Even if you have the loveliest neighbors on the block, it’s still important to create a sense of privacy in your backyard. While you can always rely on wooden or metal fencing to get the job done, planting tall, fast-growing trees are a much prettier way to fence off your space. When planted close to one another, evergreen, cypress, flowering trees and other varieties create a lush green fence — a living wall, if you will — to separate your property from your neighbor’s.
When selecting trees for privacy, figure out which USDA Hardiness zone you live in (find yours here) to ensure that the one you select can survive local winters. Then take into account the size of your space — small backyards may require a tall and narrow option like a Italian Cypress, bigger plots of land call for trees with a wider reach like a Weeping Willow. Keep in mind that all of the trees on this list grow fairly quickly, some even growing three feet each year until they reach their mature size. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure that you prune the trees regularly and space them out to prevent overcrowding.
Now, here are some of the best trees for privacy, along with their growing requirements and care instructions.
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Leyland Cypress Tree
A few seasons after planting, this blueish-green tree will create a full green fence. When fully grown and unpruned, this pyramidal evergreen can reach 70 feet in height. Although they are fairly tolerant and low-maintenance, they grow best in zones 6-10 with partial to full sunlight and well-draining soil.
Italian Cypress Tree
Known for its long and skinny silhouette, this popular Cypress can squeeze into tight spaces while still giving your backyard plenty of height. Even though they don’t grow wide, most trees grow up to three feet in any given year, reaching anywhere from 35 to 40 feet in 10 years. They grow best in zones 7-11, so they can handle drought conditions and thrive in full to partial sun (at least four to eight hours of sunlight daily).
Flowering Dogwood Tree
White flowers may only make an appearance for a month or two, but the trees offer a gorgeous backdrop all year long. Ideal for zones 5-8, these low-maintenance beauties also boast glossy green leaves in the summer and crimson berries in the fall. Try to plant Dogwoods in the spring months when soil is moist, so that it has plenty of time to grow. FYI, it thrives as long as it has partial shade and weekly watering.
Thuja Green Giant
Grow a lush dark green privacy screen with ease. Once established, Thuja Green Giant grows three to five feet each year with only four hours of direct sunlight daily and regular watering during the first six months. It’s resistant to most insects and disease, and grows best in zones 5-9.
Weeping Willow Tree
The arching branches on a Weeping Willow tree add drama and elegance to any backyard, large or small. When regularly pruned in their younger years and planted in zones 6-8, Weeping Willows can grow to be 50 feet tall. Plant them in full sun to partial shade and make sure they are watered weekly during the first year of planting, then as needed in the tree’s later years.
Emerald Green Arborvitae
If your yard is on the smaller side in zones 2-8, make a privacy screen with these glossy greens. They work best in compact spaces since they grow up, not out, reaching a max of 15 feet tall. Just be sure to plant the trees at least three feet apart and in full sun or partial shade. Start by watering it twice weekly before scaling back to 1″ of water each week at around the three-month mark.
Cherry Blossom Tree
Cover your backyard with a blanket of pink and white petals. This flowering tree is best suited in zones 5-9, reaching a height and spread up to 20 feet. It needs at least six hours of direct sunlight daily and well-draining soil to grow and bloom.
Nellie Stevens Holly
Technically, it’s a shrub, but the Nellie Stevens Holly towers high, reaching 25 feet when it’s fully grown. Unlike some of the other privacy trees on this list, this tolerant shrub stays green all year long, even in the heat of the summer. If you live in zones 6-9, plant each Nellie Stevens Holly at least five or six feet apart to create a living wall, ultimately reaching 15 to 25 feet in height. You can keep their natural pyramidal shape (shown here) or prune them into a tall box hedge.
Thundercloud Plum Tree
Don’t be fooled by the name: This plum tree doesn’t always bear fruit, but has leaves in a similar purple hue. The mid-size variety reaches a height and spread of roughly 20 feet when it’s fully grown, making it a colorful addition to any backyard space. It grows best in zones 5-9 with full sun and regular watering during its first year in the ground.
Another tall shrub makes the cut: This evergreen perennial is tolerant to handle most conditions, making it a great fit for zones 2 – 10. With full sun to shade and well-draining soil, some of the varieties can grow up to 20 feet tall and produce small red berries (similar to holly berries).
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