Shrubs for Privacy

If you don’t like the itchy feeling of being observed while relaxing (inside and out) or if you’re not interested in making small talk with every passerby, it’s time to plant some privacy. Shrubs can provide more coverage than fences and we humbly suggest that they are more interesting. But what to plant? I’ll help you find out what will work best for your situation and give you the info on how to plan it all out. 

How much privacy do you need?

Are you looking to create a room-like feeling? If so, you’ll want a long line of tall, dense plants that keep the eyeballs out from anywhere they try to get in. That’s a hedge. Would you like to block just part of the view? Perhaps there’s a sightline straight into your space and you’d like to fill it up with something sizeable. That’s a screen. 

The terms hedge and screen tend to be a bit interchangeable, but for the sake of this article we’ll use them to define the role plants will play in your space. Use a hedge as a long row of shrubs to provide a barrier. Use a screen as a strategically placed group of shrubs. 

Picking the right shrub

There is likely one thing that stands out as the most important element for your space. Be sure to choose a plant that prominently features it.

Evergreen

If you need a consistently dense barrier for sound or sight, you’ll need an evergreen plant. They don’t lose their foliage at any time of the year, so your outdoor space will always have a cozy, room-like feeling.

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    GIN FIZZ® Juniper

    Superb berry set + supreme durability. It’s the berries that give gin its characteristic flavor, and it’s the berries that make Gin Fizz® juniper extra special. Deep evergreen foliage provides a handsome background to set off the abundant crop of sage green and blue fruits. Conical habit makes this sun-loving, deer resistant evergreen versatile in the landscape.

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    JAZZ HANDS BOLD® Chinese Fringe-flower

    In a series known for bright colors and exciting habits, why does this particular plant deserve to have the word bold in its name? Very large flowers and foliage, of course! Jazz Hands Bold® Loropetalum will not fade into the background of any garden. It has a nice midsize habit, which nicely displays its supersized features. Place in the middle of the border or use as a hedge to let its easy beauty do the work for you.

    Why grow Jazz Hands Bold Chinese fringe-flower?

    • Stately burgundy black foliage
    • Vibrant fuchsia flowers
    • Useful midsize habit
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    SPRING GROVE® Western Arborvitae

    Spring Grove® arborvitae might be the largest shrub in the line of Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs, but it has a lot to offer! It’s a fast-growing selection of the beautiful, striking North American native Western arborvitae (Thuja plicata). That makes it an ideal choice for planting a lush privacy hedge that creates a storybook setting for any home, business, museum, or church. Though Western arborvitae aren’t quite as hardy as their Eastern counterpart (Thuja occidentalis), they do show better deer resistance, so with protection, may be a better choice as for an evergreen hedge for those who struggle with deer damage to their plants and landscapes.

    Why grow Spring Grove arborvitae?

    • Fast growing for speedy coverage
    • Evergreen foliage has a thick, glossy, “braided” look
    • Tall, broad habit provides privacy from the side and from above
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    FLUFFY® Arborvitae

    Fluffy® Western arborvitae (Thuja plicata) is a beacon of color and touchable texture in the landscape or garden. It naturally grows as a narrow pyramid of shiny “fans” of golden foliage that have an unusual braided look to them. As a Western arborvitae, it is more resistant to deer damage than the standard Eastern arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis), but it should still be protected in areas where deer visit, especially as a young plant. Though it resists burning, a good 2-3″/5-7cm layer of shredded bark mulch over the roots is recommended to help retain soil moisture, especially in winter.

    Why grow Fluffy arborvitae?

    •  Evergreen foliage is a bright, cheerful gold all year-round
    • Thick, glossy foliage has a braided texture
    • Equally suited to being grown as a dramatic specimen, paired at an entryway for formality, or as an unexpected hedge or screen

     

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  • AUSTIN PRETTY LIMITS® Oleander

    Enjoy bright pink flowers every day of the year with Austin Pretty Limits oleander. This non-stop bloomer was selected in Austin, Texas, for its dense, rounded habit and exceptional disease resistance. The bright pink flowers make it the ideal choice for hedges, specimens, containers, and more. While this plant can only be grown outdoors in warm climates, cool climate growers can enjoy its constant blooms in a patio container during the summer.

