Walls and fences are typical solutions for backyard privacy. But plants provide a natural, much more attractive alternative that can be combined with walls and fences or used on their own.
If you love the idea, which plants should you choose for privacy in your backyard? We have chosen 18 of the best. Some will create a living wall of evergreen trees, while some will provide a privacy hedge. Others can be planted in groups to give you privacy.
18 Best Plants for Backyard Privacy Choices
If you are grappling with solutions for backyard privacy, look beyond the usual wall and fence idea and consider growing plants. There are numerous options, depending partly on where you live.
You can use a wide variety of evergreen trees and shrubs, vines, and even ornamental grasses to create the most amazing screens. Every environment will have different needs and the space you have available will be a major determinant.
A factor to consider when choosing a plant that will create backyard privacy includes suitability for the USDA Hardiness Zone you live in. Another is how long the plant will take to establish a screen or hedge.
Generally, it is best to plant trees, shrubs, creepers, and vines that would grow naturally in your area. Avoid invasive plants like the sweet-smelling chocolate vine that grows quickly but is highly invasive in North America.
Other factors to consider are whether regular pruning will be needed and whether they will attract animals. For example, deer love to eat the popular arborvitae hedge trees, while skip laurel trees, which also make excellent privacy screens, are known to be deer-resistant.
There are hundreds of plants to choose from, so we can’t include them all. Here’s our list of 18 favorites, some of which might work beautifully in your outdoor space.
A lovely small tree or shrub, the serviceberry boasts pretty white flowers and deep purple fruit that attracts birds. In the fall, its green leaves turn a stunning orange-red color.
A popular screening plant, serviceberry trees commonly grow as tall as 10-25 feet (3-7.6 m) and 10-15 feet (3-4.5 m) wide. They are hardy in USDA Zones 4-9 and take 5-10 years to reach full height.
A genus of very cold-hardy evergreen shrubs and trees that are easy to grow, junipers come in a wide range of sizes and colors, from gold to green. They suit most parts of the U.S. as they grow in Hardiness Zones from 3 to 9.
There are many different varieties of juniper and, depending on the variety, they will grow 6-18 inches (15-46 cm) in a year. So, if you start with plants that are 2-3 feet (90 cm-1 m) tall, you can have a privacy screen within five years.
Good choices for a privacy screen include the California juniper that grows 10-15 feet (3-4.5 m) tall and the Utah juniper that can reach up to 20 feet (6 m).
Stately-looking evergreen trees, Thuja is a genus of coniferous trees in the cypress family. There are five species in the genus, and you don’t have to prune them to ensure that they maintain their shape or height.
Commonly called arborvitae (Latin for the tree of life), cypress trees are used extensively for hedges. There are many different cultivars from dwarf to giant size. Most will grow in USDA Hardiness Zones from 3-6.
One of the most popular cultivars is the fast-growing Green Giant. It grows as much as 50-60 feet (15-18 m) tall and spreads as much as 12-20 feet (3.6-6 m).
Another is the Emerald Green arborvitae. It takes a bit longer to grow and doesn’t get as big but will get 12-14 feet (3.6-4.2 m) tall and will spread 3-4 feet (900 cm to 1.2 m).
An unusual arching shrub that produces masses of pretty white flowers in spring and colorful orange to red foliage in the fall, Spirea makes an effective low hedge alongside pathways.
According to Clemson Cooperative Extension, there are more than 80 species, some of which grow tall. For instance, Vanhouette hybrids will grow 5-8 feet (1.5-2.4 m) high and spread up to 7-10 feet (2.1-3 m) wide. Reeves spirea will grow 5-6 feet (1.5-1.8 m) tall.
Spirea is easy to grow and very fast growing. It is happy in Zones 4-8, depending on the species.
Red Twig Dogwood
Don’t set your heart on a dense evergreen shrub until you’ve considered red twig dogwood. This multi-stemmed shrub changes character all year round and will grow at least 2 feet (60 cm) every year.
