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The Best Shrubs for Privacy

Some people call privacy hedges "Mother Nature's fences." Whether you are blocking a view, need a wind break, are looking for extra security or just using them for decoration, there are many shrubs that provide privacy. Choices range from the dense holly with its bright red berries to the sunny yellow flowers of forsythia. Choose your shrub by evaluating where you will plant it, what kind of soil you have and how tall you want it to grow.

Japanese Yew

The Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata) is an evergreen shrub that can grow to 40 feet. The female plants produce red berries. Yew grows well in a variety of light, from full sun to deep shade, but it requires well-drained soil. Varieties include Capitata, which has a pyramid shape and grows to 40 feet; and Nana, which will reach 15 feet.


Arborvitae (Thuja orientalis) is an egg-shaped, needled evergreen shrub that grows to about 20 feet, although some eventually will reach 50 feet. Arborvitae needs full to partial sun; it will not thrive in shade. It is less picky about its soil and will grow in almost any type. Arborvitae also is very drought-, heat- and pollution-tolerant, making it a good choice for urban areas. Varieties include Nigra, an upright shrub that grows to 20 feet; Emerald, which has bright-green foliage and grows to 12 feet; and Techny, which has dark-green foliage and grows to 12 feet.


Holly (Ilex) comes in more than 400 species, some of which can grow to more than 50 feet tall. Its spiny-tipped leaves and dense foliage make it an almost-impenetrable hedge. Hollies need rich, well-drained, acidic soil. They will grow in sun or part shade. Chinese hollies (Ilex cornuta) have glossy, dark-green leaves and grow to 15 feet. Varieties include Burfordii and Berries Jubilee. American hollies (Ilex opaca) are the traditional Christmas holly and can grow to 50 feet. Cultivars include Dan Fenton, Jersey Delight and Yellow Berry.


Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia), commonly called golden bell, is one of the most popular shrubs in the South. Its bright yellow flowers are one of the first spots of color in the spring. Forsythia produces dense canes that reach 10 feet tall. It grows best in fertile, well-drained soil, thought it is not very picky. Forsythia requires full sun for best flowering but can grow in partial shade. Cultivars include Beatrix Farrand, Lynwood and Spectabilis.

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