    Note: like all oleanders, this plant is toxic if ingested.

     

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    La Vida Grande® Indian Hawthorn

    Lots and lots of showy, rich pink flowers on large panicles and dusky peach-colored new growth make this one of the most colorful Indian hawthorns we’ve ever seen. A top performer in our Florida trials, where the foliage remained clean and healthy. Live large!

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  • KINDLY™ Japanese Privet

    We’ve taken classic hedging and modernized it with Kindly privet. This is a well-behaved, seedless Japanese privet, so you can be sure it will stay just where you plant it. Its foliage is a perfect apple green with a lovely sheen, filling out its well-branched, dense habit. It makes the best hedging and gives foundation gardens a very lush look, year round. You’ll love the light fragrance it emits from Spring, Summer.

    Why grow Kindly privet?
    – Reliable performance
    – Non-invasive selection
    – Evergreen foliage for year round beauty

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  • JUST CHILL™ Double White Camellia

    With foliage just as pretty as its flowers, the Just Chill™ series of camellias are the stars of the garden. You’ll love the way the details don’t fade into the background, but actually pop at a time of the year when everything else is winding down. Their lovely anemone-like flowers emerge in mid-fall to winter. The wide petals and extremely fluffy, golden centers are such a cheerful contrast to the dark burgundy stems and new growth. They’re the perfect size for use as a specimen, flowering hedge, or even as a foliage filler option in a cut flower garden.
    Just Chill™ Double White has stark white flowers that really pop off a healthy green background. Its double blooms look luxurious in any setting, but are especially impressive in moon gardens and formal aesthetics.

    Why grow Just Chill Double White camellia?
    – Abundant flower set on top of and within the foliage

    – Useful mid-size habit

    – Quite hardy for the species

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Tall

If your goal is to keep neighbors from seeing into your windows, a plant that gets 10-12 feet (3-3.6 m) tall will help obscure their view into your first floor. For upstairs windows, you’ll need something that grows at least 25 feet tall. The average home’s second-story windows are 20 feet (6 m) or so off the ground.

  • Blue CHIFFON® Rose of Sharon

    Large puffed flowers would make Blue Chiffon® rose of Sharon special enough, but the rich blue color sends it beyond that. It’s a valuable addition to the late summer garden where it stands out as a specimen or ties the entire space together with other blue-flowered shrubs or perennials. With a tolerance for clay soil, black walnut trees, deer, drought, and heat it can bring beauty to many tough spots.

    Why grow Blue Chiffon® rose of Sharon?

    • eye-catching true blue flowers
    • easy care maintenace
    • low seed set and long bloom time
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  • ‘Sweet Summer Love’ Clematis

    It’s a non-invasive version of sweet autumn clematis with fragrant, cranberry-violet blooms. It starts blooming about a month earlier than other varieties, and will continue to flower through the summer. It is very easy to grow.

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    CENTER STAGE® Coral Crapemyrtle

    There are two lovely contrasts at play within Center Stage Coral crapemyrtle. The first is in the coloring; its captivating bright coral pink flowers nestle into dark burgundy foliage. This fun combination could easily be the jumping-off point for a garden color scheme! The second contrast is within the texture; its ruffled blooms are bunched against super smooth, glossy leaves. Complex views like this make gardens more interesting. And happily, unlike older varieties, you’ll be able to think it’s beautiful all growing season long. It remains handsome even in conditions that would give other plants a case of powdery mildew or heat that would stress its foliage.

    Why grow Center Stage Coral crapemyrtle?

    • Handsome contrasting foliage and flower colors
    • Super tolerant of heat and resists deer
    • Pretty low maintenance
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  • CHEER DROPS® Arborvitae

    Tired of all of the same choices among evergreens? Cheer Drops® arborvitae brings new energy to the market! It naturally grows with a droplet-like shape that works well in gardens and landscapes, as well as for windbreaks and hedges. It needs no pruning to keep this handsome form, and grows well in sun or Part Sun.

