The Best Trees for Your Backyard

The Best Trees for Your Backyard

Mar 12, 2020

Many people value privacy in and around their homes, especially in their backyard where they often encounter their neighbors. In fact, even people who know their neighbors tend to rarely interact with them, suggesting that homeowners would rather keep their backyard to themselves. 

With a private backyard, homeowners can make full use of their property without having to be self-conscious of their activities. While some homeowners opt for a fence or a wall to create privacy, they can be unsightly or expensive. An alternative option is to create a living privacy wall out of trees. Often trees planted in the front yard can make a statement and add to curb appeal.

Trees can add a variety of benefits to a backyard, including:

  • Providing shade;
  • Improving the landscape;
  • Hiding unsightly yards;
  • Creating food and shelter for birds and wildlife;
  • Creating a sound buffer for added privacy.

Choosing a privacy tree for the backyard may take some consideration and provision, including:

  • Sun and shade exposure;
  • How much space a mature tree will need;
  • Your USDA hardiness zone;
  • And what plants can thrive under or alongside a tree.

Privacy trees can be a natural and aesthetic solution to your privacy problems. This article can help you choose the right privacy tree for your backyard.

Best Trees for Backyard Privacy

Dense and bushy trees, typically evergreen trees, are ideal for privacy screens between yards. They can be planted close together to emulate a fence while still blending in with the outdoors, and keep their leaves all year round. Most evergreen trees are a popular choice for privacy because they are highly resilient and low maintenance. Examples of dense privacy trees include:

  • American Pillar Arborvitae Tree: The American Pillar is considered a medium-sized tree and grows three to four feet per year, totaling up to 30 feet tall when mature. Typically fast-growing, they are also very easy to care for and are extremely tolerant of varying temperatures and soil conditions.
  • Nellie Stevens Holly Tree: This pyramid-shaped tree can grow up to 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide, and is considered one of the most attractive holly trees available. It also produces large berries that birds love. Nellie Stevens tend to grow in a variety of soil conditions and can make beautiful backdrops for planting beds.
  • Dwarf Alberta Spruce Tree: This cone-shaped tree displays dense, soft, green needles all year round. When mature, this spruce tree is six to eight feet tall and four to five feet wide. They can also be used as a miniature Christmas tree or can be artistically pruned to make a statement in your garden.
  • Emerald Green Arborvitae Trees: This tree's foliage is one of the thickest of all the arborvitae, making it perfect for a privacy screen or hedge. 

Tall Privacy Trees

You can also use a tree’s height to your advantage when creating privacy. However, it’s important to ensure these tall trees won’t create more problems than solutions. When planting a tree that will grow very tall, make sure there are no powerlines in the way and remember not to plant them too close to your house - give them ample room to grow so that you can reap the full benefits of your tall privacy tree. Examples of tall privacy trees include:

  • Leyland Cypress Tree: This hardy, fast-growing tree is ideal for hedges, windbreaks, and privacy screens. It is known for its bright lime green foliage and can reach 60 feet in height. Additionally, they can be planted in clusters instead of a straight line, perfect for hiding utility boxes or other, smaller permanent fixtures around the yard.
  • Thuja Green Giant Arborvitae Tree: This tree can grow in nearly any region and reaches a height of 60 feet at maturity. It’s also an evergreen tree, which means homeowners won’t have to worry about the leaves falling and disrupting their privacy in the winter months. Additionally, this tree is deer and disease resistant and is considered low maintenance.
  • Norway Spruce Tree: This pyramid-shaped tree can grow up to 55 feet tall and 25 feet wide, making it perfect for windbreaks, privacy screens, and hedges in large-scale landscapes. It can grow in partial or full sun and is extremely attractive when used as a border for the yard.

Best Trees for Backyard Shade

Backyard shade can be a saving grace in the summer months, providing protection from the elements for both the homeowners and their property. Without shade, the backyard can become an unpleasant place to spend time in. Creating your own tree shade can also provide a cooling effect on your home. Examples of great trees for backyard shade include:

  • October Glory Maple Tree: While this tree can provide shade year-round, it is most attractive in the fall when its leaves turn from bright orange to a deep purple. In maturity, they can grow up to 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide, and tolerates moist soil and warm sun. Planting these trees in a grove will help you make the most out of their shade.
  • Exclamation Sycamore Tree: This tree is adaptable to both dry and wet climates, and typically does well under average home landscape conditions. It is even tolerant of urban pollution, making it one of many trees that thrive in urban settings. This tree is also low maintenance, as there is no pruning needed.
  • Bloodgood London Plane Tree: This pyramid-shaped tree offers a colorful defoliating bark that is either olive, yellow, or ivory in color. It is resistant to disease and urban pollutants. Bloodgood London Planes can reach 80 feet in height and 50 feet in width and are fast-growing. This tree is also ideal for gardeners who want a low-maintenance tree as it does not need any pruning.