In early spring it displays beautiful blossoms and boasts variegated leaves through summer.
In the fall it develops white berries with a hint of blue or green, and in the winter its striking red branches look amazing in any winter landscape. It is tolerant of cold conditions and grows well in USDA Hardiness Zones from 2 to 8, depending on the variety.
Rose of Sharon
A plant with many names, the shrub althaea, Rose of Sharon, or Hibiscus syriacus, is an exotic-looking shrub that will attract attention and provide privacy. There are great options for color coordination since they come in every possible shade from white, through pink, purple, and lavender.
Rose of Sharon grows relatively fast (1-2 feet every year) and is both drought-resistant and cold-hardy. It does well in Zones 5-9 and will continue to produce its gorgeous flowers for 20-30 years.
Although not as fast-growing as many other backyard privacy shrubs, forsythia species will grow tall relatively quickly. Even before it’s reached maturity you’ll be rewarded with a constant flush of gorgeous bright yellow flowers every spring.
It grows in USDA Hardiness Zones from 3 to 8 and needs very little maintenance. But regularly pruning forsythia hedges keeps them in shape and ensures that they will flower well in spring.
Also known as summer lilac, the butterfly bush, Buddleja davidii, is a sturdy shrub that will grow to 6-10 feet (1.8-3 m) tall and 4-10 feet (1.2-3 m) wide, creating an attractive arching shape. It is drought-resistant and flowers throughout the growing season attracting welcome pollinators.
The butterfly bush is the most fast-growing plant on this list and they do well in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9. Many different cultivars are available.
One caveat is that it becomes a noxious weed in some areas and may no longer be sold in Washington or Oregon.
There are, though, some native species, including the Utah butterfly bush, which grows in warmer areas. They aren’t as pretty, but they don’t spread as aggressively.
The horticulturists at Clemson University warn against planting Lindley’s butterfly bush (L. Lindleyana) because it suckers prolifically. They also advise digging out and removing self-seeded plants to prevent them from spreading.
Content to grow in the sun or shade, euonymus is an evergreen shrub that can be clipped to form a hedge. There are several varieties, some with stand-out green and gold foliage.
Euonymus is ideal for hedges up to about 3.3 feet (1 m) high. Most species grow about 13-24 inches (33-60 cm) each year and are hardy in Zones 5-8.
Low in maintenance, regularly pruning them in spring will encourage bushy growth.
Elegant, heat-tolerant shrubs or small trees, crape myrtle has pink, purple, or white flowers, depending on the variety. It doesn’t like colder conditions and does best in USDA Hardiness Zones from 6 to 9. Although native to China and Korea, it is naturalized in the Southern U.S.
Crape myrtle is a deciduous plant that loses its leaves in winter and there are many different cultivars available.
Named for its interesting bark, ninebark, (Physocarpus opulifolius), has stunning dark, burgundy almost-black foliage that creates an amazing backdrop that adds to privacy. Its handsome foliage lasts throughout the season and is topped with pretty clumps of creamy white flowers.
It is an ultra cold-hardy screening plant that thrives in Zones 2-7.
A graceful-looking shrub, loropetalum (the Chinese fringe flower) grows fast and it grows big. It can easily grow 12 feet (3.6 m) tall and wide in a few short years. Some species will grow more than 2 feet (60 cm) in a year.
An attractive evergreen shrub, it produces small, frilly pink, white, or purple flowers, and makes a gorgeous screening plant or hedge. There are many different varieties to choose from.
Loropetalum does best in warmer climates, especially USDA Hardiness Zones 7 to 10a. It’s a favorite in Florida.
Who can resist the beautiful scent and color of lilacs? Gorgeously old-fashioned, the lilac (Syringa vulgaris) has been cultivated to produce some lovely new modern varieties.
Lilac hedges are sweet-smelling, colorful, but be aware that they need lots of space to grow. They grow 12-18 inches (30-46 cm) a year and take only about 2-3 years to become established.
