A row of evergreen privacy trees or shrubs can become a living fence that blocks noise, reduces air pollution, slows the wind, and, most noteworthy, hides an unwanted view. It isn’t hard to grow a privacy screen and it doesn’t take as long as you might think.
First of all, decide how tall your privacy screen needs to be. You may be able to get by with a 6-8 foot hedge, or you may need a taller living wall of majestic conifers.
Our favorite trees for tall privacy screens are cone-bearing evergreens — such as cedars, cypress, junipers, and pines. Evergreen conifers tend to grow fast and have very low maintenance requirements, therefore needing less pruning.
For lower screens, a dense hedge of broadleaf evergreens just 6-8 feet high might be all you need. Evergreen shrubs spaced 2-4 feet apart will fill the bill nicely.
For low, hedge-like screens, we recommend Walter viburnum, Boxwood, Podocarpus or any of the evergreen hollies such as Perfect Plant’s Oak Leaf Holly.
To create a classic, formal screen — plant a single species, evenly spaced, in a straight line. However, planting a mixture of different kinds of evergreens adds diversity and architectural interest to your landscape. Also, a mixture of species could minimize the spread of pests or diseases should they rear up. When considering the aesthetics, try planting in clusters rather than a simple straight line. Thuja ‘Green Giant’ makes one of the best fast growing evergreen screens. These beauties are capable of putting on 3-5 feet of height per year; they are adaptable to most soil types, and they are tolerant of drought. Leyland cypress is another good choice since they grow fast and quickly fill the gaps between individual trees spaced 5-8 feet apart.
Norway spruce and Colorado spruce are among the best for wind breaks. Japanese cedar, Italian cypress, American arborvitae, and Canadian hemlock are other good choices for tall privacy screens. Note that Canadian hemlock tolerates shade better than other conifers, but is not suitable for hot climates.
Emerald Green Arborvitae is popular because it doesn’t grow more than 2-3’ wide, and doesn’t require any pruning. For really big screens, consider Leyland Cypress and Excelsa Cedar (a cultivar of giant arborvitae), both of which can get up to 20’ wide. Douglas Fir and giant arborvitae get even bigger, growing as wide as forty feet at maturity.
When planting a privacy screen you should position the trees at least twelve feet away from your home or foundation. You will also want to stay at least six feet away from patios, fences, and other structures. If planting under a utility line you will want to use trees or shrubs that will not get too tall. Also, pay attention to their width at maturity and space your new plants as far apart as their mature width.
|Cultivar||Mature Height||Mature Width||Growth Rate||USDA Zone|
(Viburnum tinus ‘Compactum’)
(Ilex vomitoria ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’)
(Abelia x grandiflora ‘Edward Goucher’)
(Ilex cornuta ‘burfordii nana’)
(Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’)
(Ilex x ‘Conaf’)
(Ilex cornuta ‘Needlepoint’)
Walter Viburnum 1-2
(Loropetalum chinese rubrum ‘Zhuzhou’)
(Thuja occidentals ‘Emerald Green’)
(Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’)
Tea Olive 1-2
(Thuja standishii x plicata)
Sweet Viburnum 1-2
(X Cupressocyparis leylandii)
1 – Cultivars are available with smaller dimensions and/or narrower shapes; 2 – Broad-leaved evergreen trees
Hence, don’t forget that you will need to water the trees until they are well established (probably several months), consequently be sure to have a water source in place. Happy planting!