Planting for Privacy

Whether you are in the city or the suburbs, creating privacy for an outdoor space is one of the most common design questions we face. Here, our favorite options for green-screening in all types of conditions and scenarios.

Note: We recommend waiting until September or even October to install woody plants, unless you’ve got a spell of mild (85 degrees or cooler) weather.


For height and density in shadier conditions, try skip laurel.

Image courtesy Staghorn Living. 

Fast-growing, evergreen, and tolerant of shade, a hedge or cluster of skip laurel will eventually create a screen 10’-18’ feet tall. We love using this against fencing to create additional height beyond the 6’ most municipalities allow. These bushes also do well in containers, though the size of the container will limit how tall the shrub(s) will grow. Note: Skip laurel does not tolerate dryness well. Irrigation or very regular watering is a must.


For height and density in sunny and windy conditions, try upright junipers.

Image courtesy The Tree Center. 

For exposed sites such as large open yards or rooftops, a stand of junipers will create a dense, evergreen privacy screen and block the wind as well. This shrub is ideal for spaces that need to be deer-proof and are prone to drought. Note: Most junipers have a slow-to-medium growth rate, but live an extremely long time.


For short to medium height and good density, try Boxwood.

Image courtesy Howard Sanderson. 

Boxwood is a great option in window boxes or planters for ground floor homes that need between 1’ and 3’ of screening. Tolerant of sun and quite a bit of shade, the Justin Bowers variety of boxwood is easily found in one gallon container sizes, which is perfect for most window boxes. Note: Boxwoods are generally grow slowly.


For a dynamic, short to medium height scrim, try Karl Foerster grass.

Image courtesy Gardenia.net.

Need about 4’ of privacy but not a fan of the static nature of evergreen shrubs? A tall, upright grass like Karl Foerster is the perfect choice for privacy for June-March. It's great in-ground or in a planter, which can add extra height. Note: April-May will be the re-growth period each year, so screening capabilities will be minimal.


For an evergreen vine in sunny or shady conditions, try English ivy.

Image courtesy Staghorn Living.

From filling out trellises and open fences to covering overhead pergolas, English ivy is the go-to for evergreen coverage. This tough-as-nails self-clinging vine can handle full sun to full shade, wind, and even a bit of drought, but grows best and quickest in part shade with moist, rich soil. Note: This ivy can be quite aggressive, even invasive, if left to its own devices.


Keep in mind: Patience is truly essential for proper privacy planting, especially with larger shrubs or trees. If they’re planted too large and close together, they’ll over-compete for space and resources and you’ll start seeing die-out within a year or two. However, if planted with the proper spacing, you can enjoy the privacy benefits and healthy green growth for many years to come.