How to Plant Privacy
Plant Guide

How to Plant Privacy

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Using trees to create screens or barriers is a beautiful and environmentally friendly way to create privacy in your backyard or home. Planting privacy trees can shield your property from wind, noise, or prying eyes as well as hide unsightly features in your yard.

To start, you will want to determine what type of screen you are looking to create and what type of tree is most suitable. For dense, year long privacy, fast growing trees like Arborvitae are hard to beat. They grow naturally in an upright conical form and require very little pruning. Their heights vary dramatically; for instance, American Pillar can grow up to 30 feet tall while Thuja Green Giant can grow up to 60 feet tall. If you are opting for the latter, steer clear of any power lines! Emerald Green Arborvitaes are an excellent option for smaller spaces, since they will not grow above 15 to 20 feet tall. 

For changing foliage, seasonal interest, and less intense privacy, deciduous trees can make a stunning statement. Evergreen trees such as Teddy Bear Magnolia can make excellent privacy screens and also produce fragrant spring flowers. Whether you want to grow a short hedge or tall screen, there is a tree or shrub that is perfect for your needs.

Ground Rules

Privacy Trees  Lighting Guide

Light

Most trees thrive in partial to full sunlight. Some can do with partial sun or full shade, but may struggle to grow. Inspect your landscape carefully and take note of existing structures or shade trees and how they influence your planting site.

Privacy Trees  Watering Guide

Water

All freshly planted trees will need to be watered carefully for the first growing season while its roots are being established. A good rule of thumb is to water your trees twice a week for the first 60 days.

Privacy Trees  Soil Guide

Soil

Well-draining soil is ideal for newly planted trees. Preventing root rot or stem death is an important consideration when preparing the soil. More often than not, a combination of existing soil and top soil is ideal.

Privacy Trees  Food Guide

Food

After planting, we recommend applying a slow-release fertilizer, such as Espoma Holly-tone.

Privacy Trees  Temperature Guide

Temperature

Look up your desired tree's optimal grow zone before making a purchase. It is best to plant when the weather is cool and humid. This will give your tree the best chance of survival during its establishment period.

Privacy Trees  Toxicity Guide

Toxicity

If you have a pet, toxicity is an important consideration when selecting your privacy tree. Holly trees that drop their berries can be toxic to pets if ingested.

Privacy Trees  Mulch Guide

Mulch

After planting, topdress the soil with 1 to 2 inches of shredded hardwood mulch or pine fines, leaving 6 inches from the base of the tree to prevent rotting of the stem.

Planting Process

  1. Consider your site location's needs and plan accordingly.
  2. When you receive your plant, unbox, place outdoors in shade and water thoroughly.
  3. Choose location based on light requirements and mature size. Make sure your plant is far enough from the property line to account for mature growth. 
  4. Prepare the soil and dig a hole as deep as your pot. For a straight line privacy screen planting, dig a trench rather than several holes. For a staggered row, dig individual holes. For fast privacy, plant 2 to 4 feet apart. If you are not in a rush, plant 6 feet apart.
  5. Place tree in center of hole and backfill pit around root ball with 50% existing soils from planting pit and 50% enriched topsoil for best results.
  6. Water again thoroughly saturating rootball, and follow up water every other day for first two weeks, then 2 times per week thereafter during 60 day period of establishment.
  7. Apply starter fertilizer at specified label rate.
  8. Topdress with 1-2" of shredded hardwood mulch or pine fines.

When you receive your trees, the first thing you need to do is carefully unbox it and place it in a shady part of your yard while leaving it in its nursery pot. Your plant has just experienced a bit of shipment shock and will need some time to acclimate.

Since it has been in a dark box for 1 to 5 days, you will want to slowly reintroduce it to sunlight by keeping it out of direct light for the first couple of days before planting. Make sure it gets plenty of water while it is still in its nursery pot or burlap bag.

Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball and center the tree within the hole. It should only be as deep as the original pot and planting it too deep could cause rotting of the stem and death to the plant. You should still be able to see the top of the root before filling in with soil and mulching.

Consider the mature size of your trees before determining spacing so that you can accommodate for their full grown size. Typically, a double staggered row planted 6 feet apart is best when you want to plant a buffer or privacy screen. For quick privacy, plant 3 to 4 feet apart. However, Thuja Green Giant Arborvitae will grow to be 15 to 18 feet wide so plant the trees about 15 feet apart.

Visual Guide to Fast Growing Trees for Privacy Hedges

Top Fast Growing Trees for Privacy Screens

Tree Species Height Range Planting Zones Growth Rate Noteworthy Characteristics
Emerald Green Arborvitae 10 to 15 feet tall Growzone 3-7 1 to 2 feet per year Dense, fast-growing
Leyland Cypress 40 to 50 feet tall Growzone 5-9 2 feet per year Blue-green foliage
Spartan Juniper 15 to 20 feet tall Growzone 4-9 1 to 2 feet per year Blue-green foliage
Thuja Green Giant Arborvitae 50 to 60 feet tall Growzone 5-8 3 to 5 feet per year Very fast growing
American Holly Tree 15 to 20 feet tall Growzone 6-9 1 to 2 feet per year Red berries in winter
Eastern White Pine 50 to 60 feet tall Growzone 3-8 2 to 3 feet per year Practically maintenance free
Blue Atlas Cedar 45 to 50 feet tall Growzone 6-9 Up to 1 foot per year Silvery blue foliage