Best Windbreak Trees for Privacy and Wind Protection

Sometimes prevailing winds can be more than just a nuisance. We all know strong winds, dust, and blowing sand can be damaging to structures and equipment, but constant winds, even of moderate intensity, can hurt ornamental plants, too. This is where the best windbreak trees come in to play.
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This is because plants lose more water through evaporation and transpiration when they are exposed to constant wind, thus requiring more frequent watering. Also, constant winds can cause your plants to grow with an unnatural bend. In some parts of the country, wind-blown dust and sand can be a serious problem for plants, critters, and non-living possessions, too. Cold winter winds can be devastating and fatal to some plants. Wind protection for plants and belongings is essential.

A wind break is a row, or a few staggered rows, of trees positioned to reduce winds that prevail. A living fence that blocks noise, reduces air pollution, hides an unwanted view, provides a backdrop for your plantings, reduces dust and sand, reduces heating costs for your home and slows the wind. The best windbreaks plants are evergreen trees with dense foliage and slender (as opposed to wide spreading) shapes.

Which Trees Make The Best Windbreaks?

It isn’t hard to grow a strong windbreak tree and it doesn’t take as long as you might think. First of all, decide how tall your wind-blocking trees needs to be. You might be able to get by with an evergreen hedge just eight or ten feet high, or you may need a taller living wall of majestic conifers.

For lower windbreaks, a dense row of evergreens (either broad leafed or needle leafed) might fill the bill. For low, hedge-like windbreaks and privacy screens, we recommend viburnum, Boxwoods, Podocarpus, or any of the evergreen hollies such as Perfect Plants’ Oakleaf Holly.

Our favorite trees for taller windbreaks are coniferous evergreens, such as pines, cedars, junipers, and cypresses, especially varieties that do not have wide-spreading limbs that could break off in strong winds.

Ultimately, evergreen conifers tend to grow fast, have very low maintenance requirements, and rarely need pruning.

How To Plant Windbreak Trees

Mixture of evergreen conifers creates variety and a uniqueness in your landscape
To create a classic, formal windbreak and 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 species-specific pests or diseases should they rear up.

When considering the aesthetics, try planting in clusters rather than a simple straight line. A very effective windbreak shrub is made by planting two rows of evenly spaced trees, with the trees staggered between the rows.  

Perfect Plants has a large selection of trees suitable for windbreaks and privacy screens. These include broad leafed evergreens as well trees with needlelike leaves. Our shipping specialists carefully package your plants using a proven packaging method so that regardless of how your box is handled, the plants inside will not be damaged. We usually send out orders on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays by FedEx so your plant(s) arrive before the weekend.

Most Popular Privacy Trees

Fast Growing Windbreak Trees

Space Thuja Green Giants at least 8-10 feet apart so they can grow to full mature size
  • Thuja ‘Green Giant’ makes one of the very best fast growing windbreaks. These beauties can put on 3-5 feet of height per year, reaching a mature height of 30-40 feet. ‘Green Giant’ also can be used for a low hedge-like windbreak. It can be kept short and compact by regular pruning, and it even tolerates shearing. ‘Green Giant’ is adaptable to most soil types, and tolerant of drought. Thuja ‘Green Giant’ is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9: Almost everywhere in the continental United States, except southern Florida and the northern Great Plains. ‘Green Giant’ is a low maintenance tree, accepting a wide variety of soil types, tolerant of shade when young, rarely eaten by deer, and little bothered by disease or insect pests. It withstands strong winds, ice and snow. One potential drawback:  Green Giant does not do well in salty soils or coastal areas receiving salt spray. 
Leyland Cypress trees fill their planting spaces to block the wind
  • Norway spruce and Colorado spruce are also excellent choices for windbreaks, as are Japanese cedar, Italian cypress, American arborvitae, and Canadian hemlock. Note that Canadian hemlock tolerates shade better than most conifers, but is not suitable for hot climates. Leyland cypress tree grows fast to 50-60 feet, and quickly fills the gaps between individual trees spaced 5-8 feet apart. For really big windbreaks, 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.
A maze of Emerald Green Arborvitae
  • The picturesque Emerald Green Arborvitae is recommended for shorter windbreaks because the growth rate doesn’t get more than 12 feet tall and 2-3’ wide, and doesn’t require any pruning.

