Privacy fences and walls are great, but they can be expensive and they require upkeep. However, privacy plants will basically take care of themselves after they’re established, and they only get more impressive with time. Moreover, they filter out CO2 from passing vehicles, they’re comparatively affordable, and they have a fantastic natural beauty to them.
Still not convinced? Well, mature landscaping trees can add thousands of dollars to your property value. Meanwhile, landscaping shrubs tend to have a return on investment ranging from 100-1000%! A worthwhile expense if you ask me.
Today we’re going to go through some of the most popular families of privacy trees and shrubs, as well as identify some standout breeds. So let’s get going!
Cypress trees are classically reliable choices for privacy screens. Scaled foliage remains evergreen all year across all varieties. Moreover, they come in a variety of colors, from yellow, to green, to blueish grey-green.
Most grow in a naturally pyramidal shape, and they do it very quickly! There are numerous varieties in this family that offer rapid growth that’s perfect for filling in landscape gaps ASAP!
The first name in this type of aggressive growth is the Leyland Cypress (USDA Zones 6-10). The Leyland Cypress can grow 3-5 feet in one year! Talk about vertical aspirations.. Plant them 10-12 feet apart for an attractive landscape feature. Plant them 5-6 feet apart for an impenetrable wall of foliage. Be sure to leave overhead room for them to grow. Untrimmed, they can reach up to 60 feet tall!
Another standout is the Carolina Sapphire Cypress (Zones 7-10). This is one of those aforementioned blueish green varieties. It’s no slouch in the fast growing area either. It’ll grow 1-2 feet yearly in favorable conditions. You’ll also appreciate the trademark cypress fragrance. A naturally ‘flocked’ appearance makes it a perfect accent during Christmas time as well.
The Italian Cypress (Zones 7-11) is a narrow variety, perfect for small areas. They can be planted as close as 3 feet apart! In addition, they can grow 2-3 feet every year, which means they will rapidly become a fixture in your landscape. It’s truly remarkable how much elegance these beauties are capable of bringing to the landscape.
Arborvitae Shrubs (Thuja) come in many different shapes and sizes; small or tall, rounded or slender. However, one of their most popular uses is as a privacy screen. Dense, scaled evergreen foliage is perfect for blocking out prying eyes and noise. Furthermore, they’re great at sifting out dust and road pollution.
Emerald Green Arborvitaes (Zones 3-8) grow similarly to Italian Cypress and will also grow beautifully when planted 3 feet apart. Emerald Greens have a slower growth rate than Italian Cypress, though, so they’re more suited for locations with limited vertical space. Slender pillars of emerald green (as you might expect from the name) foliage create a gorgeous privacy screen or windbreak. No trimming required! They’re remarkably cold hardy and adaptable to most soil types.
The Arborvitae equivalent to the Leyland Cypress is the Green Giant Arborvitae (Zones 5-9). Like the Leyland, it can reach 50-60 feet tall at maturity, and it grows 3-5 feet yearly! Naturally pyramidal growth features luscious green, scaled, flat foliage. Plant them 5+ feet apart on your property line and you can rest assured that neither nosy or noisy neighbors will stand a chance.
Cleyeras are reliable evergreens with glossy, leathery leaves. They come in a variety of different selections, with taller breeds being ideal for usage as a privacy plant. They’re a hardy family, with impressive disease and pest tolerance overall. Southern gardeners have appreciated them for years due to their heat tolerance as well.
The Bigfoot Cleyera (Zones 7-10) from the Southern Living Plant Collection is a large-and-in-charge Cleyera. It features an uncharacteristically fast growth habit as it stretches towards its 15-20′ tall mature height and 6′ width. In other words, good luck making it through this wall of foliage when its fully grown. Additionally, it’s bright green leaves are an attractive backdrop all year long.
Do you like the idea of a Cleyera, but you’d like a little more zing and a little more pep? Check out the Juliet Cleyera (Zones 7-10) and Romeo Cleyera! These two beauties both get 8-10′ tall and 5-6′ wide. Not quite as large as the Bigfoot, but still plenty tall enough to provide ample privacy coverage. Both have fantastically variegated evergreen foliage and prove to be just as functional as they are beautiful.
Hollies are one of the best choices for a privacy plant on the market. First, their evergreen foliage is spectacularly dense, providing layers of wind, pollution, and visual coverage. Secondly, their trunk, branches, and leaves are particularly rigid, with many varieties having spines on the leaves. This means that they’re nearly impenetrable once grown into the landscape.
The Robin Holly (USDA Zones 6-10) and Oakland Holly (USDA Zones 6-9) are both fantastic holly selections for privacy plantings. They grow with a naturally pyramidal growth habit, no pruning required. The Robin Holly has more deeply spined leaves, while the Oakland features more spines. Meanwhile, they both feature brilliant red berries in winter and fall, a favorite among local birds!
