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Defensive Landscape Bushes or Plants to Consider

Fellow Patriots,

I was recently supporting a fellow Patriot building his security plan that included the use of barberry bushes as a defense barrier as well as a deterrent to persuade a threat from crossing a specific defined line. Have you considered the use of plants, trees or bushes as a layer of security in your plan? It is something you may wish to think about. They are not just a great barrier to slow or stop a threat, they are also cosmetically appealing in most cases.

You could also consider adding these on to an existing plan as well. They are great for approach routes you are trying to close or cut off. By placing these plants under a window or deck can also help block or slow down an intruder. And of course around your perimeter. If you are trying to stop an intruder from crossing your fence, the placement of a good barberry bush outside the fence could change the mind of the potential threat. When planning, you should also take in to consideration what hardiness zone you will be planting and growing the plant. Different regions for different plants.

First, let me provide you a national map for USDA Hardiness Zones to help identify which bush, tree or plan is best in what area.

Here's different plants to consider if you are building your security plans.

1. Agave:

Native to Mexico and the southwestern US, this spiky slow-growing succulent is suitable for growers in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-11.

You can find different types of Agave plants in the Agave family. Different sizes and heights to support your security planning needs and wants. The location you plan to place the plant should help you decide which in the Agave family you decide to use.

If you have children or pets you may wish to take this in to consideration as to what you get and how and where you plan to place it.

Americana Agave

This agave is one of the most notorious landscape agaves. It produces a lovely inflorescence (flower) and then the main plant dies, leaving behind pups or offsets.

The American agave or American aloe, as it is also called, has a white stripe running down the center of the leaves. It is a warm season agave only.

A person selecting the agave plant as a security barrier may wish to do their homework to research eventual full growth size before placing in a permanent home. As previously stated, year round climate is also very important to the long term survival and your initial investment.

2. Barberry

The genus Berberis includes over 400 different species of evergreen and deciduous shrubs with varying heights of three to 10 feet.

The barberry is a tough, shade tolerant, drought resistant, and hardy bush. Primarily most tolerant to Zone 4, barberry grows in almost any type of soil and requires minimal care and maintenance to survive. This, along with the eventual size and width makes the barberry bush a great security enhancement around a property.

Some non-native species are considered invasive and growing them is banned in some states, so be sure to check your local bylaws before you plant. Also note that not all varieties have thorns.

Barberry Bush Spikes

Dependent on which side of the bush you are on, the spikes produced by the barberry bush makes it attractive as a security addition to your plans.

As mentioned with the agave plants, if you have small children and/or pets around, you may wish to give caution when selecting this bush and how it is used.

Barberry Burning Bush

The Japanese Burning Bush is a common and more popular bush from the barberry family. When in bloom the Japanese barberry bush is very appealing to the landscape. I have personally brushed against one of these bushes while mowing the lawn and it got my attention for certain. They grow to a nice height and width as well.

There are a number of cultivars that are well-suited to hedging. The three- to four-foot-tall varieties make a very useful barrier along the sides of driveways or walkways, and even as a perimeter hedge, allowing visibility over the top. They also work great in vulnerable corners and property areas possibly not in camera coverage.

3. Blackthorn

This bush/tree bring beauty from afar until you stick your hand between the limbs to grab a sloe. Ouch. Some folks enjoy picking the sloe to add to their gin, however it is normally not without pain from the thorns. The thorns stick out at right angles on the intertwined branches and can be up to two inches long.


Suitable for growers in Zones 4-8, blackthorn shrubs can grow up to 10 feet tall, and with minimal pruning can create a formidable barrier around the perimeter of a property. Alternatively, it can be pruned into a neat but dense and impenetrable hedge. Fast-growing blackthorn will tolerate almost any soil, and is somewhat salt-tolerant. Once established, it needs very little care except regular moisture – so it’s not suitable for very dry areas without additional irrigation.

4. Common Holly

This evergreen shrub is both frost and drought tolerant and often referred to as the Christmas holly from native England and Europe.

The leathery, dark green, glossy leaves have spiny margins, which readily attach to clothing, or tear skin. The dense, prickly leaves make holly an ideal hedge, and being evergreen, it looks good all year round.

Suitable for growers in Zones 5-9, common holly is easy to grow in full sun or part shade locations. It’s fast-growing, and with regular pruning will quickly provide you with a spiny, impenetrable barrier to protect your perimeter.

Most of the 200 holly variants produce bright red berries that are toxic to humans and pets, so bear this in mind when deciding where to plant.

