What Are the Best Trees and Shrubs for Sound Barriers?

What Are the Best Trees and Shrubs for Sound Barriers?

Sep 18, 2019
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Street and traffic sounds, neighbors, local businesses or people passing by your home can cause your backyard to lose the private and quiet allure many homeowners crave.

If this is a familiar situation to you, know that plant barriers can be a solution to noise and privacy concerns. Indeed, plant barriers are excellent investments for homeowners; trees or bushes can give you added privacy, improve the value of your property, and even reduce noise pollution. Stems, leaves, branches, and bark are effective at absorbing sound, and foliage has even been used to reduce noise in cities.

However, it’s important to understand that not all trees and shrubs are equally effective. What are the best trees and shrubs for sound barriers, and how can you best minimize noise pollution in your front- or backyard? This article will provide all the information you’ll need to block out unruly noise and restore some tranquility to your property. 

Arborvitaes Trees

Arborvitae Trees such as Thuja Green Giants, American Pillars, and Emerald Green Arborvitaes are popular choices for both privacy and noise barriers. The thick soft foliage is evergreen, and they can be planted closer together than other kinds of trees. This means you can make a very thick hedge or wall, especially if you plant them in two staggered rows

Holly Trees and Shrubs

Note that the most effective noise-blocking plant-life are large evergreen broadleaf trees and bushes. This is because they provide year-round noise reduction and absorb the most sound. Holly trees and holly shrubs can be a great option.

Hollies are glossy, dark-green evergreen trees that are ideal sound barriers. Nellie Stevens hollies or American holly trees are excellent examples of effective variants. The former can reach up to 20 feet tall and a width of 18 feet, while the latter can grow to a massive 50 feet high and 40 feet wide. The dense leaves of these trees are major barriers for sound and quickly grow, making them an efficient and beautiful addition to your noise reduction strategy

Holly bushes also generally have waxy, green leaves, and you can identify some varieties by looking for their bright-red berries during early spring or summer. Some variants are particularly effective as part of a plant barrier. This includes Blue Prince hollies, and Steeds hollies, which can grow up to 8 feet each and effectively absorb noise with their broad leaves. Castle Spire Blue hollies can grow even higher — up to 12 feet. These are excellent at addressing gaps between trees in your noise reduction barrier.

Magnolia Trees

Magnolia trees can be a beautiful addition to yards that require noise reduction. An iconic tree from the south, it’s easy to become the envy of the neighborhood by planting these trees, which are often adorned with beautiful flowers. While it may be easy to dismiss Magnolia trees as a viable solution for noise reduction due to the sparse foliage of some variants, some types are great for this purpose.

Bracken's Brown Beauty Magnolias can reach up to 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide, ensuring excellent coverage for noise reduction. Teddy Bear Magnolias and Little Gem Magnolias are no slouches, either; they are dense with broad leaves and can grow up to 20 feet tall and 12 feet wide. This is a great choice for filling in gaps in your plant barrier in a small yard or getting some coverage in tricky areas, such as corners.

Cypress Trees

This may seem like an odd inclusion, as the traditional Italian Cypress that likely comes to mind doesn’t cover much surface area. However, when densely planted, it can form an effective barrier for blocking sound. Other types of Cypress trees are much wider while offering dense foliage for sound reduction. This includes the Leyland Cypress tree — which can grow up to 50 feet tall and is great for hedges — and the Carolina Sapphire Cypress tree.

Most species of Cypress trees are evergreen, making them reliable for year-round noise protection. Given the amount of coverage they provide, they are also great at granting you some privacy.

How to Add Color to Your Plant Barrier

The above options are some of the most effective noise reduction options, but there are plenty of additional trees and shrubs that can add contrast and color to your plant barrier. While these are not as effective as broadleaf evergreen plants, they can bolster your noise reduction efforts to some extent when used in conjunction with them.

For trees, look to large, colorful options like Autumn Blaze Maple Trees, which can grow up to a respectable 40 feet in height and 30 feet in width while adding a splash of vibrant orange to your yard during the fall. Redbud trees can also add seasonal flair to your plant barrier. Play around with your options to find a layout that suits not only your noise reduction needs, but your preferred aesthetic as well.

If you want to explore more ways to add color to your yard, there are many different types of shrubs that can add impressive pops of color to an outdoor sound barrier. Explore the options below to see a wide range of options for every season and climate:

These are only a few examples. With enough creativity and planning, you can create a plant barrier that truly reflects your tastes.

Tips for Reducing Noise Pollution in Your Yard

When it comes to reducing noise from traffic or neighbors in your yard, understanding which plants meet your aesthetic and noise reduction needs is only part of the equation. You should also follow key design considerations when determining how you will take on this project. Indeed, improper planning can seriously worsen the effectiveness of trees or shrubs as noise blockers.

To make the most out of your investment and effectively reduce noise pollution, consider the following best practices:

  • Buy plants that meet your desired time frame: Less-developed trees typically cost less than more mature ones, but certain types of saplings can take many years to reach an adequate height to serve as a sound blocker. If your noise pollution problems require an urgent solution, considering investing in fast-growing trees or buying fully developed plants.
  • Plant your buffer close to the noise source: The closer your noise-dampening plants are to potential noise sources, the more effective they will be. If your home is next to a major road or you have particularly loud neighbors, plan your landscaping so that plantlife blocks those noise sources. However, be sure to leave enough room to account for potential traffic accidents or drifting snow.
  • Use your yard’s topography to your advantage: A similar concern when selecting the best trees for privacy, it’s key to remember that, the higher your plants are, the more noise pollution they can prevent. Planting your sound barrier in a ditch will dramatically reduce the amount of noise it can prevent. On the other hand, inclines in your yard may be leveraged in your overall design — particularly if they face potential noise sources. Putting a plant barrier on these can yield great results.
  • Create dense buffers: Make sure your trees or shrubs are planted closely together in a tight formation. While plants need a certain amount of space to develop properly, this requirement differs from type to type. Effective noise blockers, like those described earlier in this article, can generally be planted in very close proximity to one another, allowing homeowners to create a “wall” of vegetation. Make sure to avoid gaps wherever possible, particularly in areas close to noise sources.
  • Prioritize evergreen plants: Many of the plants discussed in this article are evergreen. This is because they are best at ensuring consistent noise protection. For year-round noise reduction, evergreen trees and shrubs are a must. If you opt for climate-appropriate deciduous or semi-evergreen variants, be sure that they will still meet your noise reduction needs at key times of the year.

By following these best practices and adorning your space with the recommended trees and shrubs, they can provide a significant and gorgeous sound barrier, and enable your home to be the private mecca you’d always hoped and craved it to be.