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The 13 Best Backyard Plants to Grow for Privacy

Privacy Plants
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Living in the city can have its drawbacks. If you love a protected sense of privacy, open backyards and crowded residential blocks can make central city life harder to enjoy.

Decide Just How Much Privacy You Need

You’ll want to start by planning what you want out of a privacy fence. And the first aspect to look at is the level of privacy you need. Do you want complete coverage or is something you can still sort of see-through okay? That will determine the type of plants you use and their spacing. Some plants only grow four feet tall, while others can go far higher.

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Also, remember to check with city ordinances. Some have rules about how much you can obscure a yard. You’ll need to plan your plant coverage around any of these restrictions.

You’ll also want to assess how much of the yard you are looking to block. Do you want a privacy fence that extends the full perimeter of the yard? Or is only one direction where you currently have the least privacy acceptable? For instance, a full yard living privacy fence could be best accomplished with thick shrubbery, while partial privacy could just require one larger tree.

There are a plethora of thick, commonly used backyard plants that can serve as a fantastic barrier between you and your neighbors. Want to know which work best in your area? Take a look at our top 13 privacy plants.

Need to set some boundaries with your neighbors? Here are the 13 best privacy plants:

1. Arborvitae

arborvitae
topseller/Shutterstock

Arborvitae are the most commonly used privacy plants. They grow tall and form a solid wall when planted close together. They are one of the best tall plants for privacy. They are some of the hardiest plants both in and outside of cold weather. Make sure this plant has good drainage, a generally dry environment, and full sun to ensure it succeeds.

USDA hardiness zone

These plants do best in zones 3-7. This covers the northern United States, excluding far north near the Canadian border, and through south-central U.S. Versatile arborvitae does well in almost any environment except for extreme heat or extreme cold.

Available at your local home improvement store, gardening outlet, or Amazon for roughly $130.

2. Bamboo

bamboo privacy
AePatt Journey/ Shutterstock

Bamboo is another of the fastest-growing privacy plants on our list — particularly clumping bamboo, the fastest growing variety. Bamboo needs access to full sun with regular, heavy watering to ensure the best growth.

USDA hardiness zone

As you might have guessed, bamboo does better in warmer climates, especially zones 5-9. Because it requires regular exposure to water, desert environments further south than zone 9 tend to be too dry for most bamboo varieties.

Available at your local gardening outlet if in zones 5-9 or Amazon for roughly $50.

3. Boxwood

boxwood
RK1979/ Shutterstock

While a sturdy plant and a fantastic privacy screen, Boxwood is a slower growing plant. It’s perfect, however, if you want easy-to-maintain. Boxwood is known for being easy to prune and form to whatever shape you want, including privacy bushes. These evergreens come in a variety of types and are deer resistant.

USDA hardiness zone

Boxwoods are vigorous up until zone 6. They do best in full sun, in average or cooler climates with an average amount of rain.

Available at most home improvement stores across the upper midwest or Amazon for roughly $120.

4. Chocolate Vines

chocolate vines
Anna Krzywania/ Shutterstock

Chocolate vines are named so due to their dark purple flowers. This perennial vine is known as a great addition to backyard fences for extra privacy. It will tolerate shade but grows best in full sun. While it is native to Japan and Korea, it has naturalized through much of North America.

USDA hardiness zone

Grows best in zones 4-8. It remains green all year in zones 6 and warmer.

Available at most local home improvement stores or with starter plants at Amazon for roughly $50.

5. Euonymus

Euonymus
Elena Terletskaya/ Shutterstock

Another of the faster-growing privacy hedges, Euonymus fills out neatly, minimizing the need for pruning, and reaches an average height of 4 feet. It sprouts small, white or pink flower buds in late summer that add to its overall appeal.

USDA hardiness zone

Euonymus grows best in zones 5-8. While it can tolerate shade, it grows best in full sun with regular water.

Available at many home improvement stores throughout zones 5-8 or at Amazon for roughly $80.

6. Evergreen Azalea

Evergreen Azalea
ajisai13/ Shutterstock

These beautiful, colorful, and fast-growing privacy plants feature rose flowers against dark, glossy green leaves, which turn a darker red in the fall, adding to this shrub’s variety.

Azalea is generally an upright growing plant that provides higher screening. It’s one of the more durable plants in the right zones.

USDA hardiness zone

Best grown in zones 5-8. Unlike most of the plants on this list, Azalea grows best in partial shade with an average amount of water.

Available at most improvement stores starting around $50.

7. Holly

holly
art_craft/Shutterstock

This broad-leaved evergreen shrub provides excellent privacy. It’s known for its lustrous, dark green foliage and striking red fruit it produces throughout the year. Holly can grow up to 10 feet, making it one of the best for tall privacy fencing.

USDA hardiness zone

Holly grows best in zones 5-9. It prefers full sun to partial shade and grows best in more temperate environments.

Available at home improvement stores or on Amazon for $32.

8. Inkberry

inkberry
Erika Kirkpatrick/ Shutterstock

Inkberry is a tough, extremely hardy evergreen. It grows more slowly than most varieties on this list, however.

Because it is so durable, you can grow it in any type of soil, even dense clay soils or areas with a fair amount of pollution. While it can serve as a decent privacy hedge, it doesn’t grow as tall as Holly, coming in at only 6 feet.

