Landscaping For Privacy

Learn what to consider when planning your landscape with privacy in mind.

Creating a desirable outdoor living space can be a fun way to improve your home's value and usable space. Many people complain that they don't like hanging out in their yard because of the lack of privacy or "╦ťfishbowl' effect. There are many ways you can create a private outdoor area without breaking the bank.

Shrubs and Hedges

Usually the first thing people think about when landscaping for privacy is the shrub or hedge. This is a versatile choice for price, shape, climate, and convenience. When choosing shrubs, think about your needs first. Are you looking for a solid barrier or just a light screen to give the illusion of privacy? Typical dense foliage shrubs used for hedges include box, elaeagnus, or a yew. Trimming these shrubs often makes the growth even denser.

Do you want clean straight lines that come in forming a hedge with plants? Or would you prefer a more natural looking approach with clusters of different shrubs in key areas? Once you have decided exactly what effect you are looking for, check a gardening reference book or visit your local nursery or home improvement store and consult their expert on what will grow best in your area. Take a drive around your neighborhood and note what plants people have had success growing. You'll also want to keep in mind the growth rate of the plant. Do you need it to grow quickly for the desired effect to take place? Or would you rather have something that did not need to be trimmed often to be kept under control?

Also consider foliage. Plants that lose their leaves in the winter are called deciduous. Evergreens remain lush all winter long. Most gardeners prefer to keep a combination of plants for variety. Consult a landscape reference or your local nursery to get a good idea of how your plant choices are going to look during each season. Common evergreen shrubs include: Japanese aucuba, Bamboo grasses, yew, and boxwood. Common deciduous shrubs could include flowering quince, privet, honeysuckle, and lilac.


Trees provide a different kind of privacy than shrubs. They can block views from other buildings higher up. They can block an unpleasant view from your home as well. Trees can be planted in rows to achieve a hedge effect or individually to block specific objects, or in groves in order to block a larger area.

Consider size carefully when planting trees. You want to make sure you know how deep the root system will develop and if it will interfere with any underground utilities or the foundation of your house. Trees that need a large area to grow include the Norwegian maple and sycamores. You also want to consider the amount of shade the tree will produce. You may end up blocking an unpleasant view but have your flowers all die as a result of lack of sun from the tree's shade.

Trees also tend to grow in different shapes. Some grow kind of straight up in what is called a fastigate shape. They can also be cone shaped such as the fir tree or weeping such as the weeping willow. Each shape has its advantages. Consider what you want the tree to do for your landscaping and choose accordingly.

Trees also vary in growth rate. Just as you would consider growth with a shrub, think about how large the tree may get. You may want privacy as soon as possible but consider that the tree may reach a height that no longer provides privacy but just shades your house. Many people may choose to start with a fast growing specimen and then move it in a year or two when it becomes too large for the original chosen spot. They will often plant this tree next to a more slow growing variety so that when they are ready to move the fast growing tree there is another tree just the right size and shape to take up the job of shielding the house from unwelcome sightseers.


Vines and climbers can be very fast growing inexpensive alternative to putting up a solid wall. Some vines such as the Virginia creeper will completely cover a lattice in a matter of weeks. These can be used permanently or temporarily as more slowly growing plants take hold. Annual plants such as morning glories and sweet peas can be used in combination with other vines to add color to an area.

Vines climb in different ways. Some twine around any structure they encounter. Others have tendrils that grasp the support to hold the plant in place. Still others such as ivy adhere with rootlets. Vines with arching stems such as jasmine need to be trained and tied to structures for support.

Whether you choose shrubs, trees, or vines to create privacy in your yard, you want to consider carefully when to plant and how your choices will look during each season. A good landscaping reference or nursery should be able to help you make your choices. If you are not willing to learn through a little trial and error, consider hiring a landscape designer to draw up a plan for you. A plan may cost around $300 which may save you in plant material in the long run.

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