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The Best Wind Blocking Trees

Name USDA Zones Growth Rate Mature height Mature Width Notes
Spring boquet viburnum
(Viburnum tinus ‘Compactum’)
7-11 medium 4-6 feet 4-6′ 2
Schilling holly
(Ilex vomitoria ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’)
6-9 slow 4-7 feet 6-10′ 2
Edwad Goucher abelia (Abelia x grandiflora ‘Edward Goucher’) 6-9 medium 5-6 feet 6-7′ 2
Boxwood (Buxus microphylla) 5-9 slow 5-6 feet 5-6′ 1, 2
Dwarf Burford holly (Ilex cornuta ‘burfordii nana’) 7-9 slow 5-8 feet 5-8′ 2
Japanese holly (Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’) 6-8 slow 8-10 feet 2-3′ 2
Oakleaf holly (Ilex x ‘Conaf’) 6-9 slow 10-15′ 6-8′ 2
Needlepoint holly (Ilex cornuta ‘Needlepoint’) 7-9 fast 10-15′ 5-10′ 2
Ocala anise (Illicium parvoflorum) 8-10 medium 10-15′ 6-10′ 2
Walter viburnum (Viburnum obovatum) 6-10 medium 10-15′ 8-12′ 1, 2
Wax ligustrum (Ligustrum japanicum) 7-11 fast 10-15′ 10-15′ 1, 2
Zhuzhou loropetalum (Loropetalum chinese rubrum ‘Zhuzhou’) 7-10 medium 10-15′ 6-8′ 2
Emerald green arborvitae (Thuja occidentals ‘Emerald Green’) 2-7 medium 13-15′ 3-4′
Hicksii yew (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’) 4-7 slow 15-20′ 10-12′
Tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans) 8-11 medium 15-30′ 10-20′ 1, 2
Podocarpus (Podocarpus macrophyllus) 8-10 slow 20-35′ 10-15′ 1, 2
Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum) 3-7 6-12″/year 20-40′ 4-12′ 1
Thuja Green Giant (Thuja standishii x plicata) 5-9 3-5’/year 20-40′ 10-12′
Sweet viburnum (Viburnum odoratissimum) 8-10 fast 25-30′ 15-25′ 1, 2
Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) 7-9 2-3’/year 30-40′ 3-5′ 1
Americal arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) 3-7 medium 30-50′ 10-15 1
Colorado spruce (Picea pungens) 3-7 medium 30-60′ 10-20′ 1
English yew (Taxus baccata) 5-7 slow 30-60′ 15-20′ 1
Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) 5-8 2-3’/year 30-60′ 15-30′ 1
Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) 2-9 medium 40-50′ 8-20′ 1
Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica) 7-9 medium 40-50′ 20-30′ 1
White spruce (Picea glauca) 3-6 medium 40-60′ 15-20′ 1
Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) 3-7 medium 40-70′ 25-35′ 1
Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostropoides) 5-8 3-4’/year 50-80′ 15-25′
Norway spruce (Picea abies) 3-7 2-4’/year 50-80′ 20-30′ 1
Leyland cypress (X Cupressocyparis leylandii) 6-10 3-4’/year 60-70′ 15-20′ 1
Giant arborvitae (Thuja plicata) 5-7 medium 60-70′ 20-35′ 1
Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) 3-6 medium 60-150′ 20-40′ 1
1 = cultivars are available with smaller dimensions and/or narrower shapes.
2 = broad-leaved evergreen