The common French lilac, Syringa vulgaris, grows 8-15 feet (2.4-4.5 m) tall and will spread to a width of 6-12 feet (1.8-3.6 m). S. baibelle is a small lilac that reaches only 4-6 feet (1.2-1.8 m) in height and will get no wider than 4-5 feet (1.2- 1.5 m). There are several cultivars of each.
Suitable for USDA growing zones from 2 or 3 to 7 or 8, most like lots of sun, but some are cold hardy.
A great evergreen shrub or tree, viburnums grow to a height of 3-15 feet (90 cm-4.6 m), depending on the variety. Birds love their sweet-smelling, nectar-rich flowers, and their nutritious red berries.
There are more than 150 species of viburnum and many varieties. They prefer relatively warm climates and do well in Zones 5-8 where they will grow from 1 to more than 2 feet (30-60 cm) in a year.
Pyracantha is a vigorous, fast-growing shrub that can be grown as a freestanding hedge or trained against a fence or wall. It is evergreen and produces clusters of gorgeous, bright red berries in the fall that birds love.
It is easy to grow, low in maintenance, and like other plants on this list, quickly grows up to 2 feet (60 cm) in a year. It will grow to 10-15 feet (3-4.5 m) and spread 10 feet in Zones 5-9.
It is also known as a firethorn because of the fierce thorns it grows. This shrub bears unpleasant-smelling flowers and stunning red berries that birds love. Despite its thorns, pyracantha is a top shrub for birds to nest in.
The mock orange, Philadelphus coronarius, is nothing like an orange tree. It is, rather, a shrub with lush green foliage that produces delicate white flowers that have an unmistakable citrus (orangey) smell.
The mock orange does well in Zones 4-8 and will also grow about 2 feet (60 cm) in a year.
Sun-loving perennials, beautyberries come in a range of varieties with solid green, variegated green, and white, or gorgeous purple foliage. In late summer they blast into bloom with lovely little white flowers, and then in the fall, they show their real beauty with clusters of purple berries.
Beautyberry bushes thrive in USDA Hardiness Zones from 5 to 8. They often need pruning in early spring to keep them from taking over. But they certainly do create a wonderful backyard privacy screen.
Even though hydrangeas are deciduous, and lose their leaves in winter, they can make stunning privacy screens. They are one of the few plants in the U.S. that can be grown from coast to coast in most climates, from USDA Hardiness Zones from 3-10.
There are many different varieties, some of which make better privacy screens than others.
Three varieties are particularly well suited as hedge or backdrop plantings. Hydrangea arborescens, H. quercifolia, and H. paniculata, all of which can grow 8-10 feet (2.5-3 m) tall.
According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Hydrangea anomala petiolaris, which is a vine rather than shrub or tree, can climb up to 60 feet (18 m).
What Is the Fastest Growing Bush for Privacy?
If you are looking for the fastest-growing bush you can plant for privacy, you must take your climate and environment into account.
The fastest-growing bush in our list is the butterfly bush that can grow 6-10 (1.8-3 m) feet in one or two growing seasons. It is, though, considered a weed in some areas.
Other fast-growing bushes in our list include spirea, pyracantha, red twig dogwoods, mock orange, and some loropetalum species, all of which will grow about 2 feet (60 cm) every year. Skip laurel will also grow about 2 feet per year.
Rose of Sharon, American arborvitae, and viburnum will grow up to 1 or 2 feet (30-60 cm) a year. Grown in the right conditions, the English or cherry laurel will grow up to 3 feet (nearly a meter) in a year.
What Is the Best Plant to Cover a Fence?
You need a fast-growing climber to cover a fence of any kind. Our vote goes two ways, to the climbing hydrangea and pyracantha, which is not only fast-growing but can also be trained against and over fences.
There are lots of trees, shrubs, and climbing plants that you can grow in your backyard for privacy. Some make great hedges, others create more informal screens that can either stand alone or be trained up and over fences and walls.
We offer you 18 of the best options and hope you find the solution to your backyard privacy right here. Good luck!