Privacy is a precious commodity, and when it comes to your home, you want to make sure that you have as much of it as possible.
While there are many ways to achieve privacy from installing fences or walls to using window treatments- one of the best ways to do it is by planting shrubs and trees that will act as a natural screen.
The kind of plant you choose is determined by the purpose of the screen. Some areas might benefit from a semi-transparent row of plants to break up a harsh barrier, but total concealment may be preferable if you’re seeking to mask an unsightly garden fence.
But what are the best screening plants and shrubs for privacy? And how do you go about choosing them?
Read on for our guide to the 20 best screening plants and shrubs for your home.
Table of Contents
Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)
A vine that is native to China and Japan. It has glossy, dark green leaves and produces fragrant white flowers that resemble Jasmine flowers. Star jasmine is a good fast-growing shrub – reaching a height of up to 30 feet tall and its dense foliage provides privacy. It also blooms for a long period of time, from spring through early autumn.
The Star jasmine is a twining climber that grows about 10-20cm each year, so it will provide constant coverage but not run wild. It’s ideal for providing seclusion near outdoor seating, so you may fully enjoy its white flowers and beautiful scent.
Bamboo (Fargesia murielae)
An evergreen bamboo that is known for its quick growth rate and is one of the best screening plants. It can reach a height of up to 30 feet tall in just a few years and provides dense coverage, making it an ideal privacy fence. Bamboo also has a long lifespan and does not require much maintenance.
Bamboo plants may also be trimmed 20% in June, and the plant will return upright and new the following year. It’s also great for screening in pots that are larger than 6 inches across.
Golden Hop (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’)
Native to Europe a perennial plant that grows quickly, reaching a height of up to 20 feet. The perennial twining climber is bright yellow-green thick foliage and trumpet-shaped flowers in the summer.
It can reach as tall as 6m in a single season if you grow it up and over your pergola or up a large fence or wall. As a result, be careful not to overcrowd your area.
Red robin (Robinia pseudoacacia)
A product of cross-breeding between two American natives – the black locust and the European red maple. It is one of the most popular flowering trees today. One of the large fast growing screening plants it can reach up to 25 feet tall!
The altocumulus castellanus is a large tree with a canopy that reaches up to 4 m and spreads between 3 and 4 m. It bears white blooms that are spectacular and fragrant in the early spring, making it an excellent choice for screening that is aromatic as well. It thrives in medium wet, well-drained soil with any amount of shade or sun exposure. In areas of full shade, you won’t get the same floriferous results; however, it can be grown in partial shade.
After the red growth dies in the spring, you may prune it to thin it out and provide better air circulation, especially during the winter.
Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)
One of the best plants for privacy is the Magnolia. It grows very quickly, reaching a height of up to 60 feet, and has dense foliage that provides privacy. There are a few varieties to choose from, but most have a large, showy flower- with the Star Magnolia being one of the best for screening. This magnolia offers its flowers in white and pink shades with a very strong cucumber smell.
It thrives in moist, well-drained soil and prefers shade or partial shade. If you’re planting it near an area that gets more sun exposure, remember to give it some afternoon shade
Also known as the sweet olive; this is one of the most fragrant plants around! It has small white flowers and is often planted on porches and patios because of its pleasant smell.
The Dogwood (Cornus)
A genus of about 60-70 species of deciduous trees and shrubs in the family Cornaceae. The genus is found throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere, from North America to Europe, East Asia and Japan.
The dogwoods are notable for their attractive flowers and berries. The flowers are usually small and white, sometimes with a pink tinge, produced in erect or downward-pointing clusters. They are sometimes fragrant. The fruit is a drupe containing two seeds, borne in clusters; they are bright red when ripe in late summer or autumn.
The dogwoods are generally easy to grow, but some species can be difficult to establish. They require well-drained soil, ideally slightly acidic. Most are tolerant of light shade, but the flowering dogwood does best in full sun to partial shade.
The Dogwood is a fast-growing deciduous shrub reaching around 12-20 feet tall and wide with an open, irregular form. The branches spread out from the trunk rather than up towards the sky which can help to reduce your need for pruning. As these plants grow upwards they will send out shoots along their lower branches creating a dense mass of foliage that will provide privacy.
