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Grow Trees and Shrubs as Privacy Screens

Plants make great privacy screens, but choose them wisely.

Hedges have been a part of landscapes for centuries. Whether planted for privacy screens or for ornamentation, there are lots of plants to choose from.


Choosing Hedge Type and Location

A formal hedge is characterized by repetition of the same plant and is kept in shape and in bounds by pruning. Informal hedges use a variety of plants and plant sizes. The mix can include evergreen and deciduous in flowering and non-flowering varieties. When deciding which type, consider the amount of maintenance you are willing or able to provide.

Determine whether the area to be planted is in the sun or shade, type of soil and the availability of water. Note property lines before starting any hedge. If possible, discuss the project with your neighbor first. Also check local ordinances if you plan on planting near the street. Take note of overhead or underground utilities before you begin digging.

Planting beside driveways or sidewalks can be challenging when faced with limited planting space. Trees may prove to be a challenge to grow and a problem in the future. Since tree roots grow out laterally seeking water they may grow under the pavement. The roots that do develop could push the pavement up, causing uneven and broken areas.



Plant Size and Spacing

Choose plants based on the mature size of the plant, not the size of the container you see at the garden center. Mature size includes the width as well as the height. Width is a very important consideration where property lines are involved. Avoid the distress of having a hedge that encroaches on neighboring property and plant accordingly. Height is important when screening undesirable views (even from second stories), but use caution. A moderately-sized tree could grow to a mature size that would endanger the house.

For hedging, you want to plant a little closer together than you would otherwise. Be very careful not to crowd the plants, however. Overcrowd them too much and the plants will suffer after a few years, perhaps to the point of having to remove them and start over. Don't plant so thick that you stop air and sunlight from reaching your yard.



Selecting the Proper Plant Type

Shrubs, trees or a combination of both are the materials you will need. Look at the growth rate when shopping. While waiting for your plants to develop think about filling in the gaps between them with taller perennials, ornamental grasses or roses such as shrub, hedge, climber or rambler varieties. After the permanent hedge starts to fill in, you can move the temporary plants to another location. Plant in layers or stagger the plantings to allow eventual coverage. You could always buy a mature plant. Larger plants cost more, but provide immediate relief to the situation.

Remember that deciduous plants lose their leaves when dormant. Broadleaf evergreens and coniferous evergreens will retain leaves and color all year. Evergreens may be a better choice than a deciduous shrub that loses its leaves in winter.

Some common hedge materials and their uses:

  • Boxwoods and privet can be pruned to hedge form, but require maintenance to keep a neat appearance.
  • Norway and Colorado blue spruce are among the best windbreak trees.
  • Mock orange, lilac, sweet olive or some varieties of ilex make a fragrant hedge.


Plants and Growth Rates

Your plant choices and growth rates will also depend a lot on what USDA Plant Hardiness Zone you live in. Growth rates may vary by plant variety and the growing environment and level of plant care provided. Your local Lowe's garden center carries plants best-suited to your region. For comparison, here is a list of average growth rates of some common shrubs:

Plant
Growth Rate
Abelia

Medium/Fast

Althaea, Rose-of-Sharon
Medium/Fast
Arborvitae
Slow
Barberry
Medium
Boxwood
Slow
Butterfly Bush
Fast
Camellia Japonica
Slow
Camellia Sasanqua
Medium
Canadian Hemlock
Medium
Cherry Laurel
Medium
Cinquefoil
Fast
Colorado Blue Spruce
Slow
Cotoneaster
Fast
Deodar Deodar
Medium
Deutzia
Medium
Dwarf Yaupon Holly
Medium
Forsythia
Fast
French Lilac
Medium/Fast
Garden Hydrangea
Medium/Fast
Holly
Medium
Indian Hawthorne
Slow
Japanese Pieris
Slow/Medium
Leatherleaf Mahonia
Slow
Leucothoe
Medium
Leyland Cypress
Fast
Lilac
Medium/Fast
Loropetalum
Fast
Mock Orange
Medium/Fast
Nelly R. Stevens Holly
Fast
Norway Spruce
Medium/Fast
Oleander
Medium/Fast
Pittosporum
Fast
Privet
Medium/Fast
Purpleleaf Plum
Medium/Fast
Pussy Willow
Fast
Quince
Medium/Fast
Red Tip Photinia
Fast
Red Twig Dogwood
Fast
Redbud
Slow
Saucer Magnolia
Slow
Spirea
Fast
Sweet Olive
Medium
Tropical Hibiscus
Medium/Fast
Viburnum
Medium
Wax Myrtle
Medium
Wax-leaf Ligustrum
Fast