    Why grow Cheer Drops arborvitae?

    • Unique teardrop-like shape
    • Versatile habit
    • Lush coral-like foliage
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  • LACED UP® Elderberry

    You’ve never seen an elderberry like Laced Up® before: it combines a striking fastigiate habit with lacy, near-black foliage. The effect is something like a flock of birds taking flight. Pink flowers in early summer turn to black fruit if a pollinator like Black Lace® or Instant Karma® elderberry is planted nearby.

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    STONEHENGE® Yew

    Think of Stonehenge® taxus as a thin, faster-growing ‘Hicksii’. Perfect for hedging or foundation plantings where a narrow habit works best. This unique selection has been in our field trial for over five years and has never needed pruning, shearing, or shown signs of winter burn.

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  • TEMPLE OF BLOOM® Seven-son flower

    Four seasons of beauty. Heptacodium has always been an under-used shrub: let’s change that! Temple of Bloom® heptacodium was years in development and improves on the straight species with a more compact habit and an earlier bloom, which means that its cherry-red bracts show up sooner for a memorable fall display. Handsome, high quality foliage and attractive peeling bark make this truly a plant for all seasons.

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  • METAMORPHOSA® Acer

    Ever-changing color and intricate leaf texture make Metamorphosa® Japanese maple a fascinating specimen. It’s the kind of plant you’ll want to visit throughout the season to admire each subtle shift. In spring, the leaves emerge bright yellow and quickly develop a pink margin. The margin slowly shifts to white while the inside of the leaf changes to reddish-orange. For the finale in fall, the overall color deepens to a lovely shade of reddish-violet, which really pops when paired with plants that turn yellow or red. Its shrubby habit is quite versatile; you can easily leave it alone or train it into a small multi-stemmed tree. For a specimen that looks high maintenance, but performs well with very little effort, choose a Metamorphosa®.

    Why grow Metamorphosa® Japanese maple?

    • Colorful, changing foliage
    • Interesting texture for foliage
    • Versatile habit
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Interesting

If your screen is only necessary during the growing season, you can choose a deciduous plant with interesting features such as flowers, foliage color, or berries. It needs to be large, but likely not overly so. Something over 6 feet (1.8m) may be all you need!

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    BERRY HEAVY® Winterberry Holly

    Our native winterberry holly is an adaptable plant that will tolerate a variety of conditions, including clay soils, and may be used for Rain gardens as well as general landscaping and Cutting gardens. Berry Heavy® was selected for its abundant fruit set of bright orange-red berries. Its leaves drop earlier than other varieties for a better fruit display. Use Mr. Poppins™ as a pollinator.

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  • BLACK LACE® Elderberry

    This cutleaf elderberry has the color and texture of Japanese maple, but is much more adaptable. The pink flowers will produce black fruit in fall that can be used for jams or wine, or left for songbirds to enjoy. This durable plant can be used as a specimen in mixed borders or Rain gardens. If cut back in early spring it can be used like a perennial for foliage interest (flowers appear on old wood.) This adaptable plant will tolerate clay soils, black walnut, and occasional dry conditions. It is deer-resistant.

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  • GOLDEN SHADOWS® Pagoda Dogwood

    Make a memorable, elegant statement in your landscape with Golden Shadows® pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia). This small tree gets the name “pagoda dogwood” from its strongly horizontal branching which give it a distinctive look that does indeed resemble the famous pagodas of Japan. Bedecking these branches are elegant variegated leaves that emerge orange and soon develop a mélange of cheery yellow and emerald green. In spring, clusters of white flowers are held above the branches for a truly unforgettable display you’ll look forward to every year.

