Privacy hedges are an excellent alternative to fences, providing both beauty and functionality. Some hedging plants can be grown to 20 feet in height or more, much higher than what most people would consider acceptable with any kind of fencing. Consider factors such as the planting space available, your target height and the rate of growth when choosing plants for a privacy hedge.
Thuja Green Giant
Known as one of the fastest growing varieties of arborvitae, thuja green giant is an excellent plant for creating privacy screens. Young plants commonly grow as much as 3 feet per year and quickly fill out with thick, dark green foliage. Although it normally reaches 50 to 60 feet in height, this arborvitae can be easily pruned as a hedge. Suitable for plant hardiness zones 5 to 7, the green giant grows well in many types of soil and requires little maintenance. With so many favorable attributes, thuja is recognized by the U.S. National Arboretum as an elite plant and received the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gold Medal Plant Award in 1998.
Known botanically as Prunus laurocerasus, English laurel is one of the most adaptable evergreen hedging plants. Tolerating shade and poor soil, this laurel will thrive in locations where many other hedging plants are complete failures. English laurel grows about 1 foot per year in plant hardiness zones 5 to 9. Laurel hedges are typically quite wide with thick, dark green foliage that makes an excellent privacy screen.
Although considered by many to be one of the best plants for smaller hedges, some varieties of boxwood grow well over 10 feet high. The dense evergreen foliage ensures privacy and also serves as a good wind and sound barrier. The tall Graham Blandy variety of American boxwood has a narrow, column-like form that makes it suitable for tight spaces. Although a beautiful and distinctive hedge when carefully trimmed, boxwood grows rather slowly, averaging just 4 to 6 inches per year.
As a winner of the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit, the common yew or Taxus baccata is revered as one the finest hedging and topiary plants in the world. The formal gardens of many European castles and estates are adorned by this distinguished plant. The fine needle leaves are very dense and can be easily pruned to create sharply defined geometric shapes. Also known as the English yew, it grows in USDA hardiness zones 5b to 7. With a maximum height of 25 feet and a spread of up to 20 feet, these trees will keep gardens well hidden from view. Although slow growing, taxus baccata is easy maintained once it reaches the desired height.