Planting multiple plants around 10 feet apart will ensure quick growth and good coverage within 5 years or so. Each plant will be able to cover about 10 square feet once established making them ideal plants for screening areas.
The Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)
A large, evergreen shrub or small tree, growing to 10 m tall, with a trunk up to 30 cm diameter. The glossy green leaves are dark green, 5–10 cm long and 2–4 cm broad, with a serrated margin. The flowers are small, white, produced in early summer in umbels of 10-20 together on short peduncles. The fruit is a small black cherry, produced in autumn.
Cherry Laurel is very easy to grow in any soil type but prefers moist, well-drained soils in either full sun or partial shade. It is tolerant of both coastal and inland exposure. Pruning is rarely required, but to remove large branches cut back to the trunk.
Screening plants with about 180 species of flowering plants in the family Caprifoliaceae, native to the temperate northern hemisphere. Many of the species are shrubs, but a few are small trees.
Honeysuckle is prized for its scented flowers with a sweet fragrance. The flowers are usually tubular and come in a wide range of colours including red, orange, yellow, white, and shades of purple. The fruit is a berry that changes from green to red as it ripens.
Honeysuckle plants grow quickly, reaching heights of up to 15 feet with an equal spread. They will provide good coverage in 2-3 years making them an ideal choice for more permanent screening or fast temporary coverage. Planting multiple specimens 10 feet apart will allow for quick growth and dense foliage within a few years.
Honeysuckle prefers moist, well-drained soil, but is tolerant of most conditions including full sun to partial shade; it does best in full sun or light afternoon shade. Honeysuckles are easy to grow and rarely need pruning.
Cyprus trees are evergreen natures wonders capable of maturing to heights of up to 75 feet.
The plant is characterized by bark consisting of ridges split in the middle giving it the appearance of having cracked in half. The branches have lush green foliage and green stems that when touched emit a natural earthy smell with hints of pine. On young plants they are thorny but on mature specimens they’re smooth, rounded chunks that remind you more favourably of lollipops with rigid stems arcing out at sharp angles. The trees grow quickly when planted with each growing 10-15 feet per year for most healthy specimens.
Cyprus is an excellent option for screening where height is needed or heavily used areas where easy maintenance is key because the leaves stay on the tree year-round.
Cyprus prefer moist, well-drained soil but will thrive in most types of soil including alkaline soils; full sun or partial shade; they do best in full sun. They are easy to grow and rarely need pruning.
Holly Trees (Ilex)
Holly trees are a good screening plant because they grow quickly to a height of up to 20 feet and have dense foliage. They are most often used as privacy hedges or borders due to their fast growth rate that will provide good coverage in 2-3 years.
Holly trees prefer moist, well-drained soil but can handle most soils including dry alkaline soils; full sun or semi-shade; they do best in full sun. They are easy to grow and rarely need pruning.
The Higan Cherry is an ideal plant for screening because it is a dense evergreen with white flowers appearing early spring, before the leaves. The inedible fruit starts green and produces red and orange berries.
Silverberry (Elaeagnus commutata)
A very popular and fast-growing shrub prized for its delicate, purple and white needle-like leaves that provide effective screening. The plant’s fruit is oblong, black or dark purple with a thin seed coat; it also has an edible berry filling of good tart flavour with only one major fault—its unpleasant aroma.
Silverberries grow quickly and can reach heights of 20 feet within 3 years making them ideal for use as a barrier to block neighbours’ views or as quick temporary coverage. They prefer moist soil but can tolerate dry soil; full sun to partial shade; they do best in light afternoon shade. Plants should not be pruned back more than 1/3 at first to avoid changing the natural shape.
California Lilac (Ceanothus)
Good screening plants because it is fast-growing and can reach heights of up to 20 feet. It has an attractive appearance and can be used as a hedge or to provide privacy.
The California Lilac is tolerant of most soil conditions; it does best in well-drained soils but will also grow in poor, rocky soils. It prefers full sun to partial shade; it does best in light afternoon shade. California Lilacs are easy to grow and rarely need pruning.
Clematis is a genus of about 300 species of flowering plants in the Buttercup family, Ranunculaceae. The genus is native to the temperate northern hemisphere, with a few species extending into the tropics.
