Many people are rediscovering the joys of staying home. Gardens are ideal places to unwind in the day. Screen plants can offer privacy in your backyard, hide an unsightly area and supply shade. Hopseed Bush, Brush Kirsche and Italian Zypresse are three shrubs or small trees which are useful for displays, grow quickly or are drought tolerant. Some plants have three qualities!

Garden Rooms

When creating your garden paradise these screening shrubs may also help create ‘walls’ to set individual sections in a backyard, so it’s possible to create different ‘garden rooms’ in your lawn. Two of them are also great for planting in narrow spaces between homes to help block out the world. Try these versatile plants on your Patch of Heaven:

Hopseed Bush

      • (Dodonaea viscosa)
      • USDA Zone: 9-11
      • Sunset Zone: 7-24
      • Sun: Full sun to part shade
      • Water: Moderate to low, drought tolerant

Hop Seed bushes include leaves in bright, lime green or dark purple. Both variations have leaves approximately 4 inches long and 1/2 inch wide and are extremely shiny on multiple shrubby branches. These drought tolerant shrubs are fast growers to approximately 10 feet tall and nearly as wide. They take full sun to part shade. Once established in the garden (1-2 years) they could survive on rainfall alone.

Hopseed bushes have a growth habit that’s somewhat airy, with a great deal of little branches and the extended leaves increase the lacy feel. They may be trimmed as hedges or espaliers to get a somewhat milder effect. These are great for layering to make a full, lush feel from the edge. They are fantastic for the back of the mattress (where the sprinkler won’t achieve ), along fences or as edge displays. In late spring they create large, papery seed pods, usually light brown, which hang on for months and offer a dramatic effect. Although the seed pods break down quickly in the soil, I don’t recommend planting these bushes near pools.

Brush Cherry

      • Carolina Laurel Cherry (Prunus caroliniana)
      • USDA Zone: 7 – 9
      • Sunset Zone: 5 – 24
      • Sun: Full sun to part shade
      • Water: Moderate to low

Brush Cherry is another reliable, versatile backyard tree for quick screens and hedges. These shrubs can grow up to 30 feet tall and 10 – 12 feet wide. Although I’ve seen older stands of Carolina Laurel grow much taller. They can grow in full sun to part shade. Once established they can survive drought conditions. However, in desert regions they favor less sunlight and will love more water during the hottest summer weather.

Brush Cherries have a dense growth habit with a great deal of branches so that they take well to heaving shearing as a hedge and may even be used for topiaries. Left untrimmed, they will still keep their neat, shrubby shape, but the inside growth won’t have leaves. They may also be trained as little multi-trunk trees. New growth is a fairly reddish rusty colour in the spring. They get sprays of white flowers followed by clusters of small, bright red cherries. The cherries can stain concrete and make a mess. If you do not have enough birds in your area to look after the cherries for you, simply cut off the flowers before they set. This will also alleviate the plant of the strain of producing seeds.

Italian Cypress

      • (Cupressus sempervirens)
      • USDA Zone: 7 – 9
      • Sunset Zone: 4 – 24
      • Sun: Full sun to part shade
      • Water: Moderate to low, drought tolerant

Italian Cypress trees are a familiar staple in town, growing along border lines as tall displays. They grow up to 60 feet high on single trunks and are generally 1-2 feet wide but older plants can be much wider. All cypresses prefer full sunlight, but will tolerate part shade and can survive on little water when they are established in a couple of years.

Italian cypress are ideal shrubs for problem areas. They grow tall but they are thin, so that you can tuck them into narrow spaces. Their trunks will eventually reach about 12 inches around, which means that your narrow bed should at least be wide. Their growth habit is slick and cylindrical, with the majority of their leaves pointing up. They lose a little bit of needles throughout they year, but clutter isn’t a huge problem with those trees. They don’t grow very quickly the first year, but they will compensate for their lack of increase in the second year. Continually trimming the tops will cause a somewhat milder shrub, but they’re fairly care free, requiring no trimming.


When you’re planning on getting your shrubs survive on rainfall, it’s ideal to encourage deep root growth early on by massaging your plants every couple of days rather than sprinkling the topsoil nightly. Even established plants love a deep soak during a heat wave, once the weather was over 100 degrees, or if it’s been particularly dry and windy. All three of these plants are growing happily in my thick clay, alkaline soil in hot and sunny place.


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