How to Plant Privacy
Plant Guide

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.

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.

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

To start, you will want to determine what type of screen you are looking to create and what type of tree is most suitable. There are just a few 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. 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.

For changing foliage, seasonal interest, and less intense privacy, deciduous trees can make a stunning statement. 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?

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.

It is important to not that heights and widths of privacy trees and shrubs 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!

You’ll also want to be aware that many species of evergreens will grow to be extremely wide, given enough years. Emerald Green Arborvitaes are an excellent option for smaller spaces, since they will not grow above 15 to 20 feet tall. A surprising and fragrant evergreen option is the Teddy Bear Magnolia.

3. 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.

4. 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.

Ground Rules

Privacy Trees  Lighting Guide


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


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


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


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

Privacy Trees  Temperature Guide


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


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


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. PLAN: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. 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.
  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. 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. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8.  Apply starter fertilizer at specified label rate.
  9. 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.


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.

When is the best time to plant privacy trees?

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