Holly is tolerant of most soil conditions, although it will require regular moisture. To keep plants looking their best, an application of balanced, slow-release fertilizer once a year in spring is recommended.

5. Crown of Thorns

This bush is suitable for gardens in Zones 9-11. Some may recognize the plant name that is commonly known as crown of thorns, Christ plant, or Christ thorn,.

This slow-growing shrub grows up to six feet tall, with spiky spines on the branches and stems. Red, pink, or white flowers with petal-like bracts appear throughout the year.

The sap is poisonous and can cause skin irritation, so care is needed when handling this plant. Grow in a full sun location in well-draining soil and be careful not to overwater, as wet feet can cause root rot.

Plant under windows, on the inside of fences, or at vulnerable locations around your property to deter crooks.

6. Devil's Walking Stick

This is a deciduous shrub that thrives in Zones 4-9 in average, well-draining soil, and a full- or part-sun location. Some know this shrub as Hercules club and prickly ash, the devil’s walking stick is so named thanks to the dense spines found on its branches and stems. The large leaves are also armed with spiky prickles. If you have ever grabbed one of the walking sticks by accident I'm sure you have not forgotten it.

Native to the eastern US, this member of the ginseng family, Araliaceae, blooms in late summer with showy white flowers that attract bees and other pollinators.

Fast growing, it self seeds easily – leaving you with young specimens popping up in unwanted locations.

Small, inedible berries appear after flowering. The roots, stems, and berries have been used historically for medicinal purposes by Native Americans and early settlers.

If you keep it pruned, the devil’s walking stick will maintain a shrubby, compact form, but it can grow into a large tree up to 20 feet tall. Regular pruning will encourage vigorous, bushy growth. It’s commonly found growing wild at the edge of woodland areas and will form dense, thorny thickets of pain. It’s best planted away from the house as it has a tendency to spread, and is useful on larger properties as a dense barrier of thorniness.

7. Hardy Orange (Flying Dragon)

The hardy orange is native to China, and is a close relative of the citrus orange we know and love. Hardy to Zone 5, this multi-branched deciduous shrub – or small tree – provides ornamental interest in the garden.

The fruit is edible, but extremely sour tasting – you won’t be squeezing it for your morning orange juice.

The branches are covered with two-inch thorns, and with a dense, twisting growth habit, it will provide an excellent barrier.

At peek maturity, the height can reach 15-20 feet, this plant responds well to pruning and can be fashioned into a formal or informal hedge.

‘Flying Dragon’ is ideal to plant as a hedge, growing up to five feet tall, and it responds very well to pruning. It has densely tangled stems covered in vicious thorns.

8. Hawthorn

Hawthorn is a deciduous flowering shrub or small tree. Native to temperate regions of Europe, Asia, and North America, it is commonly seen in cottage gardens, with pretty blooms in various different colors including pink, red, white, and bicolored.

Most species grow in a dense clumping form, and produce small, edible berries in the early fall.

These tart fruits can be used to make jams and preserves, and have been used in herbal remedies and in traditional Chinese medicine.

This species grows up to 25 feet tall at maturity with a spread of 18-20 feet. Its delicate blooms are white and the foliage turns a deep reddish-brown in the fall.

9. Honey Locust

The honey locust is a fast growing, deciduous tree native to the central US.

It looks like something out of your worst nightmare, with large clumps of thorns protruding from its trunk and branches.

Honey locust thrives in Zones 3-8, and will grow into a shrubby, thorny clump unless pruned to encourage a single trunk.

A member of the Fabaceae family, honey locust flowers in late spring, with fragrant, cream-colored blooms. It produces seed pods that mature in the fall, and bright green foliage gives way to autumnal yellow.

This fast-growing ornamental tree can reach a lofty 90 feet tall at maturity. It thrives in average soil, and is drought, salt, and heat tolerant.

10. Porcupine Tomato

Here’s a plant that doesn’t hide its thorns shyly, buried beneath the foliage, to secretly spike an unsuspecting passerby.

Large orange-yellow thorns display prominently along the branches and sprout from the leaf surface, in a decadent display of wickedness. Even the bracts surrounding the fruit have their own mini thorns.

It’s a plant that says “look at me” and “go away” in the same breath. Small purple flowers contrast with the green foliage and orange armor – appearing from late spring and lasting all through summer.

You have just read about ten of many possibly additions to include when building or adding to your landscaping plans for enhanced security features. These possibilities are far more cosmetically appeasing than barriers or earthen berms. Maybe consider both to your plan. Good luck and shout if you have questions.


Bravo Echo Out

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