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What Kind of Tree Works Best to Provide a Natural Privacy Barrier?
If you want to section off your yard from your neighbor's land naturally, trees are a great option to create privacy. Whatever route you choose, know that you'll enjoy it for years to come as you relax on the deck or play games in the yard.
The varieties I've listed below perform well in a variety of soils and are easy to maintain.
- If you have enough space, a full-sized tree looks great and provides additional screening.
- If you have limited room, you can go with smaller or narrower option and stagger trees in groups to create a natural screen.
- I've included the plant hardiness zone map above so you can find your zone and choose trees that are right for your area.
5 Great Evergreen Trees for Privacy
Five great trees you can look at to use in a yard screen are:
- Japanese or American Holly
- Black Hills Spruce
- Austrian Pine
I've provided descriptions of each type below so you can determine which varieties are best for you. Some trees grow better in specific zones, which you can find below and compare with your zone in the map above to ensure they match.
Japanese or American Holly (Zones 5-9)
Holly trees are a great option in tight quarters because they grow narrowly and can be easily pruned to maintain their shape. A bonus of planting holly is the red berries in winter, which contrast nicely with the snow.
Japanese holly-like Sky Pencil is a minimalist tree for zones 5-9, growing only 2-3 feet wide but 10 feet high. It's a moderate grower that doesn't require much pruning.
If you want to go big, American holly is the way to go. Also a moderate grower, this variety grows very large over time, reaching 30 feet wide and 50 feet high.
Juniper Trees (Zones 4-9)
Juniper is a fantastic option if you want to incorporate icy blue colors and have a low-maintenance tree. Skyrocket Junipers grow tall and narrow, at 3 feet wide by 20 feet high. You can pack these in by planting them close together.
If you have room, Wichita Blue Junipers are awesome and stay a reasonable size at 5 feet wide and 15 feet high. Its shape resembles spruce trees, which looks natural in the landscape.
Arborvitae (Zones 3-7 or 5-7)
Arborvitae has been a long-time favorite for yard privacy. These trees are dense and impossible to see through when planted in mass. Be cautious if you plant them where heavy snowfalls to avoid taxing them with the additional weight.
Green Giants (zones 5-7) stay green in winter and is one of the big boys at 60 feet tall and 15-20 feet wide and fill in quickly. If you want a smaller footprint, the Emerald Green (zones 3-7) stays more compact at around 15 feet tall and 4 feet wide. It develops more slowly, so put this variety just a few feet apart from each other for a beautiful screen.
Black Hills Spruce (Zones 2-6)
Spruce trees make excellent cover for wildlife and privacy screens. They grow densely and don't drop needles and branches the way many pine trees do, making them one of the best options for privacy screens. At 30-50 feet by 15-20 feet wide, they won't overtake the landscape and look beautiful planted in a group or mixed with other trees. They grow at a slow to moderate pace but are worth the wait. Black Hills Spruce grow well in many areas. They do tend to speed up once established, and they go from small to medium-sized relatively quickly.
Austrian Pine (Zones 4-7)
An excellent pine option is the Austrian Pine. This stately tree grows to 60 feet tall and 30 feet wide over the years. With the Austrian Pine, you can look forward to the long attractive "candles" each summer as the new growth takes off. Once the tree establishes itself, its branches will grow 2-3 feet each year and fill the space quickly.
Evergreens are the ideal trees for privacy because they don't lose their leaves. Deciduous trees lose their ability to function as a screen in the fall until they sprout new leaves in the spring. Like other trees, many evergreen types grow well in various soils and conditions.
You might be intimidated by the numerous pine or spruce tree options, but the list I've provided should help you narrow your search. The best tree for you will depend on your landscape, the amount of space that you have, and how tall you plan for your privacy screen to be.
Tips for Designing the Best Evergreen Privacy Screen
We've all seen neighbors who opt for a straight line of evergreen trees, but let's try considering more creative ideas. To create a natural setting, you need to play with different set-ups and varieties.
- Clusters vs. Lines: When it comes to form, think about designing with clusters of trees, not lines. You may not need a long line of trees to achieve the privacy you want. Start the trees where you want to concentrate the screen most and work from there. For example, the area between your patio and your neighbor's patio may be perfect for trees, and the rest of the space can be home to grass. This approach looks more natural, and it won't matter as much if a single tree dies later on because a hole in a single row won't exist. If you have a cluster of evergreens, the one that dies can easily be replaced.
- Mix Varieties for Visual Impact: As for variety, think about mixing it up. A combination of pine, spruce, and arborvitae looks very nice and offers some protection from disease that may afflict a specific variety. What's more, adding some deciduous trees like oak trees to the mix can create a striking screen. If you try adding birch or red twig dogwood near the evergreens, their white and red colors will really pop against the green.
- Don't Forget Perennials: If you've constructed your screen and have some space left over, finish the area with suitable perennials to add lovely colors. Next to evergreens, native plantings like black-eyed susans, daisies, or coneflowers require little work. Everything will flourish slowly over time and look awesome in the front of the garden.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Alexa on July 25, 2017:
Bonnie, you're so right. I went to a nursery with my husband looking for sky pencils then my husband saw holly trees so healthy and shiny leaves that he together w/the salesman persuaded me to buy not one but 3 of them. So, we bought and planted them in front of the house. Days after, I was mulching around one of them suddenly, I got a deep pain in my left hand and a leaf was hanging on my left hand. Now, I am waiting the fall season to return all of 3. They are beautiful but " NASTY LEAVES."
Bonnie on February 13, 2017:
I HIGHLY recommend NOT planting holly trees in your yard or in any parks. The leaves of these trees are VERY NASTY. In fall when leaves are on the ground and need to be cleaned up if you grab a bunch of leaves that includes a holly leaf you will be very sorry. It's spines will get you! The leaves do not degrade easily and you can get stuck by leaves that have been around for over a year. I recently discussed this with our new neighbors who had a tall holly tree on the property line between our yards. He most happily cut it down as he has young children.
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