many parts of the world, and has narrow bright green leaves. It makes for a great informal hedge, and can grow to the size of a small tree. You can prune it (but don’t shear it like a formal hedge) to the shape you want, but make sure you leave enough space for it (at least 6 feet of width and 8 feet of height).

Texas rangers (Leucophyllum spp): These plants are near-natives from the Chihuahuan desert, so they’re drought tolerant and very hardy. There are a number of species and varieties, so make sure you investigate their final size to ensure you will get the look you want. If you choose the correct plant, you will not need to prune them, and after establishment they should not need additional watering.

Quailbush (Atriplex lentiformis): This native shrub has small grayish leaves and grows quite quickly and densely. As you might guess, it is a great attractant for our desert quail as well as other birds. It needs a fair amount of space — it can grow up to 10 feet tall and wide.

Mexican bird of paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana or Erythrostemon mexicanus): These small trees are one of my favorite plants. They have beautiful deep green foliage and spectacular, tropical yellow flowers that attract all sorts of pollinators, from butterflies to hummingbirds. It’s a near-native from Mexico and hardy to 15 F. It can grow in tree-shape or shrub shape, depending on how you prune it. It can get 15 feet high, but doesn’t take up much space at ground level. It likes a bit of supplemental water.

Bush dalea (Dalea pulchra): This native plant has lovely, airy light gray-green leaves and deep purple flowers that bees love. It usually grows about 5 feet tall and wide, but can grow up to 8 feet high. Once established it will not need additional water.

Evergreen sumac (Rhus virens var. virens): This shrub can grow 10 to 15 feet tall and nearly as wide; it’s native to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico. It naturally grows on rocky hillsides, so it can adapt to any well-draining soil. It also likes full sun, but can tolerate part shade. It’s a great wildlife plant, attracting birds and small mammals with its fruit and pollinators with its flowers.

Arizona rosewood (Vauquelinia californica): This beautiful native will grow to nearly 30 feet if given time. It’s a great alternative to oleander; it’s leaves and flowers are similar in form but it’s a native that’s very wildlife-friendly and is non-poisonous. More frequent regular irrigation will speed up its growth. It likes full sun, and is thornless.

Desert lavender (Hyptis or Condea emoryi): This native can be somewhat less dense, particularly if it’s planted in shade and gets leggy. It’s greyish foliage has a pleasant scent when you brush against it and is thornless, so it’s a good candidate for areas where people walk or congregate. It’s also a great habitat and food plant for native pollinators thanks to its lovely purple flowers. It can grow up to about 8 feet tall.

Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis): A thornless, native shrub, the jojoba has beautiful oval grey-green leaves and produces nuts that we harvest for their oil. It can suffer some foliar damage in temperatures below 20 F, but the roots will usually survive (particularly in established plants). It grows into a very thick hedge up to 8 feet tall and wide.

Little leaf ash (Fraxinus greggii): This large shrub can also be grown as a small tree with appropriate pruning. As with many native slow-growers, it will grow faster with additional regular irrigation. It is thornless and has bright green leaves with grey attractive bark. It can grow up to 20 feet tall and about 10-15 feet wide.

Sugar bush (Rhus ovata): This long-lived native shrub can be grown into a small tree as well. Plants can live up to 100 years. It has lovely shiny dark green foliage and starts producing flowers after four to five years. It will grow faster in less extreme conditions, such as regular irrigation and part sun. The fruit is edible, and will attract wildlife, while the flowers are great for pollinators. It can get to 15 feet tall and wide.

Gray thorn (Ziziphus obtusifolia): As the name implies, this one is very poky, which may be an asset if you’re trying to keep people or larger animals (like deer and javelina) out of your yard. It’s native to the desert southwest. A great plant for birds and small mammals due to its dark blue berries, which are also edible to humans.

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