USDA hardiness zone

Inkberry grows best in zones 4-9. It is a sturdy variety, meaning it can grow in slightly colder environments. It generally prefers full sun.

Available at home improvement stores for $20.

9. North Privet

North Privet
NORTH DEVON PHOTOGRAPHY/ Shutterstock

One of the best trees for privacy due to its rapid growth, North Privet is a shrub variety known to grow upwards of three feet per year. It is not a hard shrub to prune to shape if done at least a few times a year.

This plant has small white flowers that bloom every spring. It can grow to be rather tall, making it an ideal solo shrub to grow for a uniform look.

USDA hardiness zone

Grows best in zones 5-8. Partial shade is OK, but privet needs at least four hours of uninterrupted sunlight.

Available at most home improvement stores or a similar variety, curled privet can be found on Amazon for $90 (not available for shipping in all states).

10. Red Twig Dogwood

Red Twig Dogwood
Peter Turner Photography/ Shutterstock

This is a commonly used privacy plant throughout the northern United States. Bright red stalks make this a notable plant to use, especially in colder areas with long winters.

It can grow up to nine feet, ideal to use on its own. It has full foliage and showy flowers in warmer months.

USDA hardiness zone

Grows well through zones 3-8. Best used in areas with a long winter to show off the bright red stalks. When planting, plant in big batches.

Available at almost any home improvement store or Amazon for $12. 

11. Roughleaf Dogwood

Roughleaf Dogwood
Sheila Fitzgerald/ Shutterstock

Like its name, this tough, resilient plant can be pruned into a smaller, more refined tree, or a multi-branch shrub. In late spring, larger clusters of sweet-smelling white flowers make Roughleaf a pleasant privacy plant.

While dark green during most of the spring and summer, this foliage turns a rich dark burgundy in the fall. It can grow up to 15 feet tall, depending on how you prune it.

USDA hardiness zone

Grows best and is native to zones 4-9. Likes full sun.

Available at home improvement stores or Amazon for roughly $54. 

12. Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon
tamu1500/ Shutterstock

Rose of Sharon is a flowering privacy hedge that has long-lasting white flowers. They bloom all summer, a great decorative choice for privacy fencing.

This deciduous shrub can grow up to eight feet and is rather low maintenance, an ideal trait for any privacy hedge.

USDA hardiness zone

Best in warmer zones, 5-8. It prefers full sun with a medium amount of water.

Available at most home improvement stores or Amazon for almost $30. 

13. Yew

Yew
meunierd/ Shutterstock

Last but not least, yew is a robust evergreen plant with many sub-varieties. Some, such as Densiformis Yew, are faster growing than others.

Most yew reaches about four feet high with a long spread. They are also hardy plants, doing best in both cold and hot environments.

USDA hardiness zone

Zones 4-7 are best for any yew variety. Partial shade is OK, and pruning for shape is relatively simple.

Available at most home improvement stores or Amazon for $23 (not available for shipping in all states).

How to plant privacy shrubs, step by step:

Step 1: Find the right privacy plant.

Make sure that you find the proper plant not only for your zone but for your privacy needs. For instance, a Euonymus plant alone will not grow higher than four or five feet. These are perfect if you want to still see some of your surroundings while maintaining a subtle sense of privacy, but not if you are after full enclosure. In this instance, purchasing a Holly variety or Arborvitae makes more sense.

Step 2: Determine your growing conditions.

Being in the right zone doesn’t automatically mean you have the ideal growing conditions for those plants. Make sure your setup has the correct amount of sunlight, water, and other needs to grow a healthy privacy fence.

Step 3: Follow care instructions regularly.

Talk to your garden store, home improvement store, or retailer about the ideal care instructions. Keep regular track of the plant’s health as the days and months go by.

Step 4: Prune to specifications.

If you want to prune your privacy plant to look a certain way, make sure you know how much pruning is needed and how regularly you should maintain trims.

Step 5: Watch your hard work grow!

Factor the living privacy plants into your style

You should also keep in mind how those plants will fit in with the style you are going for in your yard. For instance, well-trimmed hedges work best for yards that have a classic and neat appearance. Flower hedges work well with larger romantic garden spaces. Trees can offer a good option for more rustic yards that keep things on the natural side. You might even look into partial designs that can work for conceptual and artistic spaces, such as placing unconnected panels of fence alongside patches of evergreen trees. You can see an example in the photo above.

And remember to take into account the level of upkeep the living privacy fence will require. Though all living fences will need some upkeep, options like shrubbery will need regular trimming to maintain a clean look. If you’re not willing to spend a lot of time with your yard, you might choose options that don’t require regular trimming seasons, like willow trees or cactus.

The bottom line

There are a plethora of privacy plants out there. Look at what you have for growing conditions at the moment, consider what you want (fully enclosed backyard versus partial privacy), and do your research before buying. You can do some beautiful things with a well maintained and thoroughly researched privacy hedge.

Frequently asked questions

Q:

What is the fastest-growing privacy plant?

A:

Any variety of privet.

Q:

What is the best plant for screening?

A:

Arborvitae or Holly.

Q:

How do I grow a privacy bush for cheap?

A:

Any Holly variety is relatively affordable and easy to expand across existing fencing for that natural hedge look.


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