How to Choose the Best Privacy
Choosing Your Privacy Trees
One of the many benefits homeowners enjoy is the outdoor living spaces that come along with property ownership. However, many of these yards lack privacy as they are too open and exposed to both neighbors or passerby. Without this sense of sanctuary and needed privacy many homeowners and their families may feel less inclined to spend quality time using in their yards.
On the other hand, when a yard is private and welcoming, a family can make full and wonderful use of their outdoor spaces throughout the entire year no matter what the season. Homeowners and their families can enjoy their yards year round without feeling like their activities are on display.
There are numerous trees that make an excellent choice for privacy while softening the outdoor space with what is in effect a living green wall. Besides adding greatly to the sense of privacy to your home, a privacy tree buffer is naturally aesthetic way of framing outdoor rooms with lush green foliage while minimizing sound and encouraging healthy biodiversity.
Types of Privacy Trees
Experts recommend certain species of trees or shrubs over others to create an effective privacy screen. Here are the two broad options homeowners have available to choose between when selecting the best trees to plant for privacy:
Evergreens: Many people consider evergreens to be trees that are best for privacy. They fill in nicely as they mature and offer a nice consistent look for a privacy screen. Unlike deciduous plants, evergreens maintain their foliage and color year-round. However, they don’t provide quite the color diversity that you would find with many deciduous plants.
- Deciduous: These trees and shrubs come in many varieties, which can make for an attractive and colorful privacy screen. However, deciduous plants lose their leaves in late fall and throughout the winter when they are dormant and won’t provide year-round privacy.
Choosing the Right Privacy Trees for Your Yard
Each property owner must consider their unique needs when deciding what the best trees for privacy are. This comes down to not only the space, size, and slope of your yard but your tastes as well. It’s also important for homeowners to think ahead about what their privacy screen will look like once their plantings mature.
Here are some of the basics to consider when choosing trees or shrubs that are good for privacy in your yard:
Privacy Screen Height and Width
When choosing the right type of privacy trees or shrubs for your home, you must consider the full mature size of the plant. You’ll want to make sure that the plants reach the right height for your desired screen when they’re fully grown. On the one hand, you’ll want your plants to be tall enough to hide particular views. On the other hand, you don’t want them to be so tall that they may reach overhead power lines and endanger your home.
Width is another important consideration for your privacy trees and shrubs. If you’re planting along neighboring property lines, you’ll want to make sure your screen isn’t encroaching on your neighbor’s yard. The full width of the plant at its mature stage will also help you determine the spacing between each one. The screen may initially have large gaps between each plant, but this will fill in overtime.
Amount of Usable Space
If you already have a small yard, you’ll want to maximize space by selecting taller, thinner trees. If you have an excess of space, we encourage using fuller, wider hedgerows. Be cautious of not planting your trees or shrubs too close to your pavement. Roots may spread under the pavement causing it to push up and possibly create cracks or uneven patches.
Level of Maintenance
Another important thing for homeowners to consider is how much they’re willing to invest in maintenance costs and time. Some hedges require regular pruning to ensure they maintain their neat appearance. If you’re looking for low-maintenance privacy trees, consider going with a medium-height evergreen tree. Trees that grow in conical or pyramidal shapes may be a suitable option because they don’t require as much pruning.
How to Plant Privacy Trees
For information on how to grow and care for your privacy, see our planting guide: How to Plant Privacy Trees.
Traditional Privacy Tree Arrangements
We’ve all seen beautiful and immaculately manicured hedgerows along sidewalks that effectively block front yards from sight. But this isn’t the only way to plant your privacy trees. In reality, there are several different ways to arrange your shrubs and trees to build the right privacy screen for your yard.
Here are some of the traditional arrangements and ways you may choose to plant your privacy trees:
Same Plant Type
Using multiple trees of the same type to build a privacy screen is one of the most popular options. It creates a perfect, consistent screen that looks impressive to all who pass by. The even spacing, height, and fullness along a row of privacy trees or hedges can be a truly stunning feature to add to your home.
However, it can be a difficult effect to maintain. One poorly performing tree can cause the row to look uneven. Or a wave of pests or disease can wipe out your entire row. It also requires a regular pruning regime to maintain the appearance of evenness and consistency. Many homeowners find this too time-consuming and may look at alternative options.
An alternative option to planting privacy screens of the same plant type is to go for a mixture of shrubs instead. For busy homeowners, this may be a more practical option. Part of the visual appeal is having a beautiful combination of interesting plants. This can add depth and intrigue to your landscape design.
Choosing a mixture of different plants is also more practical from a maintenance standpoint. Homeowners won’t have to worry about differing heights or performance levels of their chosen plants. A shorter, smaller tree won’t stand out like a sore thumb as it would in a single row of all the same plant type.
