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The Best Shrubs for a Privacy Screen

By Leah Deitz ; Updated September 21, 2017

Privacy helps to make happy neighbors, and if the natural landscape does not provide it, shrubs and trees are a great alternative to fencing. When it comes to privacy screens, shrubs add color and texture and increase property value. Shrubs with different growing rates can accommodate to various soil and lighting conditions; they also have various heights and widths that can meet almost any privacy challenge while increasing curb appeal.


Arborvitae is a common landscaping shrub because it grows rapidly, can be pruned for aesthetic purposes and is adaptable to most soil types. Also known as the green giant, arborvitae can be purchased at most nurseries and works well as a wind break. According to the U.S. National Arboretum, the green giant can grow to 60 feet tall if left untrimmed. The arborvitae is not associated with any particular pest or disease, says the USNA.

Japanese Yew

Japanese yews are effective privacy screening shrubs for shady areas. According to plantcare.com, they can grow as tall as 20 to 50 feet if left untrimmed. They have dark green needle-like foliage. The females bear fruit, but it is poisonous. Japanese yews are not native to the United States; although they will adapt to most soils, they are partial to phosphorus and can be fertilized to ensure they survive transplanting. Japanese yews are moderate to slow growers and cannot tolerate hot conditions.


Hawthorn shrubs are often used for both privacy and security. According to the Ohio Public Library Information Network, there are 800 different varieties of this tree. They have long, sharp thorns and richly scented blossoms. They are a moderate grower and will reach 25 to 30 feet at maturity if unpruned. The hawthorn is adaptable to a majority of soil types and can tolerate partial shade. These hearty plants have a long life cycle--they can live for more than 300 years.


Holly has long been associated with winter landscapes. However, hollies can be sculpted for privacy screening as well. According to fast-growing-trees.com, the Nellie Stevens holly can be planted 5 to 6 feet apart to create a “living wall.” These fast growers are as tall as 15 to 25 feet at maturity and are adaptable to most soil types. Hollies bear red fruit in the winter against dark green foliage and often attract a number of birds.