They are mostly vines, but some are small trees or shrubs. Some species grow very rapidly, climbing up to 60 m tall in a single season; some are low-growing and nearly herbaceous. Clematis includes species with showy flowers and some with inconspicuous flowers. Most species have sepals that are more or less reflexed (bent backwards), but the clematis flower has petals that are usually elaborately divided, sometimes to the point of appearing to be several flowers.
Ramblers (or climbing roses) are a type of rose that have been bred for their ability to scramble over fences, walls and other plants. They are usually less vigorous than bush roses and are ideal for smaller gardens where a traditional rose would be too large. Ramblers can be used to provide garden screening or privacy, as they can grow quite tall if left unchecked.
They are available in a wide range of colours and will flower from early to late summer until the first frosts of winter. They require regular pruning to keep them under control and should be planted in rich soil with plenty of room to grow.
Calamagrostis (Karl Foerster)
A popular and fast-growing screening plant that can reach heights of up to 20 feet. It has an attractive appearance and can be used as a hedge or to provide privacy.
This grass can be grown in huge bunches in garden borders to make a feathery screen or lined up in pots in clusters. The green shoots appear in early spring, followed by plume-like flowers that are green and fade to buff/blonde. It’s simple to grow; just get it down to the ground in February. Don’t go any earlier because the screening effect will last over the winter, and it looks lovely when the fronds are dusted with snow. Plant it outside under the full sun or partial shade.
Cortaderia selloana, the tender form of pampas grass, may become invasive in mild areas. It develops in clusters that can reach 8 to 12 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide for seclusion in the garden. This grass is drought resilient and only needs to be watered during long dry spells if it is planted. Fertilizer isn’t usually required, either. Plume grass or ravenna grass (Saccharum ravennae), a more hardier version of Cortaderia selloana.
Pennisetum is a genus of about 60 species of grasses, commonly called fountaingrasses. They are found in warm temperate and tropical regions around the world. Several species are popular as garden plants, and one, Pennisetum alopecuroides (Moses-in-the-cradle), is a common indoor plant.
Pennisetum clandestinum is a good screening plant because it grows quickly (up to 6 feet per growing season) and can reach heights of up to 8 feet; it also has an attractive appearance. It prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade; it does best in well-drained soils. It is easy to grow and rarely needs pruning.
Miscanthus is a genus of about 10 species of grasses, commonly called maiden grasses. They are found in warm temperate and tropical regions around the world. Several species are popular as garden plants. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ is a good screening plant because it grows quickly (up to 6 feet per growing season) and can reach heights of up to 8 feet; it also has an attractive appearance with arching leaves. It prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade; it does best in well-drained soils. Miscanthus is easy to grow and rarely needs pruning.
Lavender is a popular plant due to its lovely scent, attractive flowers and versatile qualities. Originally from the Mediterranean but now grown throughout the world, this delightful flower is best known for its crucial oil content.
New varieties of lavender grow quite quickly (reaching up to 3 feet in one season) and can reach heights of up to 8 feet tall; it does well in dry or moist soil conditions. It prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade; plants should be pruned by cutting back after the flowering cycle ceases. Lavender plants are fairly easy to maintain and rarely need spraying with pesticides or fungicides if properly cared for, making them great screening plants as they require little maintenance!
Trim the spent flowers back every summer so the bush can put on a bit of dense growth before winter.
Also known as soldier’s joy or tall verbena, is a herbaceous perennial plant that is native to South America. It is a good screening plant because it grows quickly (up to 6 feet per growing season) and can reach heights of up to 10 feet; it also has an attractive appearance with lacy leaves and spikes of purple flowers. It prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade; it does best in well-drained soils. Verbena bonariensis is easy to grow and rarely needs pruning.
What are the fastest-growing screening plants?
Fast-growing screening plants include bamboo, honeysuckle, and Golden Hop. If you cut the tips of clematis and Jasmin back in early spring to promote greater development, certain types of clematis and jasmine will cover a trellis or pergola in no time.
Fast-growing screening plants can sometimes become invasive, so before you choose which plants are ideal for your garden check the labels and make sure they’ll comply with local restrictions and regulations.
Read also: Best Garden Screening Ideas