How to Plant Privacy
Have you ever felt your yard is too exposed? Maybe it’s neighbors on either side of you that you’re worried about, or maybe someone else’s backyard rests directly up against yours at the back. Maybe your house is situated close to a busy street, and you’re uncomfortable being so visible to every single person who happens to drive by.
If your yard needs more privacy, but you can't install a fence or want something even taller, we recommend planting privacy trees.
What Are Privacy Trees?
Privacy trees aren’t necessarily a specific species of tree, although certain types do work better than others. Instead, they’re a row of trees, usually planted tightly together, so that they form a screen and a barrier, protecting you from unwanted prying eyes. They also work in reverse, too, and can be used to block an unpleasant view from your eyes. If the neighbor’s house is an eyesore, or if your home is next to a run-down gas station, for instance, privacy trees are the perfect way to separate your house from this view.
How to Choose Privacy Trees
While any tree will provide a bit of a barrier and help obstruct the view, certain trees will do this better than others. A single maple tree, for example, will grow tall and spread its branches out in every direction, but it will quickly grow to take up huge amounts of space. It couldn’t be planted in a neat row with other trees to make a uniform barrier.
There are other trees that are much better suited to this task. Leyland Cypress trees, for example, are an excellent choice. Emerald Green Arborvitae is another good choice, as is Hicks Yew. Just a few of the different characteristics you should think about as you decide which trees are right for you are:
1. Evergreen or Deciduous?
Evergreen trees include, among others, pine trees and other coniferous trees. The main benefit of this type of tree is that it will provide year-round privacy as evergreens retain their needles all year round. In addition to this, they also don’t require raking or other similar types of autumn maintenance. However, you’ll want to be aware that many species of evergreens will grow to be extremely wide, given enough years. If your space is limited, these might not be the best choice. A surprising and fragrant evergreen option is the Teddy Bear Magnolia.
Deciduous trees are beautiful to look at and will change with the seasons. You can enjoy watching the new leaves uncurl in the spring, the rich green color in the summer and the flaming shades of orange, red and yellow in the fall. Unfortunately, these beautiful leaves will fall in the autumn, leaving you with bare branches and no privacy screen. If you’re aware of this and are all right with a privacy screen that only lasts for three out of four seasons, however, deciduous trees can be a possible choice for a less extreme privacy barrier.
2. How Much Space Do You Have?
This is one of the most important questions you can ask when choosing your privacy trees, as space will be a large factor at play here. If you have an extremely small yard, you may not want trees at all, and you may instead be more interested in large species of arborvitae. On the other hand, if your yard is huge, you might be able to invest in towering evergreens.
No matter which side of this spectrum you fall on, it’s critical that you assess your amount of space. First, determine how much space you have available. Then ask yourself how much of that space you’re willing to dedicate to your privacy barrier. You can eyeball these measurements if you like, but they will be more accurate if you get out the tape measure and calculate the exact figures.
3. How Tall Will They Grow?
When choosing the correct trees for your privacy barrier, you’ll want to give careful consideration to how tall your potential tree species will get. Ideally, you’re looking for something tall enough that it will effectively block whatever view you want to block. A privacy barrier really isn’t much good if you can easily see over the top of it, after all.
However, there is such a thing as too tall, as well. Thuja Green Giant Arborvitae can get up to 60 feet tall. You don’t want your privacy trees to grow so tall that they dominate the entire landscape, especially if no other tree in the area is tall enough to balance this out.
4. How Wide Will They Grow?
This concern is perhaps even more crucial than the question of how tall your trees will grow. To work as intended, privacy trees need to grow close enough together that their branches and leaves or needles begin to mesh, blocking out the view between the gaps in the trees. If you buy trees that don’t spread out to the side at all, this will never happen and your barrier will prove ineffective.
Just as trees can grow too tall, however, they can also grow too wide. When selecting your trees, you’ll need to be cautious to select a tree that won’t grow so wide that it will take over the entire space. Privacy trees must be planted relatively close together. If each tree is competing for the limited amount of space, the roots from one tree can overtake another, resulting in some of the trees dying out and your privacy barrier being spotty and ineffectual. A tree like Nellie Stevens Holly can be planted fairly close together and grows wide enough to mesh but also tolerates pruning well so you can keep your privacy hedge narrow.
5. How Fast Will They Grow?
When you first plant your privacy trees, they’ll likely be quite young and far from their full size. This means that you may have to wait several years until they truly make an effective privacy screen. The barrier will get there eventually. It’s simply a matter of how quickly it will happen.
Strictly speaking, the speed at which your privacy barrier matures is not the most critical detail. It’s more a matter of personal preference and urgency. Some people may be willing to wait 10 or even 20 years, while others find the situation more urgent and would prefer their barrier to be matured in three years.
Based on your particular situation, you’ll want to give special attention to how long the species of trees you’re considering grows. If you’re in a hurry, look for fast-growing trees, and vice versa.
