Most home gardeners have an areas of their landscape where screening is needed, whether it's to hide something unsightly, create a border or fence, or simply to define a specific area. The best trees and shrubs for screening are those that are fast-growing and hardy so they will last a long time, and evergreen so that the screen does not become thin when they lose their leaves or needles. Fortunately, there are many plants that fulfill all of these requirements and make excellent screens.
Eastern Red Cedar
The Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is desirable for its hardiness, compared to many fast-growing evergreen trees--such as the Leyland cypress--that have weak wood or are highly susceptible to diseases. This tree can grow to heights of 30 feet, with an average width of half its height. The eastern red cedar is perfect for rocky areas, according to the University of Tennessee, because it has the ability to thrive in all types of soil. Use it as a wind screen, or to delineate a property border. Plant the juniper in a sunny location for best results. The eastern red cedar grows well in USDA zones 2 through 9.
The common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) is a fast-growing, evergreen broad-leafed shrub that features small but tightly packed leaves. This plant is often used as a formal hedge or topiary plant, as boxwoods can tolerate heavy pruning. While they can grow up to 20 feet tall, they are usually clipped to be much shorter.The common boxwood thrives in USDA zones 5 through 8 and will grow in sun or partial shade, although not in heavy shade. Do not use this plant to block heavy winds. Boxwood performs best as a way to screen unsightly areas or line walkways.
Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) trees make excellent screens due to their dense, evergreen leaves, according to Clemson University. In addition, magnolias feature beautiful flowers, making these trees the perfect choice for home gardeners who want a functional and attractive screen. The best choices are those cultivars that are both fast-growing and naturally tall and narrow, such as 'Alta' or 'Edith Bogue'. Southern magnolias are hardy to USDA zone 6 and grow best in rich and loamy, well-draining soil. They will grow in full sunlight or partial shade.
American holly (Ilex opaca) is another great choice for home gardeners who want a fast-growing, sturdy, large windbreak screen. Because the leaves have teeth that are somewhat prickly, this is also a good choice for a privacy screen, as animals or humans will tend to think twice before braving the sharp edges of the leaves. The American holly tree grows up to 60 feet tall and is cold-hardy to USDA zone 5. This tree prefers moderate conditions that aren't too cold, wet, dry or hot (do not plant in USDA zones warmer than 9), making it a perfect choice for home gardeners who live in temperate areas. The berries, which appear in the fall, are bright red and favored by birds.