Small Trees for Backyard

Homeowners with small yards may think privacy trees are not an option; however, there are many small trees that can flourish in a small yard. Trees that are narrow but tall can still provide an ample amount of privacy. Examples of these trees include: 

  • DeGroots Spire Arborvitae: This narrow tree only grows up to five feet wide, however its height can reach up to 20 feet. It can also be planted close to a patio or deck because it won’t overtake the surrounding area. It is often used for hedging or privacy screening due to its dense evergreen foliage.
  • Japanese Maple: Japanese Maples are one of the most desirable trees and are used as focal points in landscapes. They are very versatile in color, ranging from yellow to red to purple. They can also vary in height, from weeping and cascading styles to shrub-like heights. They are slow to grow, yet can provide shade and privacy for small yards.
  • Dwarf River Birch Little King: This dwarf birch only grows up to 10 feet, making it a perfect option for small yards. The feathery leaves can still provide privacy even though this tree is not as tall as others. Similar to the River Birch Tree, its bark peels and its color turns from a light-brown to a reddish-brown. It is low maintenance and heat and cold tolerant. 

Flowering and Ornamental Trees for Backyard Color

Trees that flower can be beautiful statement pieces for any yard, while still providing privacy from the street and neighbors. These trees can also increase the value of your property if you plan to sell it in the future. Additionally, large flowering trees can increase the shade that falls on your home, possibly lowering your energy bill. Examples of flowering and ornamental trees include:

  • Milky Way Kousa Dogwood: The Milky Way Kousa is a vase-shaped tree packed with white flowers that bloom in early June. They also produce raspberry-esque fruits that attract birds and other wildlife. In the fall, their leaves turn purple-red. Dogwoods do not require any pruning and can grow up to 25 feet tall and 20 feet wide.
  • Muskogee Crape Myrtle: This Crape Myrtle blooms in lavender, making it unique among suburban landscapes. It’s also fast-growing and mildew resistant, and its bark peels from a cinnamon color to a light gray. It is also a versatile tree, as it can be kept as a shrub or grow to 12 feet tall. 
  • Yoshino Cherry Tree: The Yoshino Cherry Tree produces a fragrant mass of white flowers that can add texture and beauty to any yard. They stand at 40 feet tall and 25 feet wide in maturity and are partial to full sun or half shade; full sun can help bring out its best color in the fall. It is generally low maintenance with no pruning needed.

Backyard Fruit and Nut Trees

While providing privacy, fruit and nut trees have the added benefit of being edible. These trees can also improve the health of your landscape by providing fertilizer for your lawn, plants for pollinators, and food for birds and wildlife. It’s important to know what type of fruit or nut tree can grow in your areas, as some are particular about the climate. Additionally, pests and diseases could interfere with your edible trees, so it’s important to look into pesticides to make the most out of your harvest. Examples of backyard fruit and nut trees are:

  • Miho Satsuma Orange Tree: This tree does not only provide fragrant flowers and fruit, it’s also excellent for small yards. These trees can grow up to 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide and flourish in full sun or partial shade. Additionally, its oranges are easy to peel and virtually seedless.
  • Granny Smith Apple Trees: Apple trees are a popular fruit tree to grow with beautiful white flowers to accompany the delicious harvest. The trees grow up to 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide, and their fruit is perfect for making pies.
  • Dustan Chestnut Tree: Chestnut trees are a favorite to plant for homeowners, as they are easy to grow and care for. While older chestnut trees were vulnerable to fungus, the Dustan is blight resistant. For proper pollination, a minimum of two trees must be planted.

Backyard trees can offer an array of benefits for homeowners, and there are an ample amount of options to choose from. By understanding your backyard needs and researching the different tree types, you can find the perfect backyard tree to contribute to your home’s privacy.