Looking for a little more color variation with your Holly? Keep your eyes peeled for the new Golden Oakland Holly (USDA Zones 6-9) from Southern Living Plants! It’s just as reliable of a privacy plant, but with variegated golden leaves.
Junipers are a very popular choice when it comes to privacy trees. Most varieties have that nice blue tint that everyone has come to associate with them. This dynamic foliage really pops in the landscape and is a great addition to stately lawns and landscapes. Some even offer additional interest such as seasonal ‘berries’ in brilliant blue hues. Although they do appear much like a berry, in reality they are actually fleshy cones with interlocking scales.
The Blue Point Juniper (Zones 4-9) has a naturally pyramidal growth habit with the characteristic blue Juniper foliage color. No trimming’s necessary to keep it looking nice and neat. Plant it in a tight screen row for a sophisticated and functional landscape fixture.
The Spartan Juniper (Zones 4-9) is a true privacy plant workhorse. It grows rapidly as it reaches its mature size of 15-20′ high and 4-6′ wide. Trimming is completely optional. Once established, it’ll prove itself to be remarkably resilient as it takes heat, cold, and drought in stride.
Camellias aren’t used enough in privacy hedges and screens in my opinion. They have glossy, dark evergreen foliage that almost always looks great. Secondly, they’re dynamic bloomers. There’s nothing quite like a 12 foot tall Camellia hedge during bloom season. They become absolutely covered with blossoms. These flowers eventually fall to the ground, creating a carpet of petals. Truly a gorgeous sight.
Camellias come in numerous shapes, sizes, and bloom colors, so be sure that you pick one that will fit your needs.
The Alabama Beauty Camellia (Zones 7-9) from Southern Living Plants reaches 12-15 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide. It features rose red semi-double blooms every fall, and is one of the earliest Camellias to bloom every year. Line a driveway with this stunning shrub to provide a distinctly southern feel as you usher guests to your humble home. Plant a row on your property line to send your neighbor the message that you want some privacy, but you also want them to be able to enjoy some breathtaking flower displays.
The October Magic Inspiration Camellia (Zones 7-9) is another fantastic bloomer from Southern Living Plants that works beautifully as a privacy screen. This variety doesn’t get quite as large as the Alabama Beauty, but it does get to be about 8 feet tall at maturity. Large double blossoms with ruffled edges are mostly white with magenta pink edges. These unusual flowers prove to be just as unique as they are beautiful. They’ll have you looking forward to fall all year long!
Looking to add some seclusion to your beach house? Live on the bay and need something to block out street noise? Check out Oleander! They take salt in stride, and they pack a real punch when it comes to bloom color. Moreover, these blossoms come in numerous different shades, including pink, peach, red, white, and yellow!
Be forewarned, though, Oleander is toxic if ingested by children or dogs. Therefore, consider their placement and whether or not dogs or young children would have frequent contact with the area.
The Twist of Pink Variegated Oleander (Zones 8-10) is a very popular variety these days, and for good reason! Not only are their blooms brilliantly pink, but they feature variegated green and yellow foliage. At a mature size of 8 feet high, you’ll have plenty of foliage and branches to stop undesired snoopers and noise. They also have that reliable drought and heat tolerance that gardeners expect from Oleanders.
Need more height? The Double Yellow Oleander (Zones 7b-11) can reach up to 15 feet tall! It features the traditional dark, leathery leaves that are characteristic for the species. Also, it also produces some beautiful double-form yellow blooms.
Sometimes called Silverberry, Elaeagnus x Ebbingei is a fast-grower that features very dense evergreen foliage. It’s foliage has a distinctly silver-scale look to it that you’ll recognize instantly once you’ve seen it. Moreover, this species is known to grow to 16 feet tall! It’s perfect for hiding unsightly areas of your yard, or being used as an effective screen/windbreak.
Traditional Elaeagnus x ebbingei (Zones 7-11) produces fruit in early spring. This fruit is tartly sweet, and is loved by some but disliked by others. Best practices tends to be to pick the fruit when its bright red and let it sit for a couple days to promote sweetness. These berries are preceded by highly fragrant white flowers. Plant one or two near your patio to enjoy the fragrance while it lasts!
The Olive Martini Elaeagnus (Zones 6-9) from the Southern Living Plant Collection is a vibrant twist on the traditional E.ebbingei. It still features the silver-scaled foliage and large size that Elaeagnus is known for, except it also has fantastic yellow and green variegated leaves! This dynamic color changes the game, and the Olive Martini truly shines as a privacy screen. This variety does not feature any berries or blooms, which is a negative or a positive, depending on who you ask.
We hope this has given you some ideas of different types of privacy plants that will beautify your landscape, increase your property value, and help you obtain some peace and quiet as well. If you have any questions, as always, don’t hesitate to Contact Us.