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Hedging Your Bets: Great Hedge Plants for Privacy

By Teo Spengler ; Updated June 13, 2019
Hedging Your Bets: Great Hedge Plants for Privacy

A hedge can be a homeowner's best friend in a garden. Hedges are useful in many ways, from blocking the view of curious neighbors to concealing an unsightly area of the backyard. Which hedge plants work best for ensuring your privacy? Here are six excellent hedge plants to consider.

Plants and Privacy

In yesteryear, landowners constructed fortress walls to keep people from interfering with their privacy. Today, many homes rely on walls or fencing to keep nosy folks from peering inside private areas of the backyard.

However, hedges work better than walls in several ways. Walls are made of cold, unmoving stone, while hedges are living shrubs or trees. Hedge plants are green and growing, their branches sway in the breeze, act as sound breaks and windbreaks, invite wildlife into your backyard and even smell sweet after the rain.

Evergreen Versis Deciduous Hedge Plants

The best privacy hedge plants create a screen around the areas of your yard you want protected. Generally, these are evergreen plants that grow relatively quickly, are attractive and don't require constant maintenance. Evergreen plants hold onto their leaves all year long.

But some people want a privacy hedge only during the summer months. This may be the case if you use the pool only in summer, or if your hedge might shade your home in winter when you want to invite the sun inside. If you only want summer hedge protection, opt for deciduous hedge plants that lose their leaves when the cold weather comes. These can be very ornamental, offering flowers in springtime and an autumn display of leaf colors.

Best Hedge Plants

Many shrubs and trees make great hedge plants, so it's hard to make a decision. Here's our take on six of the best hedge plants for privacy hedges.

  1. Arborvitae 
    Few evergreens grow faster and require less maintenance than arborvitae (Thuja spp.). For a mid-size variety, go for Emerald Green (Thuja occidentalis, 'Emerald Green') that grows to 14 feet tall. It thrives in USDA zones 2 through 7. This shrub needs six hours of sun a day and moist, well-draining soil. Irrigate weekly until the shrubs are established. 
  2. Skip laurel
    If you prefer broad-leaved evergreens, look at skip laurel (Prunus laurocerasus ‘Schipkaensis’). These shrubs thrive in USDA zones 6 through 8 in sun or partial shade and well-draining soil. Skip laurel grows to 12 feet tall, offering fragrant white flowers in spring and berry-like fruits in late summer. Regular irrigation is necessary, especially until established.
  3. Privet
    Golden vicary privet (Ligustrum x vicaryi) has golden evergreen foliage and lacy flowers in springtime. It grows to 12 feet tall in an attractive vase shape, but can be pruned into a dense hedge or screen. Drought-tolerant and low-maintenance, it is a good plant for a privacy screen in USDA zones 5 through 9. 
  4. Holly 
    Shiny evergreen leaves and bright red or orange berries make holly trees (Ilex spp) excellent choices for privacy hedges if you are willing to prune. You can find holly species that thrive in most of the nation, including USDA zones 3 through 10. Most prefer sunny locations and well-draining soil. Look out for the sharp edges of some holly leaves. 
  5. Euonymus  
    Golden euonymus , with its fancy pale-gold variegated leaves, may fool you into thinking it's high maintenance. In fact, it's a tough, evergreen shrub that grows to 6 feet tall and adapts to poor soil and adverse conditions. It needs a site with some sun and well-draining soil but, once established, requires minimal attention. 
  6. Dogwood  
    Red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea) is a deciduous shrub, so it's only a good choice when your privacy requirements are seasonal. But if they are, it's a top choice, offering year-round appeal. Dogwood brings you delicate spring blossoms, variegated leaves all summer long, lovely berries in autumn and bright red twigs and branches for winter interest. This shrub grows to 8 feet high and wide in USDA zones 3 through 8. Plant it in a site with full sun if possible in fertile, moist soil. 

About the Author


Teo Spengler is a docent with the San Francisco Botanical Garden and a staff writer with Gardening Know How. She has written hundreds of gardening and plant articles for sites like eHow Gardening, Gardening Know How and Hunker. She holds a JD in law from U.C. Berkeley, an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing.