Choosing the perfect living privacy screen!
We often receive questions on the radio and on our Discussion Board about which trees or shrubs are the best for screening and privacy hedges.
Living privacy screens are a wonderful alternative to privacy fences for many reasons. They not only create privacy for your outdoor living spaces but they provide beauty from color, texture, and form. Because they are "living fences", they become a dynamic part of your landscape, changing through the seasons and providing a natural habitat for the wild birds in the area. They are also attractive to look at from both sides so your neighbor can enjoy them as well!
Careful selection of the trees or shrubs will result in the perfect living screen for your special situation.
There are many choices available and it is important to choose species that fit the requirements for the space you have. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Size - When you are trying to decide on which trees or shrubs to use for a privacy screen, be sure to take into account their mature size.
- This is especially important when planting near a building or other structures.
- Choose trees/shrubs with a mature height and spread that fits your needs. Avoid ones that will grow taller than you want. Leyland cypress is commonly used for screening but this tree can grow to 60 feet tall!
- Pruning can be done on some trees and shrubs to maintain the desired height but this increases maintenance and can often ruin the natural beauty and shape of the plant.
- Exposure - How much sun or shade does the area get? Choose species that will thrive in these conditions.
- Soil conditions - What is the soil like? Does it drain well? Is it dry or overly wet?
- When do you need the privacy?
- For permanent year-around screening, you may want to choose an evergreen variety.
- If you only really need privacy during the warmer seasons, a deciduous variety may fit the bill.
- How much maintenance are you willing to put up with? If you don't want to have to do a lot of pruning and shaping, choose something that will grow just to the height and spread you want and that keeps an attractive shape with little or no pruning.
Planting an attractive privacy screen
One of the most attractive and effective ways to create a privacy screen is to stagger your plants in groups of 3-5 rather than planting in a single straight row. That way, if one plant happens to die, the others will fill the space. This also adds depth and beauty to the planting and allows your screen to become part of the landscape rather than looking like a row of trees or shrubs put in as a barrier - it serves the purpose without looking like a "wall".
Another option is to plant more than one species in your living screen. You would still want to plant each species in groups of 3-5, not mix them within a grouping. This will add even more interest to the planting. You can even combine deciduous species with evergreens for more variety.
Some great choices for screening:
Evergreen trees and shrubs for screening
- Sun loving
- Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)
- Boxwood (Buxus)
- Cedar (Cedrus)
- False Cypress (Chamaecyparis)
- Juniper (Juniperus)
- Leyland cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii)
- Shade tolerant
- Andromeda (Pieris japonica)
- Azalea and Rhododendron
- Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
- Holly (Ilex)
- Yew (Taxus)
- Detailed height & width information for screening plants
Deciduous trees and shrubs for screening
- Barberry (Berberis)
- Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)
- Forsythia (Forsythia)
- Lilac (Syringa)
- Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa)
- Mock Orange (Philadelphus coronarius)
- Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)
- Smoketree (Cotinus)