Want to keep the nosy neighbors, weird watchers and strange lurkers at bay? We’ve rounded up some of the best plants to help you maintain your privacy.
Why? There’s nothing quite like enjoying time outdoors, is there?
Imagine a perfect summer day, where you’re out there sipping a cool drink, maybe dozing as you read in the sunshine. And then a neighbor sees what you’re doing and “stops by” for a chat. Or watches you sunbathe for an hour or three because that isn’t creepy at all.
Enjoy your space without compromise with these plants:
1. Jerusalem Artichokes
My neighbors have had the same laundry on their outdoor line for three years. They also have toilets as planters, and they like to sit on their lawn chairs and watch us work in the garden. As a result, we’ve planted some species that are effective at blocking out unwanted gazes.
Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) are at the top of my list because they’re multi-purpose plants. Their tasty tubers are wonderful, nutritious perennial veggies, and their 10-foot-tall canes are ideal for building bean lattices. As an added bonus, they grow incredibly fast and create a lovely green fence.
Once they flower, they can reach up to 12 feet in height, with dense foliage. While other members of the sunflower (Helianthus) family are fairly tender annuals, sunchokes are hardy plants. They can be grown in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-10, and keep spreading and coming back year after year.
Depending on where you live, bamboo (Bambusa spp.) might be one of the best plants for privacy. Standard bamboo grows around 20 feet tall, while giant bamboo can reach heights of almost 100 feet in the right climate.
As you can imagine, growing a bamboo hedge means a lot more privacy for you, both from prying eyes, and interlopers.
That said, it’s illegal to grow this giant grass in many areas. The common saying is that one doesn’t grow bamboo in their yard: they grow it in the county. Since it’s a grass, not only does it grow prolifically, but it also spreads with great enthusiasm.
It can be incredibly difficult to eradicate without herbicides.
3. Mongolian Giant Sunflowers
If you’re fond of bright, sunny flowers, then consider growing sunflowers on your property. They’re some of the best plants for privacy, as they grow so tall and fill up so much space with their foliage and flower heads.
My personal favorites are Mongolian giant sunflowers (Helianthus annuus “Mongolian Giant”). They grow up to 15′ tall, and their heads are up to a foot wide. Not only are they great privacy plants: their seeds are about 1″ long, making them ideal food plants as well.
4. Purple Hopseed
If you’re looking for privacy plants that are as beautiful as they are effective, check out hopseeds (Dodonaea viscosa “Purpurea”). They’re members of the soapberry (Sapindaceae) family, indigenous to parts of Africa and Australia, and are absolutely gorgeous. They’ll grow up to about 14′ tall, and have stunning purple-burgundy foliage.
These small trees are perfect for privacy landscaping, and can be grown on balconies as well as around perimeters. You can even grow them espalier style by training their branches sideways to create fencing.
This tasty member of the hemp (Cannabaceae) family isn’t related to the hopseed bush above at all. Rather, it’s a climbing herbaceous flowering perennial that grows vigorously in zones 4 through 9. Furthermore, hops can grow up to 20 feet tall in a single summer!
If you’re a home-brewed beer aficionado or have an interest in herbal medicine, consider Humulus lupulus as part of your privacy landscape design. Speaking of vines and multi-purpose plants…
6. Climbing Beans and Peas
You may have already guessed that I’m a huge fan of multi-purpose plants, so I have to mention pole beans and peas (Fabaceae sp.) here. Is there anything better than a beautiful plant that can be used in several different ways?
Whether you’re looking to create privacy screening on a balcony or want to protect a garden nook for solitary meditation, consider climbing legumes. You can create simple lattices out of bamboo or willow, or use more heavy-duty trellising depending on your needs.
Personally, I love to use wire cattle fence panels as trellises. You can bend them into tunnels or connect them to create any outdoor shape you need. Then just choose your favorite climbing pea or bean varieties, plant them, and you’ll have a luscious fence in a few weeks. A couple weeks after that, you’ll be harvesting fresh green beans or crunchy peas every time you walk by.
7. Giant Miscanthus
Also known as Pacific Island Silvergrass (Miscanthus floridulus), this hardy perennial species for zones 5a through 9b. Be very certain about this species, as it can be very difficult to remove once established.
It’ll grow up to 12 tall and 4 – 5′ wide, so allow plenty of room between plantings. Then be sure to wear gloves when tending it: the leaves’ edges can be incredibly sharp. Although this plant might seem a bit fussy, it’s ideal for thick privacy screens, and won’t be interfered with by deer or other herbivores.
