12 Backyard Plants for Privacy from Neighbors 2022 [Updated]

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12 Tall & Fast Growing Plants for Privacy From Neighbours  

Private backyard fence
You can easily create a privacy screen for your backyard with the help of the right plants. Mark / CC BY 2.0

Every person has the right to keep prying eyes away from their garden and home. Wooden fences and concrete walls are often used for this purpose, particularly in urban areas where the perimeters of private properties may need low-maintenance reinforcement. Privacy or security doesn’t always have to look so drab and forced, however.

With the help of the right plants, you can create a garden screen that should effectively provide you with your desired degree of seclusion. These plants can be arranged along gapped or short fences, or, if you live in a generally safe area, take the place of a fence completely. Some can be grown in a compact manner so that their shoots and branches may intertwine to collectively form a barrier. Others, particularly those which grow quite tall, can be spaced out and encouraged to spread around the upper floors of a home or give overhead privacy.

Of course, thick shrubs and generously canopied trees are some of the best plants to grow for privacy due to their sturdy branches and abundant foliage. Evergreen species, which should provide coverage all year round if grown in the right locations, would be the most ideal choice in temperate zones. As a bonus, many of these produce eye-catching flowers and fruits that add ecosystem services to a private garden.

1) Boxwood (Buxus spp.)

Buxus sempervirens
Buxus sempervirens, both American and British varieties, are very popular as a backyard hedge. Angelika Baumann / CC BY 4.0

Native to Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas

A diverse group of shrubs and trees that are known for their tendency to grow as evergreen perennials, boxwoods make for fantastic natural fences. Low-maintenance and relatively easy to shape and prune, they are frequently planted by landscapers in spots that could use shaped borders. To cultivate them as components of a hedge, you can plant young specimens around a foot away from one another.

For boxwood shrubs to grow in an orderly manner, make sure to situate them along a pre-marked hedgerow line. Dimensions in the trench should comfortably accommodate each plant, giving new roots plenty of space to evenly spread. Once the shrubs are in place, you may add mulch around the base. This should help protect the roots from heat and weed growth.

With their compact branches and small, rounded leaves, boxwood shrubs can thoroughly block out light and heat. Depending on the species and cultivar, they can grow anywhere from 2 – 12 meters (6.6 – 39 feet) tall. There is thus a boxwood plant for virtually all types of garden screening needs. English boxwood and American boxwood (both types of B. sempervirens) are some of the most common choices for backyard hedges.

2) Clumping bamboo (Bambusa spp.)

Golden bamboo
Clumping bamboo species tend to be native only in subtropical areas, meaning that they may struggle to survive in areas with cool winters. Karthik Thrikkadeeri / CC BY 4.0

Native to Asia and Australia

There are two types of bamboo that may be grown in cultivation – clumping bamboos and running bamboos. Species that are classified as clumping bamboos are more desirable for natural hedges as their rhizomes are less likely to spread rapidly and further away from the main plant. The branches of these species emerge from the nodes along the length of their culms, which are hollow stems.

When choosing among bamboo varieties for your backyard, you’ll need to consider the natural features of your area and the environmental preferences of each plant. Some types of bamboo require full sun exposure and warm temperatures, whereas others are more likely to tolerate seasonal changes and partial exposure. Keep in mind that many bamboos are native to subtropical to tropical areas and may struggle to survive in zones with cool winters.

One of the most popular bamboos for ornamental hedges is the seabreeze bamboo (Bambusa malingensis). This non-invasive species from China can tolerate temperature lows of up to -9˚C (15.8˚F). It produces lovely, deep green culms from which a profusion of branches rapidly grows. Most ideal for coastal areas due to its tolerance for salty air, it can be cultivated in rows to take the place of a fence.

3) American holly (Ilex opaca)

American holly plants
For its leaves & branches to remain in shape, American holly needs good ventilation and proper care. Madison Gover / CC BY 4.0

Native to the United States

As American holly is a medium-sized tree, growing to a maximum height of about 18 meters (59 feet), it is usually present in the understory of mild to warm forests. As a result, it can tolerate partial shade and is thus suited to the dimly lit perimeters of a garden. Anchored by thick roots which normally spread out at a slow pace, it can be grown on constantly moist to dry substrates.

Frequently planted as an evergreen shrub in USDA hardiness zones 5 – 10, I. opaca can be cultivated to create a fantastic, holiday-ready hedge. If grown in the right conditions, and with the presence of both fertile male and female specimens, blooms should develop into red holly berries each year. These serve as an essential source of nutrients for birds in the winter. Note, however, that the berries are toxic to humans and domesticated animals.

Holly hedges need good ventilation and appropriate care so that their leaves and branches can remain in perfect shape. Water should be consistently provided all throughout summer, especially if your backyard tends to dry out in the heat. When pruning holly branches, aim to cut them down to nodes with a growth bud. Remove pests and treat diseases as soon as they are spotted to prevent them from infesting the whole hedge.

