March 23, 2013

1 - Fast-growing, short-statured, evergreen trees for screening do exist, but some compromises and choices may be required.

Yard and Garden March 23, 2013

I have 20 acres and am clear cutting defensible space and I want a screen break. Do you have recommendations for plants? I prefer mostly conifers that will not get much taller than 10 feet tall, but are fast growing.

Grant County

This is a challenging question to answer - 10 feet, fast growing, hmmmm.

Leyland cypress is very fast growing and reaches a height of about 12 - 15 feet. Another possibility is the arborvitae plant. There are some that will grow to about the height you desire. They may take up to 10 years to get there, depending on how tall they are to start and how they are cared for. Very large plants may take longer to establish and grow than smaller plants (3-5 feet tall grown in containers).

The venerable old Chinese juniper (the most common variety is the Pfitzer juniper) may work, but it gets pretty wide. Savin juniper (Juniperus sabina) grows fast, but may not get quite as tall as you want (about 6 feet).

Some hollies may work as well. The Chinese hollies (including Burford holly) may be a good choice, depending on the environment and soils there. These are broadleaf evergreen plants that can suffer some winter leaf scorch if it is too dry in the winter and if the sun and wind really hit them. In more protected areas, they may work. I grew up in Southeast Texas where there are many Yaupon hollies, a beautiful large evergreen shrub with translucent red berries in the winter. I am not sure it will grow in your area (microclimate may be important). However, I have seen it outside the courthouse in Lovington and I recently identified it in photos sent from Roswell.

A mixture of different plants may be the best concept. If there are vistas to preserve, the shorter ones may be best there. In wind-exposed, sunny locations, juniper may be best. The others may do better in other locations. By diversifying, you can avoid having all the plants die at once if an insect attacks. Insects will probably not attack all of these. However, insect attack may not be that big a concern.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


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