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Creating a Private Haven with Evergreen Trees and Shrubs

Updated: Feb 16

Living in close proximity to our neighbors can be a wonderful experience. Still, there are times when a little privacy is appreciated. Whether it's blocking the view of a neighbor's cluttered yard or providing a natural screen to maintain your personal space, strategically planted evergreen trees and shrubs can be your solution. In this guide, we'll explore some practical tips and five specific plant options to help you achieve your desired privacy.

Tips for Effective Screening

Before we delve into the tree and shrub choices, let's consider some critical factors for successful screening:

  1. Diversify Your Plant Selection: Plant diversity is your ally against potential setbacks. A diversified border can help mitigate the damage and replacement costs if a pest or disease affects one species. To ensure resilience, consider mixing junipers, hollies, magnolias, azaleas, and other evergreens.

  2. Plant in Small Groupings: Opt for staggered or layered plantings instead of creating a single row. This adds visual interest throughout the year and enhances your privacy while waiting for new plants to grow.

  3. Spacing Matters: Avoid cramming plants too close together. Adequate sunlight and air circulation are essential for healthy growth. Overcrowded plants are prone to diseases, which can reduce the lifespan of your screen.

  4. Consider All Angles: Remember that your neighbors will also see the backside of your screen. Make it attractive from all perspectives by incorporating shrubs and perennials with varying heights, textures, and year-round interest.

  5. Know Your Site and Plant Requirements: Understand your property's sunlight exposure and soil conditions. Each plant species has specific needs, so choose varieties that match your site's characteristics.

  6. Plan for Growth: Think long-term when planting. Anticipate your screen's ultimate height and width as plants will continue to grow over the years.

  7. Timing is Everything: Consider how quickly you need screening. Some evergreens grow slowly (less than 12 inches per year), while others grow at a medium or fast rate. Environmental factors like sunlight, soil conditions, and drainage also impact growth.

  8. Stump Grinding: If you're replacing deciduous trees with evergreens, budget for stump grinding. Removing old roots ensures the successful planting of new trees.

Now, let's explore five evergreen trees and shrubs that make excellent choices for creating a natural screen:

1. Hollies

  • Zones: 3-11

  • Size: Anywhere from 2’-3’ tall and wide to 40' tall x 25' wide (varies by cultivar)

  • Cultivars Suggested: Nellie Stevens, Yaupon, American holly, Inkberry

  • Cultural Requirements: Hollies prefer full sun but can tolerate more shade (e.g., American and Inkberry). More shade may result in fewer berries, but you'll still have the evergreen coverage.

  • Growth Rate: Medium to Fast

  • Pests and Diseases: Hollies are relatively pest-free but may experience winter die-back and scale.

2. Magnolia Trees

  • Zones: 5-9 (varies by species)

  • Size: 15'-30' tall, 10'-25' wide (varies by cultivar)

  • Cultivars Suggested: Little Gem or Bracken’s Brown Beauty

  • Cultural Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Tolerates mildly wet soils.

  • Growth Rate: Slow

  • Pests and Diseases: No serious insect or disease problems.


3. Thuja (Arborvitae)

  • Zones: 5-8

  • Size: 30'-40' tall, 15'-20' wide (or more narrow varieties at 10'-12' tall, 3' wide)

  • Cultivars Suggested: 'Green Giant,' 'Emerald Green,' 'Yellow Ribbon'

  • Cultural Requirements: Full sun to part shade

  • Growth Rate: Medium to Fast

  • Pests and Diseases: Bagworms and temperature-related dieback have been problematic in our area.

4. Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca')

  • Zones: 6-9

  • Size: 40'-60' tall, 30'-40' wide

  • Cultivars Suggested: Glauca

  • Cultural Requirements: Full sun; prefers well-drained soil

  • Growth Rate: Slow to Medium

  • Pests and Diseases: No serious insect or disease problems. Tip blight may occur. Heavy snow in winter can break branches.


5. Junipers

  • Zones: 3-9 (varies by species)

  • Size: Ranges widely depending on species, from groundcovers (1'-2' tall) to trees (up to 40' tall), with widths varying accordingly.

  • Cultivars Suggested: Grey Owl, Taylor, Spartan

  • Cultural Requirements: Full sun, avoid waterlogged soil, excellent as windbreaks

  • Growth Rate: Slow

  • Pests and Diseases: Cedar apple rust is a common problem for many different junipers. Susceptible to twig blight and scale. Watch for bagworms.


Remember, the right choice depends on your specific needs, site conditions, and desired maintenance level. By following these tips and selecting the appropriate evergreen trees and shrubs, you can create a beautiful and effective natural screen to enhance your outdoor space and maintain your privacy in a neighborly manner. Happy planting!

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