6. How Much Care Do They Require?
Some trees are more delicate than others. Some trees can take virtually anything nature can throw at them and emerge unscathed. Other trees need a bit more tender loving care, however. Especially when these trees are young and still growing to become a full privacy barrier, they might be particularly vulnerable to things like ice, snow, wind, and pests.
When you shop for the perfect trees for your privacy barrier, you’ll want to think about how much time and care you’re willing to invest in these trees. If gardening and plant-care is a passion of yours, you might be willing to choose a more delicate species. If, on the other hand, you’re extremely busy and have no time to spare on your yard, you’ll want to select a sturdy type of tree.
How to Plant Privacy Trees
So you’ve picked out your trees. You’ve done some shopping around, and you think you’ve found exactly the species you want to plant. How do you go about planting these privacy trees? What are the next steps?
Before you even dig your first hole, you’ll want to spend a little bit of time planning where your trees are going to be planted. This means doing some research on the type of trees you’ve chosen, and how far apart they’ll need to be planted. Talk with your local garden center experts to get their advice, and explain that you’re aiming to create a privacy barrier. Every tree will be different, but a good rule of thumb is to leave at least 12 to 24 inches between trees to prevent crowding in the root systems.
As you begin planning, you’ll want to spend some time deciding whether you want to plant a single row or two staggered rows.
- Single Row: This is a formation where your trees are planted in a perfectly straight line, all directly next to one another.
- Double Staggered Rows: In this formation, you’ll plant two rows of trees, one in front of the other, with the second row of trees planted in the windows created by the first row.
The advantage of the single row is that it takes up less space in your yard. The strength of the double staggered row, however, is that is can often do a better job of creating privacy, especially as your trees are young and still growing. Decide which suits your purposes better, and mark off the places you’ll plant your trees in your yard.
During this planning phase, you might find it helpful to draw out a diagram on the paper, to give you a better visual representation of what the end product will look like.
2. Plant When It’s Cool Out
The best time to plant your trees is when it’s cool out. This might be a day when the heat slacks off a bit, or it might be an evening after the temperatures drop. If this is not convenient, the next best solution is to plant your trees when it’s humid out. If you’ve purchased your trees, but are planning to wait a day or two to plant them, it’s best to store your trees in a cool dark place to keep them from withering in the heat.
3. Prepare Your Roots
If your trees have bare roots, you may want to soak the roots in a cool bath for three to six hours before planting, so that the roots are healthy and moist prior to entering the ground.
4. Dig Holes or a Trench
You need to prepare a place to plant your new trees. If you're planting in a single row, digging a trench might be easier than digging several holes. For a double staggered row, however, individual holes might be more stable. You may want to mark the ground with spray paint beforehand so you know exactly where to dig. Make holes that are two to three times wider than the root balls, and 2 inches shallower.
5. Plant the Trees
Carefully roll your tree into the new hole. Depending on how large your tree is, this may be a two-person job.
Trim away any burlap or wire that may have come wrapped around your roots, being cautious not to accidentally snip the roots in the process. Handle the root-ball with care and try to keep this intact and undamaged. Measure trunk-to-trunk for spacing and place all the trees.
Reach down into the hole you’ve dug to plant the tree in, and loosen up the soil, breaking apart large clumps and pulling out rocks. This way, your tree’s delicate roots will have a better chance of digging into the soil and taking hold.
If necessary, have your helper hold the tree in place while you begin shoveling dirt back into the hole. Do this until the roots are completely covered, and you’ve used up the majority of the dirt that you shoveled out of the hole in the first place.
Repeat this with every one of your new privacy trees until they’re all planted.
6. Water Your Trees Generously
Once you’ve planted your trees, it’s time to break out the garden hose and give them all a generous drink of water to help them settle into their new homes. This water not only gives them the nutrients and strength they need to grow and take root, but it also helps remove any errant air pockets from the soil.
7. Add Mulch
To help keep your tree roots warm and moist, you’ll want to add a layer of mulch over the top of the soil. This layer of mulch should be about two to three inches thick, give or take, and should be kept about three to six inches away from the base of your trees.
Mulch helps keep the soil at an even temperature and prevents it from becoming too hot or too cold too quickly. This, in turn, helps keep the roots healthy. Mulch has the added bonus of being an excellent natural weed deterrent.
8. Privacy Tree Care
Once you’ve finished planting your trees, your new job is taking care of these baby trees and ensuring they grow up to become tall and strong to create the privacy barrier you’ve been looking for.
To care for your newly planted trees, make sure to keep them well watered for the first several weeks as the roots begin to stretch out and settle in. Make sure to water them a little extra if it’s dry, and a little less if it’s been raining frequently. If you notice the mulch washing away with the rain, take care to provide a little extra.
Shop Privacy Trees Today
Are you ready to get started shopping for your perfect privacy trees? Shop our selection online today at Garden Goods Direct. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any additional questions about planning, planting or caring for your privacy trees or other plants.
To see more tips on creating landscape privacy, check out Redfin's article, Expert Tips on How to Landscape for Maximum Privacy.