Maybe you’ve got some nosy neighbors, or maybe you’ve got a high-traffic area running right by your house. Maybe a business has just bought the property next to yours. Whatever the reason, you might be looking for some privacy, and a fence might be too obvious – or maybe you just want to have something a little nicer to look at. Whatever your reason, there are some plants and shrubs out there that grow thick and tall, and that can provide great privacy. Here are our favorites for providing a little bit of privacy for you and your family.
American Silverberry (Elaeagnus commutata) – Sometimes called wolf-willow, this plant is native to the midwest, and is hearty enough to be able to make it in the cooler climate zones. It grows up to 12-14 feet in height, and has a width of around 8 feet. Fall brings fragrant blooms, and the foliage is silvery year-round – hence the nicknames, as the coloring may remind you of a grey wolf. One of the main reasons we’re a big fan of it is that it is one of the fastest-growing privacy plants available, meaning you won’t have to wait years for it to grow to the point of providing maximum privacy. However, at only 12-14 feet, it doesn’t provide privacy from elevated sight lines.
Emerald Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) – Deep green in color, and growing up to 15 feet in height, this is actually a coniferous tree, but thanks to a general width of only 3-4 feet, they can be planted tightly together to create a wall of tree that can act as a fence. One reason we’re a big fan of them is because the width means they won’t eat up too much of your valuable yard space.
Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) – Possibly our favorite privacy shrub, growing up to 10 feet in height, it’s also one that is sorely ignored by many landscapers. It is native to the region, easy to grow and maintain, and provides decoration in both summer and winter in the form of flowers or peeling white bark. What’s more, birds are attracted to it, it’s deer resistant, and it’s drought tolerant – making it nearly bulletproof, even for the worst gardener around.
Viburnum trilobum or Viburnum opulus – These colorful hedge shrubs can reach 14 feet in height, and they produce fruits. The most notable feature of these plants are the unique, white, ball-shaped flowers that develop, which have earned them the nickname of “Snowball” viburnum.
Blue Holly (Ilex x meservae) or Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) – These hearty, thorny, fruit-bearing bushes can reach up to 16 feet in height, and the dense evergreen foliage makes them a solid screen throughout the year. What’s more, the thorns create a barrier for entry as well. The one issue with holly is that the plant can be toxic to children, pets, and livestock if the berries or leaves are ingested. Even so, holly remains one of the most popular choices for privacy.
There are some plants that are often recommended for privacy that we would suggest you avoid. Both the Japanese Barberry and Privet have become popular due to their speed of growth and their flowers, however, these are invasive species that can be damaging to the surrounding ecosystem, so for the long-term health of your lawn and garden, it is best to stay away from these. Also avoid buckthorn, which is considered a noxious weed in many areas.
So before you consider walls or fences, consider these decorative, environmentally-friendly shrubs and trees that can provide just as much privacy, but will be much more pleasant to look at throughout the year.