Creating privacy in your outdoor living space is essential. Not only does it make your space feel more singular, but it frees you from the pressures of prying eyes. Nobody likes to barbecue with uninvited neighbors keeping a watchful eye. While there are many ways to create more privacy in your backyard, one of the best methods is to grow and maintain privacy plants.
Privacy plants are any plant variety that grows and maintains a stature large enough to create a natural, fence-like effect. While the species of plants available may vary between region, every area of the country has options available.
What makes a good privacy plant?
There are several things to consider when choosing what plantings to install around the perimeter of your property. Keeping these considerations in mind before purchasing your plants will prevent you from potentially wasting money on something that refuses to grow or thrive in your space.
A great privacy planting will be large enough in size to create an effective barrier. While lots of low lying shrubbery may create a bit of separation between you and your neighbor, it will do nothing to impede the eye.
When looking for species to install in your outdoor space, aim for plantings that will grow to at least three or four feet high. While these plants may not achieve their full effect in their first season, the coverage will continue to improve as years go on.
Density is also a consideration here. Sparse foliage will be ineffective in meeting your needs. A good rule of thumb is that the denser the foliage, the more effective privacy your space will be given.
While some climates enjoy the benefit of mild weather year-round, seasonality is a reality for much of the country. This is why checking the hardiness of your potential planting is important. It makes very little sense to invest a lot of money in a set of shrubs or trees that will only last you through one summer.
Steer away from anything labeled a perennial and invest in cold-resistant, weather resistant annual plantings. Those in warm weather or more temperate climates can opt for drought resistant plantings to maximize their investment.
Like so many aspects of outdoor design, you should avoid investing in items that you are unable or unwilling to maintain. Specific species of shrubbery may look great when groomed and provide a green wall between your yard and the next. However, these same species may quickly become unruly and overgrown if not tended to regularly.
If gardening is a passion or hobby, then spending money on plants with higher levels of upkeep may make sense for you. However, for very busy families with little time to pull out the clippers, lower maintenance options are likely more suitable.
The Best Plants For Outdoor Privacy
Topping most lists for good reason, arborvitae is a mainstay in the world of privacy plants. Arborvitae provides homeowners with everything they’re looking for in a natural fence. It’s thick, green foliage is beautiful, and smells great. When bought from a reputable nursery, cultivars can mature to reach heights of up to 20 feet tall.
When it comes to maintenance, this planting allows you to take your pick. Let it reach new heights, or keep it sheared to a consistent level. Whatever you prefer, it is hardy and thrives in most soil conditions. Whether you’re in Austin or Chicago, this species will give you the year long coverage you’re after.
Depending on your exact needs, Arborvitae comes in a range of varieties. All reach different heights and demand differing amounts of space. Though it is a great all-around choice for most, it can look a bit too “Christmassy” for some. Avoid this effect by shaping into less pointed or traditional styles.
If you’re looking for privacy as soon as possible, opt for a faster growing option like Privet. This speedy shrub can grow up to two to three feet each year. This will help create separation quickly, but will also introduce regular maintenance to the equation.
In order to maintain its shape and a semblance of order, privet should be shorn and pruned regularly. Keeping on top of this pruning will prevent you from cultivating an overgrown, tangled mess of a fence. Thankfully, this hard work is not for nothing.
Private is beautiful throughout the year, but especially shines in spring. Each year, healthy Privet plants will give off a thick swath of flowers that are both beautiful, and smell great.
If you’ve thought of Bamboo as an exclusively tropical plant, you may be surprised to hear it has wider regional appeal than you may expect. Some varieties of bamboo can be grown as far north as Minnesota. Bamboo can be a beautiful and less conventional choice for privacy planting. Be aware, however, that not all varieties of Bamboo are great choices for planting.
Bamboo is classed into two main varieties: Clumping and running. And the difference between these two is critical.
While clumping varieties of Bamboo will grow denser and tend to “clump” as the name suggests. These species can be maintained and create a beautiful, polished look to backyard spaces while providing a natural wall. On the other hand, running Bamboo is a whole different ball game.
Running Bamboo is an invasive species that spreads quickly and is difficult to contain. Discussions on the legality of some Bamboo species have been had in certain states due to just how quickly and vigorously it spreads. Take care to know exactly what Bamboo you are planting to avoid potential invasion.
If you’re not a fan of the classic shrubbery look, you’re not out of options. Privacy plants are not reserved to bushes or trees. Often overlooked in favor of other items on this list, ornamental grass can provide great coverage without looking boring or overdone.
It’s true that coverage provided by grass maynot last year round in most areas. However, grass grows extremely quickly and is very hardy. For the fastest privacy, gasses such as Pampas Grass and Giant Grass can reach nearly 10 feet tall by the end of the season. They add unique texture and layered interest to your space, and have a long growing season.
If you live in a cold weather climate, you may need to cut grass during the arrival of the winter season. This will help it come back strong year after year. Still, for those who would rather have their grass remain through winter, cutting can be reserved for early spring as well.
If you have ever taken a tour of formal gardens in a luxury hotel or estate, you may have seen this next pick in person. Boxwood is known for its use in decorative hedging. It’s thick foliage and structure make a great candidate for pruning into many kinds of shapes. However, simple clipping and maintenance will do well with this variety as well.
If allowed to flourish, Boxwood can reach impressive heights. Some varieties of Boxwood can grow over 15 feet, even reaching 20 feet tall in some cases. The density of the foliage not only makes for great lawn sculpture, but for opacity as a natural fence as well.
Boxwood comes in the classic green color, but boasts other varieties such as white or even gold.
If you’re looking for a privacy screen that changes with the seasons, trying a thicket such as Red Twig Dogwood can provide revolving interest. Thick with leaves in spring and summer months, fall brings about a new visual display. As the foliage drops, bright red branches are exposed playing beautifully into fall color.
Red Dogwood is a great addition to almost any climate, regardless of temperature or precipitation. From extreme hot to extreme cold, this species is likely to survive and thrive through it all.
This shrub can reach impressive heights of up to 8 feet. A single plant can grow up to 10 feet in width. This means you can purchase fewer privacy plants and still be guaranteed excellent coverage for your money.
An added bonus? Wildlife such as birds love perching and nesting in dogwood. If you’re in the market for more feathered friends in your outdoor living space, this is a great choice.