Arranging a privacy screen in a straight line is usually the most common option for planting. A single row of plantings works well if you have the luxury of a perfectly level and straight boundary along which you’re planting. You can plant a straight row of all the same type of tree, or you can do mixed shrubs along a fence line.
This approach also works well if you wish to occupy a limited amount of space with your privacy screen. A straight line of plantings can help you to maximize the space in your yard while also giving you the privacy you desire.
Cluster planting is an arrangement approach that works if there is a particular view you wish to eliminate. In a cluster formation, you strategically plant a group of 3-5 shrubs of trees in front of whatever it is you’d like to block. Experts recommend grouping in odd numbers.
Homeowners looking for a more natural-looking privacy screen may prefer cluster planting. This is the opposite of a perfectly manicured straight-lined hedge. The cluster arrangement works whether you want to plant the same type of tree or a mixture of trees and shrubs. Some homeowners enjoy getting creative with a cluster formation by adding in flowering bushes to add further landscape design features.
A final option that homeowners have is to plant 2-3 staggered rows of trees. The idea with this arrangement is that the back row fills in the gaps of the row in front of it. This way of arranging a privacy screen allows the homeowner to benefit from immediate privacy as opposed to waiting for the gaps to fill in on their own.
This arrangement also creates a more solid wall effect compared to the other options. A multi-row privacy screen is a good option if you have a large, open yard or are next to a busy road. A multi-row is an excellent option for canceling noise pollution. It’s also the best choice if you’re looking to protect otherwise open space from high winds.
Once you’ve decided the best way to arrange your trees for privacy, it’s time to consider the best trees for you. Here are some of the popular options for great trees for privacy:
Best Trees to Plant for Privacy (In order by fastest-growing)
Leyland Cypress: The Leyland cypress is a hardy evergreen and fast growing tree used for privacy screens. It grows 3-5 feet in height per year and reaches a mature height of 50 feet, making it another one of the best tall trees for privacy.
Thuja Green Giant Arborvitae: If you’re looking to block second-story views, Thuja Green Giant is one of the best tall trees for privacy. This evergreen tree grows 3-5 feet per year. It forms a conical shape but provides dense foliage that stays a rich green color year-round.
Thuja Emerald Green Arborvitae: A cousin of the Green Giant, the Thuja Emerald is a smaller evergreen that grows up to 15 feet tall and only 4 feet wide. For smaller yards or narrow paths, the Thuja Emerald is an excellent low-maintenance option.
Nellie Stevens Holly: A hybrid of the Blue Holly and Chinese Holly this upright evergreen tree is a gem in terms of size, shape, color, and appearance. Vigorous and fast-growing, the Nellie R Steven grows rapidly into a broad pyramidal shaped evergreen reaching 25’ height and 12 -15’ width.
American Holly: A true American classic, this tree grows well in all hardiness zones. The American Holly is native to North America from Florida to Massachusetts and west to Texas and Northern Missouri. With lush dark green glossy leaves and brilliant red berries in the fall, it is as often planted as a specimen as it is used for a natural privacy tree. The American Holly reaches 50 feet in height and 20 feet in width at maturity. It grows best in dappled light conditions with well-drained soils.
White Pine: The Eastern White Pine is a sturdy evergreen tree that's best used in landscapes with ample space. It's fine feathery needles, open canopy, and straight trunk get more picturesque with age. White Pines are known to be fast-growing and long-lived and are the perfect tree for windbreaks, buffer plantings or privacy screens in large open areas.
Blue Ice Arizona Cypress: The Blue Ice Arizona Cypress has smooth, flaking reddish-purple bark and upright, spirally arranged sprays of scale-like, aromatic, glaucous blue-gray leaves/needles that are flecked with white resin. It develops globular cones which are chocolate brown. Prefers full sun, and thrives especially well in somewhat hot, dry environments. Makes a wonderful medium to large specimen tree or a great privacy screen or hedge. Maintains its beautiful silvery-blue color all year round.
- Blue Point Juniper: The Blue Point juniper grows into a pyramidal shape and reaches up to 12 feet tall. As an evergreen, the Blue Point Juniper can provide homeowners with a year-round privacy screen along a fence line. The Blue Point Juniper also works well in a cluster or multi-row arrangement.
For three decades, Garden Goods Direct has been supplying healthy, high-quality and disease-free trees from our Maryland nursery. Garden Goods Direct offers a beautiful range of trees and shrubs including Green Giants, Leyland cypress, boxwoods and more. Visit Garden Goods Direct today to purchase your privacy trees and shrubs online.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September of 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.