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GardenSMART :: 5 Best Evergreen Shrubs for Privacy

5 Best Evergreen Shrubs for Privacy

By Kate Karam, Monrovia
Photographs courtesy of Monrovia

While an impressive fence does provide a welcome sense of privacy, even the nicest ones can have the unfortunate effect of shouting, "keep out." Tall, thick, and dense evergreen shrubs on the other hand, also provide that sense of solitude, but do so with a leafy whisper. Here are five excellent tall shrubs to consider when landscaping for privacy. They range from tall to very tall, (such as Green Giant Western Arborvitae, the shrub in the last image) and all are easy to grow, hardy, durable, and fuss-free.

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Ember Waves® Western Arborvitae (Thuja standishii x T. plicata 'MonPin' P.P. 25,363)

When you have a hedge situation that's front and center (such as across the front of your property) why not select a plant that puts on a show from season to season. This new, colorful evergreen starts with sunny-yellow new growth in striking contrast to maturing chartreuse to bright green foliage. Great spring through late summer when it acts as a foil for colorful shrubs and perennials. But come fall? That's the WOW moment. When the weather cools, Ember Waves® Western Arborvitae transitions to deep gold, with glowing orange to russet red tips, all of which revert back to green in spring. Full sun. Moderate growth; reaches 25 ft. tall, 8 ft. wide. Zone: 5 – 8

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Oak Leaf™ Red Holly (Ilex x 'Conaf')

So, there are lots of hollies out there. Why this one? Unlike most hollies, Oak Leaf™ Holly contains both male and female flower parts in each flower. Therefore, each plant is self-fruitful without need for a male plant to provide pollen. The small, greenish-white flower clusters produce pea-sized berries that are orange-red and persist through most of the winter. It has an elegant, pyramidal form with burgundy spring foliage maturing to emerald-green. Pair with conifers for a play on textures. Partial to full sun. Up to 14 ft. tall and 8 ft. wide. Zone: 6 – 9

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Fragrant Olive (Osmanthus fragrans)

If you're going to have a thick, dense screening hedge, why not also make it one that's richly perfumed? There is perhaps no more fragrant flowering hedge for the warmer zones that's also so unfussy and easy to grow. This is a large evergreen shrub or small tree with a broad upright form that is densely branched and covered with dark green finely toothed foliage. Tiny flower clusters have a delightful apricot-like fragrance. Works well for formal or informal hedges and screens. We love it in back of a stand of white roses. Partial to full sun. Up to 10 ft. tall and 8 ft. wide, larger with age. Zone: 8 – 11

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Chindo Sweet Viburnum

The viburnum clan falls into the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae, which helps to explain the rich, delicious fragrance that's emitted by the huge flower clusters that cover this shrub. Line them up for an excellent tall evergreen hedge with dense, lustrous, dark green leaves. Those spring blooms are followed by heavy clusters of red berries that ripen to black in the fall, which makes this not only a showstopper year round, but is also ideal for a wildlife garden. Underplant with partial shade lovers such as hosta and astilbe. Full to partial sun. Fast grower to 12 feet tall, 8 feet wide. Zone: 7 – 11

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Wichita Blue Juniper

Coldest zones, do you think we would forget you? Wichita Blue Juniper is a rugged and reliable plant for large-scale screening, massive hedges and windbreaks. Give this robust silver-blue juniper lots of space so it can form a dense hedge. This is a male form that does not produce berries, but puts on a show nonetheless as the bright silver-blue foliage retains its brilliant color year-round. Looks especially great in back of a border of perennials such as grasses and sages. Full sun. Moderate growing to 10 to 15 ft. tall, 4 to 6 ft. wide. Larger with age. Zone: 3 - 7

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Tips for Planting a Privacy Hedge

  • First identify your goals. Lots of privacy? Blocking out an eyesore? Windscreen? This will help you to choose the right size and habit.
  • Decide on the style of hedge you want. Some plants have a tight, formal look while others are looser and less formal.
  • Read and believe the information on the tag about eventual mature height and width!
  • Plant shrubs a bit closer for a hedge than you would for a single specimen but be careful not to crowd. Ask at your local garden center for advice regarding your specific plant.
  • While waiting for plants to develop, fill gaps between them with perennials, ornamental grasses or roses. You can move them later!
  • Plant an extra few shrubs elsewhere on the property so that if something goes wrong with the hedge, you have a replacement that's the same size and type.

For much more about gardening, plants, solutions, and ideas, visit our very popular blog, Grow Beautifully. While you're there, be sure to sign up for our award-winning monthly newsletter, Plant Savvy.


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