Plants to Use for Privacy

Create a fence-like privacy screen with plants that look great and are more sustainable than a traditional fence. Gardening pros share their favorite plants to use for privacy, including shrubs and vines.

Green Giant arborvitae grows up to 5 feet per year and provides a dense way to block out neighbors and noise. It does best with sun and is deer-resistant.

Evergreen Trees and Shrubs

Evergreen trees and shrubs are great for creating privacy screens because they maintain their lush foliage year-round. Popular varieties include different types of cedar, pine, spruce and holly. For a flowering evergreen option, try Sparkler Arrowwood viburnum or the hardy holly cultivar Emerald Colonnade. These plants also produce beautiful berries for winter interest.

Broadleaf evergreens like holly work well as privacy plants because they have dense green foliage that obscures the view of your yard. Many different holly varieties can be sheared or shaped into hedges to create a formal look for your garden.

Arborvitae is a fast-growing evergreen that works well for creating a privacy screen. The more common variety Emerald Green can grow up to 10 to 15 feet tall and wide at maturity. For a more sculptural look, opt for the deer-resistant Green Giant Arborvitae.

Viburnum

The dense leaves of viburnum make an excellent privacy screen and many species bloom to add interest during the summer. Plant a row of ‘Mohawk’ to enjoy its red buds that open into white spicy-fragrant flowers, or choose a colorful cultivar such as ‘Jade Waves’ for its light pink to white blooms and variegated foliage. Viburnum tolerates partial shade well, as long as it gets enough sunlight for full growth.

Other fast-growing shrubs that can be used to create a privacy screen include camellia, holly and laurel. Camellias can be pruned into hedges and provide year-round privacy, if they’re regularly trimmed to keep them in shape. Nellie Stevens hollies also offer privacy and attractive foliage, plus they produce berries that attract birds.

If you’re looking for a taller plant to create a privacy fence, try Portuguese laurel or Prunus Lusitanica. This tree grows quickly and is highly tolerant of heat, drought, salt and pollution. It produces white flowers and berries that attract songbirds, making it a good option for bird gardens, too.

Holly

Holly provides year-round color and interest with glossy foliage and berries. These evergreen plants can serve as a natural privacy hedge, anchor a garden border, or be used as accents in linear gardens. Several cultivars are ideal for wet locations, such as Foster’s Holly No. 2, while others like Maryland Beauty and Winter Red do not require a pollinator for fruit production.

For small to moderate sized properties, hollies are commonly used to create privacy screens along property lines and fences. A variety of holly cultivars, including Nellie Stevens and Oakleaf Holly, are tough and low maintenance with attractive dark green year-round foliage that also has pretty red berries in the fall and winter.

These plants are fast-growing and require minimal maintenance, but should be planted in well-drained soil to avoid excessive watering. Plant 6 weeks prior to the first freeze in colder climates, and mulch to retain moisture and prevent winter damage. Consider mixing a few different shrubs and trees with varying heights and leaf coloring to create a more interesting and diverse privacy screen.

Mandevilla

Mandevilla is a tropical flowering vine that is also resistant to pests and disease. Plant in spring after the danger of frost has passed and choose a sunny site. These plants are tolerant of partial shade, but they produce the most flowers in full sun.

The hummingbird-attracting trumpet-shaped flowers come in a variety of pinks, reds and yellows with coral or apricot hues. They grow well with other tropical plants and make great “thrillers” in mixed planters. Some smaller, shrubbier varieties, which are often labeled as Dipladenia, have a more compact growth habit and look wonderful spilling over the sides of hanging containers.

Many vining varieties need a free-standing support, such as a trellis, pergola or obelisk to climb. You can also train them along a fence or porch post for a pretty display. In warmer climates, this plant is perennial but it’s usually treated like an annual and brought indoors in fall to overwinter. If you bring it inside, reduce watering and cease fertilizing to prevent leaf rot or other problems. During the winter, the plant is less vigorous but still blooms if you keep it in bright indirect light with plenty of humidity.

Switchgrass

Screening out neighbors or an unsightly structure with plants is a great alternative to a fence. Gardening pros recommend a variety of shrubs and grasses that provide privacy while looking good in the landscape, as well as climbing vines that cling to trellises or walls.

A native to the eastern US, switchgrass works well in many climates and soil conditions. It has a natural, dense growth habit and can grow into a solid privacy hedge. It blooms in midsummer with airy pink-tinged flower spikes that produce burgundy anthers and stigmas. In autumn it produces seed plumes that last into winter and are eaten by upland game birds and songbirds.

If you have the space, a row of evergreen bamboos (clumping varieties) is a nice addition to a privacy screen. Avoid the common running bamboo that spreads by rhizomes, as this is considered an invasive plant in some areas of the country. Instead, look for a clumping variety like Golden Goddess or Alphonse Carr. These are not as vigorous and will require less pruning than running bamboos.