4) Leyland cypress tree (Cupressus x leylandii)

Leyland cypress tree
Leyland cypress trees are great as natural borders as they can grow to be very tall! Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Garden hybrid

A cross between the Monterey cypress and the Nootka cypress, the Leyland cypress tree is a stunning hybrid. Its beauty as an ornamental plant is matched by its relatively fast rate of growth. In just a year, the trunk of a mature tree can lengthen by a whole meter! If your garden requires a fast-growing evergreen plant for tall coverage, this may be the perfect candidate. So far, the tallest specimen in cultivation measures an impressive 40 meters (131 feet).

As Leyland cypress trees can grow quite tall, they make excellent natural borders for country estates and areas with expansive and open land. They can be used to provide thick shade and, when grown as a dense row, as an effective windbreak. Due to these features, they are not recommended for small properties or as neighboring trees for shorter ornamentals.

At the very least, Leyland cypresses should be grown around 15 feet (4.6 meters) away from the closest shade-intolerant plants. Ideally planted in fall, they can develop into relatively mature trees in the span of just a few seasons. Those purchased as bare-root or container-grown plants may also be planted in late winter to early spring.

5) Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

Pink bigleaf hydrangeas
Bigleaf hydrangeas are easy-to-care-for plants that change color based on the soil’s pH. chuybenitez / CC BY 4.0

Native to Japan

Known best for its bouquet-like inflorescences and their color response to soil chemistry, the bigleaf hydrangea is a common garden favorite. When its stems are allowed to grow tall and branch out, much like a shrub, the large leaves provide enough coverage to act as a natural screen. The stunning blooms, which last from summer to winter in areas with mild conditions, give this species unrivaled ornamental value.

As H. macrophylla comes in more than a dozen attractive cultivars, including several that have received the RHS Award of Garden Merit, you can create a diverse lacecap and mophead garden. For a natural fence with multiple bloom colors and petal sizes, situate the cultivars right next to one another. You can slightly alter the substrate pH around alternating specimens to create a blend of blue, purple, pink, and red hues.

Bigleaf hydrangeas are easy to care for and are arguably some of the most low-maintenance flowering shrubs around. They thrive best in moderately mild to warm areas with full to partial sun exposure. If you intend to create a natural hedge using these plants, it would be best to fertilize the substrate around the base of the roots. A well-balanced nutrient mixture should promote leaf growth and flowering.

6) Lilac (Syringa spp.)

Common lilac
You’ll need to give lilacs ample space to grow if you want them to form a natural, flowering hedge. Quinten Wiegersma / CC BY 4.0

Native to Europe and Asia

Lilacs grow as small, flowering trees and shrubs in garden and park settings. The largest of their kind may grow as tall as 10 meters (33 feet), but there are some with a more manageable maximum height of just 2 meters (6.6 feet). Most species are distinguished by their heart-shaped, bright green leaves and their lilac-colored spring blooms. The eye-catching blooms arise in large, multi-branched inflorescences.

If you intend to use lilacs to create a flowering hedge, you’ll need to provide each plant with ample space to spread and grow. A single, mature plant may need a surface area of at least 7 x 10 feet (2 x 3 meters) for its roots and shoot to expand to their full potential. For high flowering rates, it would also require at least 6 hours of full sun.

When purchasing lilacs that are intended for use in a hedge, aim to get bare-root specimens in winter. Smaller varieties can be planted 2 – 4 feet (0.6 – 1.2 meters) apart, especially if you intend to prune them back. Keep in mind that they are likely to take some time to fill in the gaps, so a makeshift fence may be required until your lilacs are fully grown.

7) Euonymus (Euonymus spp.)

Euonymus japonicus
Euonymus is a group of diverse species, with Euonymus japonicus being one of the most popular (pictured). Silverije, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to East Asia

This diverse group of flowering shrubs, trees, and lianas is frequently cultivated for its widely varied foliar colors and ability to thrive in cool to warm conditions. Species that are specifically popular as hedges include E. fortunei (‘Emerald and Gold’), E. japonicus, and E. europaeus. Some plant nurseries may refer to them as spindle hedge plants as their wood can be used to produce spindles.

Euonymus hedges are best suited to informal or wildlife gardens that don’t require considerable height. Mature plants rarely reach more than 20 – 30 feet (6 – 9 meters) tall in optimal conditions. Low-growing species can be used as ground cover and should be pruned to maintain a manageable and safe height. If you intend for these to have trailing branches, you may opt to situate them on taller structures.

Euonymus flowers are not known for being particularly attractive, but they do attract many pollinators. They may develop into showy seed-filled capsules which complement the appearance of fall leaves. As the genus includes both deciduous and evergreen species, opt for the latter if you intend for the hedge to provide privacy through winter.

8) Hicks yew (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’)

Hicks yew
Hicks yew is an understated and fairly cold-tolerant type of conifer. F. D. Richards / CC BY-SA 2.0

Garden hybrid

Hybridized in the early 1900s, Hicks yew is a cross between the English yew (T. baccata) and the Japanese yew (T. cuspidata). More specifically, it is the tallest variant (hicksii) of this cross as it can grow to a maximum height of about 20 feet (6 meters). A type of conifer, it produces evergreen features with a bushy growth habit. The plant’s compactness makes it suitable for growth as a garden screen.

