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When Plants and Powerlines Collide – Native Shrubs Under Ten Feet

Utility companies often severely prune trees to protect powerlines from being damaged during hazardous weather events. N. Jordan Franklin, ©2021 HGIC, Clemson University

Utility companies often severely prune trees to protect powerlines from being damaged during hazardous weather events.
N. Jordan Franklin, ©2021 HGIC, Clemson University

Utility companies have the thankless task of maintaining the right-of-way for above-ground utility lines to keep the power on. Gardeners and residents often gasp in horror upon seeing the tree and large shrub pruning performed to keep the lines clear. It is a necessary evil. But in many cases, following a ‘right plant in the right place’ mentality will avoid plants interfering with the lines.

While most plants under ten feet should not interfere with utility lines, there are always exceptions to the rules. Before choosing plants for areas near utility lines, determine how much overhead space is available and err on the side of smaller-growing plants.

Many plant lists for shrubs under ten feet are available online. However, the plants in the list below are shrubs native to South Carolina. Native plants grew here for thousands of years before European settlers came to America. Our native plants evolved with our state’s insects, birds, animals, soil, and climatic conditions. They provide food and shelter for local wildlife and withstand the harshest climatic extremes, including heat and drought. While some introduced species withstand our environment, few offer food for insects and other wildlife like our natives.

Common Name
Botanical Name
Region (*) Sun Exposure Soil Conditions
Deciduous Native Shrubs
Bottlebrush Buckeye

Aesculus parviflora

C, M, U Part shade/Part
sun
Moist, well-drained
Shadbush

Amelanchier obovalis

C, M, U Sun/Part shade Moist, well-drained
Chokeberry

Aronia arbutifolia

C, M, U Part sun/Sun Moist, well-drained
American Beautyberry

Callicarpa americana

C, M, U Part sun/Sun Moist to dryish, well-drained
Sweetshrub

Calycanthus floridus

C, M, U Shade/Part sun Moist, well-drained
Buttonbush

Cephalanthus occidentalis

C, M, U Part sun/Sun Moist, well-drained to wet, or standing water
Summersweet

Clethra alnifolia

C, M, U Part sun/Sun Moist, well-drained to wet
Bush Honeysuckle

Diervilla sessilifolia

U Part sun/Sun Moist, well-drained
Dwarf Fothergilla

Fothergilla gardenii

C, M, U Part sun/Sun Moist, well-drained to seasonally wet
Witchhazel

Hamamelis virginiana

C, M, U Shade/Part sun Moist, well-drained
Scarlet Rose Mallow

Hibiscus coccineus

C, M, U Sun/Part shade Moist, occasionally wet
Smooth Hydrangea

Hydrangea arborescens

C, M, U Part shade/Part sun Moist, well-drained
Oakleaf Hydrangea

Hydrangea quercifolia

C, M, U Part shade/Part sun Moist, well-drained
Possumhaw

Ilex decidua

C, M, U Sun/Part sun Moist, well-drained
Winterberry Holly

Ilex verticillata

C, M, U Part sun/Sun Moist, well-drained to seasonally wet
Virginia Sweetspire

Itea virginica

C, M, U Shade to Sun Moist, well-drained to wet
Spicebush

Lindera benzoin

C, M, U Shade/Part sun Moist, well-drained
Ninebark

Physocarpus opulifolius

C, M, U Part sun/Sun Moist, well-drained to occasionally dry
Native Azalea

Rhododendron spp.

C, M, U Part sun/Shade Moist, well-drained
Sumac

Rhus spp.

C, M, U Part shade/Sun Moist to dryish, well-drained
Elderberry

Sambucus canadensis

C, M, U Sun Moist, well-drained to wet
Bigleaf Snowbell

Styrax grandifolius

C, M, U Sun/Part sun Moist, well-drained
Rabbiteye Blueberry

Vaccinium virgatum

C, M, U Sun/Part sun Moist, well-drained, acidic
Maple Leaf Viburnum

Viburnum acerifolium

C, M, U Part shade Moist, well-drained to occasionally dry
Walter’s Viburnum

Viburnum obovatum

C, M, U Sun/Part shade Well-drained
Rusty Blackhaw

Viburnum rufidulum

C, M, U Sun/Part shade Moist, well-drained to occasionally dry
Evergreen Native Shrubs
Coast Leucothoe

Agarista populifolia

C, M, U Shade/Part shade Moist, well-drained
Inkberry

Ilex glabra

C, M, U Part sun/Sun Moist, well-drained
Yaupon Holly

Ilex vomitoria

C, M, U Part sun/Sun Moist, well-drained to wet
Anise Tree

Illicium floridanum

C, M, U Part shade/Part sun Moist, well-drained
Drooping Leucothoe

Leucothoe fontanesiana

U Shade/Part shade Moist
Fetterbush

Lyonia lucida

C Part shade/sun Moist, well-drained
Wax Myrtle

Morella cerifera

C, M, U Part sun/Sun Moist, well-drained to sandy and dryish
Devilwood

Osmanthus americanus

C, M, U Part sun/Sun Moist, well-drained
Needle Palm

Rhapidophyllum hystrix

C, M, U Sun/Part shade Well-drained
Dwarf Palmetto

Sabal minor

C, M, U Sun/Part shade Moist to dryish, well-drained
Saw Palmetto

Serenoa repens

C Part sun/Part shade to Shade Moist to dryish, well-drained
Spanish Bayonet

Yucca aloifolia

C, M, U Sun/Part sun Dry
*C – Coast
M – Midlands
U – Upstate

 

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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