    Though it sounds like Golden Shadows dogwood would hail from a faraway place, it is native to North America and brings with it excellent durability, hardiness (down to USDA zone 3), and heat tolerance (through USDA zone 8). As it grows in the understory of the forests of the eastern half of the US and Canada, it’s also far more shade tolerant than one might expect, and its golden foliage lights up dim spaces. This spectacular small tree deserves pride of place in your landscape or garden, where it will get you compliments for a lifetime.

    Why grow Golden Shadows dogwood?

    • Very shade tolerant
    • Super colorful foliage
    • Pretty spring flowers

    Golden Shadows dogwood is part of the Proven Winners® ColorChoice® Trees program.

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  • PINK MINK® Clematis

    This easy-to-grow variety produces abundant pink-on-pink striped blooms from early summer to early fall.

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  • SCENTARA® Double Blue Lilac

    Knock-your-socks-off fragrance! Selected for its fragrance and bloom color, Scentara® Double Blue lilac creates the unforgettable spring display you crave. Very large flower clusters are made up of lavender-blue double florets and cover the plant in spring. Good resistance to mildew. Long-lived and easy to grow.

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    SPICE GIRL® Koreanspice Viburnum

    A strong growing selection of Koreanspice viburnum with abundant, fragrant flowers. The spring blooms start out deep reddish-pink and mature to blush pink-white. It has an attractive, consistent habit and nice fall color.

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    QUICK FIRE FAB® Panicle Hydrangea

    Start hydrangea season sooner with this early bloomer! Quick Fire Fab® panicle hydrangea’s massive football-shaped (and sized) blooms cover the entire plant from top to bottom before other hydrangeas’ buds have even begun to swell! Each flower opens a cheery lime color and turns to watermelon from the bottom upward, slowly becoming two-toned. Altogether the show is so fabulous it’s hard to look away. It fits nicely into a low-maintenance garden, as a specimen in your front yard, as foundation plants among favored perennials in a mixed bed, or wherever you need an easy-care colorful shrub.

    Why grow Quick Fire Fab® panicle hydrangea?

    • Early flowering extends the hydrangea season
    • Large, colorful blooms
    • Flowers on new wood = reliable performance
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  • PINKY WINKY PRIME® Hydrangea

    A lot of breeding work is about introducing smaller plants, but in this case, we went big. Pinky Winky Prime® is literally a bit bigger than its predecessor and it’s got a bigger personality to match! Its big lacey flowers are like lanterns in the summertime. Vibrant white panicles begin to blush up from the bottom, turning the blooms into a two-toned combo that’s impossible to miss. At the summer’s end, it sets itself apart from the original by deepening to a shade of true dark pink.

    Why grow Pinky Winky Prime hydrangea?
    – Massive flowers
    – Interesting color change from summer into fall
    – Large size works perfectly as a screen or as the specimen for an island bed

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Hedge Spacing

Once you choose a plant, its mature width can be your guide for spacing. Let’s use North Pole® arborvitae as an example. It grows 3-5 feet (.9-1.5m) wide. You’d plant them 3 feet (.9m) apart for a very tight hedge. For a looser look, you can plant them 5 feet (1.5m) or more apart. 

Tight Spacing

An illustrated overhead view of 3 foot hedge spacing.
An illustrated, forward facing view of closely spaced evergreens.

Loose Spacing

An illustrated overhead view of a hedge with loose spacing.
An illustrated forward facing view of a hedge with loose spacing.

Go Further

Planning and planting a hedge is a bit involved, watch all (or just part) of this three-step video series to delve further into the process!

Plant Selection

Preparing a Hedge Space

Hedge Planting and Care

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Written by
Picture of Kristina Howley

Kristina Howley

I am all in when it comes to gardening. Almost every part of the experience delights me – new leaves emerging in spring, pollinators buzzing in summer, birds devouring berries in fall, and the somber beauty of seed heads in winter. Thanks to a background in horticulture and gardening my own clay-filled, flowery USDA zone 5b plot, I’ve learned plenty of practical things as well. I like sharing these joys and lessons with my fellow gardeners and soon-to-be gardeners any way I can.

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