No matter where you live, you often see five types shrubs being used over and over in landscape after landscape.  While the shrubs themselves may be attractive, their overuse throughout neighborhoods can create a somewhat ‘boring landscape’.

In California, Nevada and Arizona oleanders have held a prominent spot in the landscape due to their lush evergreen foliage, ability to withstand drought and pretty flowers.
However, they have been overused in many areas which makes their beauty less impactful and frankly, almost forgettable.
At a recent conference that I attended, the head of horticulture for Disneyland said,
“”When things are expected (in the landscape), they become less powerful and impactful”.
Another issue with oleanders is that they are susceptible to a fatal disease called, oleander leaf scorch that is slowly spreading from California.  I have seen several cases affecting large, mature oleanders in the greater Phoenix area. 
From an objective point of view, I’d like to make it clear that there is a lot to like about oleanders; they do extremely well in hot, dry climates with minimal fuss, they have attractive dark green foliage and add color to the landscape when in flower.  
My main issue is with the overuse of them in the landscape when there less common plants that do equally as well in the landscape while also adding beauty.
When I am asked for another option for the large, tall forms of oleanders, hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa) always comes to mind first.
This native desert shrub has attractive, evergreen foliage and a similar growth habit to oleander.
They can be used in the same ways that oleanders can in providing an attractive green hedge and/or screening.
Hop bush flower
They don’t have colorful flowers; their bright green foliage is their strong point.
Hop bush can be allowed to grow into their natural shape or pruned into a formal hedge.
Want to learn more about this oleander alternative?  In my latest Houzz article, I share what types of plants look nice next to hop bush, how to care for them and show a purple-leafed form.
I hope that you find a spot for this lovely shrub in your landscape.
**There are still a couple of days to enter the giveaway for the book Grow For Flavor.  Enter now for your chance to win!**
Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

17 replies
  1. Gerald Lorch
    Gerald Lorch says:

    Dear AZ Plant Lady aka Noelle Johnson

    If you have a minute could you tell me what is the name of the two grasses in the photo where there is a big hop bush with the house in the background with the tile roof?
    Thank you

  2. Val Jardine
    Val Jardine says:

    HI–we live in a “cookie cutter” house with a small backyard. Would the hop bush be good for a privacy hedge? How close together should they be planted?

  3. Rogi Ilyinsky
    Rogi Ilyinsky says:

    What about Bamboo? I see it occasionally and the clumping varieties look really nice. Also seems more dense for soundproofing all those yards next to a busy roadways.

  4. Mary
    Mary says:

    We planted hopbush along our back cinderblock wall for beauty and privacy. They look great but I think they were planted to close and we get strong summer winds against that wall that have kept them from growing straight. They bend down and sideways. Any suggestions for keeping them upright? I tried staking but they have so many branches. Would securing them to a trellis work? Thanks!

  5. Sue
    Sue says:

    Is Hopseed bush a good option for privacy between driveways? I am not worried about H or W but depth so people can still park. Would I be able to keep them pruned to about a 3′ depth dimension?

    • says:

      Hello Sue,

      Hopseed bush is a great privacy hedge. But, it does need room to grow. The width of a shrub is also its depth as it grows equally all around. Its unpruned size can reach 8 feet in width and 10 feet tall. When pruned, it can be maintained at a lesser size, but 3 feet in width would be too small. The smallest size I would say is 4-5 feet. I hope this helps.

  6. Robby
    Robby says:

    Hi, I am told the purple hopped bush is a great variety. Does the purple variety grow as tall and hardy? Also, if I wanted a 9 feet high, dense privacy hedge, could I plant them 2 feet apart? Thanks, Robby

    • says:

      Hi Robby,

      It is said the purple hop bush isn’t quite as vigorous as the green variety, but they do very well for what you are describing. Because they grow approximately 6-8 feet wide, spacing them out two-feet apart is too close and they will have difficulty growing. I would space them 4-5 feet apart for a dense hedge.


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