8. Leyland Cypress
If you live in a temperate zone (6 through 9), have a lot of space, and want a LOT of alone time, consider growing Leyland cypresses (Cupressus × leylandii) as privacy plants.
These beautiful trees can grow over 3 feet a year, thus reaching a glorious 30 feet in height within a decade. That said, they often don’t stop there: the tallest one on record is over 130 feet high now and still growing. As you can imagine, this may cause some major issues with neighbors if your privacy hedging ends up shading out their yards.
Consider growing this species if you have quite a large property and want significant privacy close to your own yard. Just take note of lightfall for plant placement. The last thing you want is for your privacy plants to shade out your vegetable garden in a few years’ time.
9. White Pine
This gorgeous evergreen (Pinus strobus) is indigenous to Northern and Eastern North America. It thrives in sandy soils, and is ideal for perimeter hedging if you enjoy your privacy. It’ll grow slowly for the first couple of years after planting, but will then leap up over 3 feet per year between the ages of 15 and 40.
The average height of these trees will be around 140 feet at maturity, That said, they can reach up to 200 feet tall in the right conditions. They’ll thrive in zones 3 through 8, especially if they get plenty of humidity.
10. “Skyrocket” Juniper
Speaking of cooler climates and conifers, if you’re in zones 5 through 9, consider growing ‘Skyrocket’ juniper (Juniperus scopulorum “Skyrocket”) as a privacy hedge. It’s fast-growing and can reach heights of 16 to 20 feet within just a few years. As an added bonus, it’ll provide you with tasty juniper berries to season food with, or to transform into gin.
*Note: some people can have severe reactions to juniper—both by contact and via pollen. They can cause contact dermatitis or weeping eczema, and their pollen can cause asthma attacks. If you’re allergic to cedar, then you’re likely to be allergic to juniper as well. Best to avoid planting this one if you’re uncertain.
11. American Holly
If you’re looking for privacy plants that offer beauty as well as screening effects, check out American holly (Ilex opaca). These are fast-growing evergreen trees that can thrive in zones 4 through 9, depending on the cultivar. They can grow up to 100 feet tall and about 60 feet wide, with glossy, deep green leaves and bright red berries.
As an added bonus, holly hedging will keep all manner of unwanted visitors at bay. The leaves are tipped with razor-sharp spikes, so they’ll keep interlopers of all species away. If you don’t want stray cats, coyotes, or neighbors dropping, create a thick holly hedge.
That’ll keep ’em out.
12. Sugar Cane
Do you have a sweet tooth? Then consider growing sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum) plants around your property. They’re perennial in zones 8 through 11, but can be grown as annuals as well.
For the latter, they’ll grow to about 8 feet tall during their growing season. This is ideal for shielding yourself from cottagers and keeping the neighbors’ goats out of your spinach.
In contrast, they’ll grow up to 20′ tall in hotter climates and keep coming back year after year. Like bamboo, they’re members of the grass family and will spread enthusiastically. Also, you can chop chunks out of them to eat as snacks, or to process into homemade sugar.
13. Privacy Palm Trees
Their name is quite a dead giveaway, isn’t it? Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens) trees are called “privacy palms” specifically because of their use as screening plants. They’re native to Madagascar but have been naturalized throughout South America, the Caribbean, and southern US states.
You can grow them outdoors if you live in a hot climate, or cultivate them indoors near sunny windows to keep the locals from peering in at you.
14. Arroyo willow
Arroyo willow (Salix lasiolepis) is another plant that thrives in hotter conditions, only it prefers drier climates to heat or humidity. It’s native to the Western and Southwestern US and thrives in zones 5 through 10. Unlike its cousin the weeping willow, the arroyo cultivar only grows about 35 feet tall and about 25 feet wide.
It’ll grow about 3 feet per year, so if you plant a one- or two-year-old tree, you’ll have a solid privacy wall in no time. Since these trees do like a fair bit of moisture, use them as a privacy species in an area that’s either close to water, or can be watered regularly.
Yews (Taxus sp.) are long-living and reliable plants, which has made them popular across temperate climates. These plants can grow anywhere from four to 60 feet tall, depending on the cultivar and species, and they form a thick wall that is guaranteed to ensure your privacy.
Just use caution because parts of this plant are extremely toxic.
Thuja species conifers are a classic choice for creating privacy and for good reason. Several of them are native to North America, so no risk of invasiveness, and they form a dense hedge. They can also tolerate extreme cold, all the way down to Zone 2!
17. Azalea and Rhododendron
These two closely related species in the Rhododendron genus love acidic soil and are stunning when in flower. They can tolerate full shade and still maintain a compact shape and may even send out blossoms.