Hardy to winter conditions in USDA zone 4, Hicks yew is fairly cold tolerant. It grows in a distinctly upright manner, giving its freshly sheared shrubs a more rigid appearance. The leaves come in the form of glossy, deep green needles. When they are present on branches that are highly compact, it’s near-impossible to see through the plant.

As this conifer hybrid is not at all flashy and is not visually enhanced by the presence of blooms, it has a more understated appearance. Nonetheless, it does produce red berries for some winter charm. If you’re after a minimalist-style backyard or would like to cultivate a formal hedge that effectively meets privacy needs, individual specimens can be planted around 3 feet (1 meter) apart in a single row.

9) Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)

Thuja occidentalis hedge
Arborvitae can be used for privacy purposes all year round in temperate zones. Raul654 / CC BY-SA 3.0

Native to North America

Arborvitae, which is also known as the northern white cedar, eastern white cedar, and swamp cedar, is a horticultural favorite in the US. This beloved coniferous tree has both ornamental and medicinal uses that date back centuries. Its common name is actually Latin for ‘tree of life’, hinting at its significance as a species.

Arborvitae trees can be grown in a carefully arranged grove or along a hedgerow to provide ample cover for gardens with regularly moistened substrates. Due to their evergreen, tough and lush foliage, they can be used for year-round privacy in temperate zones. Capable of living for more than a thousand years, these trees may well outlive the properties they are meant to hide or protect!

With hundreds of cultivars, it can be tricky to choose exactly which type of arborvitae would be perfect for your garden. It may be best to consider cultivating those that have received the RHS Award of Garden Merit. The ‘Smaragd’ or emerald green arborvitae, for instance, is one of the most common choices for hedges.

10) Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

Star jasmine
Star jasmine has lengthy shoots that can twine around objects when searching for sunlight. Murray NZ / CC BY 4.0

Native to China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam

Named for the starlike appearance of its white blooms, star jasmine is a woody vine. It is considered a liana as its roots spread out in soil and its lengthy shoots climb trees and other upright structures in search of light. The shoots can either twine around objects or develop aerial roots from nodes that come into contact with moist surfaces.

Vines are often overlooked when natural perimeters are designed, especially as they may require additional structures to encourage their spread and vertical expansion. When their shoots are able to evenly grow across surfaces, they can create a stunning and maze-like pattern of leaves. The leaves, shoots, aerial roots, and flowers can jointly serve as a natural screen.

Apart from increasing backyard privacy, mature star jasmine plants may give your property a uniquely fragrant scent. Its essential oil is used to create perfumes and traditional incense mixtures. The flowers can arise abundantly enough to block out a good portion of this plant’s deep green leaves.

11) Lady palm (Rhapis excelsa)

Lady palm plants
Lady palm is a popular choice to be used as a living fence in tropical and subtropical areas. Dinesh Valke from Thane, India, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Taiwan and China

If you’re a big fan of oriental plants and distinctive foliage, you may want to grow this species along perforated fences to increase privacy. Its leaves consist of large and broad leaflets which are attached at a single point on the tip of the petiole. This arrangement, coupled with the ribbed appearance of each leaflet, gives the leaves a fan-like appearance.

Lady palms are often used as living fences in tropical to subtropical areas as their stems can grow up to 4 meters (13 feet) tall. Stems of mature plants arise as dense clumps which can thoroughly crowd large pots or spread out to fill small plots of substrate. Plants with stems at various heights are the most effective at creating a natural and highly textured wall.

Also referred to as bamboo palm, the lady palm can be grown in parts of the garden receiving partial or dappled shade. It thrives best in high humidity and mild to warm ambient temperatures. As it is able to propagate via underground rhizomes, you may wish to restrict its growth to within pots or buried containers.

12) North privet (Ligustrum x ibolium)

Ligustrum ovalifolium
North privet is often used for hedges in the United States and is a cross between Ligustrum ovalifolium (pictured) and Ligustrum obtusifolium. alicia penney / CC BY 4.0

Nursery hybrid

The north privet is a natural cross between L. ovalifolium and L. obtusifolium. It is a flowering plant that is often used for hedges in the US. Many plant nurseries may market it as the fastest-growing hedge due to its rapid growth rate of up to 1 meter (3 feet) per year. At maturity, a single shrub can measure up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) and have a spread of about 6 – 8 feet (1.8 – 2.4 meters).

One of the great things about this shrub is that it can tolerate being pruned to any height. Be warned that it may require some maintenance in optimal environments as new stems and branches are quick to regenerate. Fortunately, frequent shearing is just the trick if you aim for a compact hedge with dense branches.

In spring, the north privet produces eye-catching inflorescences with white blooms. These may attract butterflies and bees to your backyard. Blooms are more likely to occur on plants that aren’t pruned back, so you may wish to grow a separately potted and unsheared specimen as an ornamental plant.

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