Tropical privacy hedge tips?
March 20, 2017 7:29 PM   Subscribe

I live in a closely-packed neighborhood in a tropical location and would like to grow some plants alongside my house for more privacy. What species would be good for this situation?

The area I will be planting:
-is a narrow strip parallel to my living room window about 40' long, 2.5' wide and 3' deep
-has terrible "soil" composed largely of gravel with some nails and zip ties thrown in. I'm ammending it with potting soil as I go.
-recieves full sun for several hours in the middle of the day, otherwise is partially shaded by a 6' bamboo fence. I'm in hardiness zone 12.
-has a drip line laid down for morning watering

I'm looking for plants that:
-grow quickly
-are "bushy" enough to provide some privacy. The fence itself helps significantly so I don't necessarily need a dense boxwood-like hedge
-I would prefer something more colorful than just green, aromatic flowers would be nice
-...and before you say "oleander," I am renting this house and would prefer not to turn over extremely poisonous plants to another tenant.
posted by 3urypteris to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
posted by beccaj at 8:09 PM on March 20, 2017

Eugenias , if they exist in your area
posted by mrzz at 8:09 PM on March 20, 2017

Possibly jasmine?
posted by aniola at 8:39 PM on March 20, 2017

I would do bougainvillea, for speed and fluffiness. I mean, like, $300+ of boug tree-pots planted close. I might then plant ivy ON the bougainvillea.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:46 PM on March 20, 2017

How about some gingery things? Calathea lutea, Calathea warscewiczii, Alpinia purpurata, Heliconias, Costus speciosus or C. woodsonii. The soil is a bit of a problem but if you're willing to fertilize regularly, I bet they'd do fine. C. woodsonii in particular has been a trouble free plant on crummy soil for me, although it is the thinnest of the bunch so not quite as effective as a screen as the others.
posted by BinGregory at 9:06 PM on March 20, 2017

Another possibility for more of a hedge look is Murraya paniculata. It has fragrant white blossoms throughout the year. Duranta (Golden dewdrop) is another one - they are horribly overused in my area but they sure are reliable. If you don't keep it clipped all the time you'll get delicate strings of tiny purple flowers and then golden berries.
posted by BinGregory at 9:17 PM on March 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Why not real live bamboo? I live in zone 9 (surely it grows even better in every warmer zone to 12), and it's a very popular natural barrier. In fact we have a space between us and our neighbor that is nearly identical in size to the one you describe, except it's a 2' high wall on one side of the "trench" and a dark-shingled house on the other. Filled with bamboo. You'd want to read up on it and grow the right kind—clumping vs running. Very pretty. Grows wicked fast. Just no blooms, but would definitely do the trick as an effective barrier. Black bamboo is a thing, too. Lovely.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 12:03 AM on March 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hibiscus. Grows from cuttings in crap soil relatively quickly, but no thorns (bougainvillea) and no fear of it running amok (bamboo). Many different flower colour varieties (red, orange, yellow, pink, white).
posted by b33j at 1:42 AM on March 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Do not under any circumstances plant bamboo. It is terribly invasive and chews through pipes like twix.
posted by winna at 5:40 AM on March 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

We're in Zone 9 (so not as tropical as you but basically no freezes), and our side yard privacy screen plants are hibiscus, yellow anise, bird of paradise, Seminole dombeya, and firebush.
posted by saladin at 7:15 AM on March 21, 2017

Best answer: nothing's prettier than hibiscus, and it can grow in garbage soil.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:19 AM on March 21, 2017

You might want to check with your local native plant society so that you don't plant an alien invasive species and so that you don't have to water once it's established. Bonus: native plant societies often have plants to give away or buy cheap.
posted by mareli at 7:25 AM on March 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another vote for hibiscus -- it makes great hedges.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:31 AM on March 21, 2017

Clumping bamboo, as AnOrigamiLife suggests, is not invasive, and is wonderful. I grow giant timber bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii) in zone 9 and am sad that it is a little too cool here in the winter to grow black bamboo. My East Timor Black Bamboo gets a nice start only to get frozen back every third winter or so, since I'm not in as warm a climate as you are.

Just don't ever try to grow a running bamboo without proper containment. Those are what everybody hates. Clumping bamboo is not the same as running bamboo.
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 11:06 AM on March 21, 2017

Are you in a fire-prone area? If not, grasses are lovely. Karl Foerster grass is my favorite, about five feet tall and when a little bit of light catches it it is stunning, and it's very elegant and moves nicely in the breeze. I can really zone out watching it.

In your zone you have many more choices than that, can even get some of the tall lovely pink-plumage ones.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:14 PM on March 21, 2017

"Red tip" Cocoplum is native to Florida and makes a lovely hedge. It will grow 10-12' tall if you let it but also does well trimmed back to 4-6'. Once it's established, it handles drought fairly well. Full to part sun. If that doesn't float your boat, I'll put in a second vote for clumping bamboo. I have a buuuunch of Hawaiian Gold and it is gorgeous and well over 30' tall. Shields my pool from the neighbor's second floor balcony.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 2:02 PM on March 21, 2017

Is there any sort of botanical garden in your area? It would be good to go somewhere and see what is growing well. You want something dense and tough, tall enough but not a great deal of maintenance. If you call a professional shrubber they will do the digging for you.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 2:06 PM on March 21, 2017

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