Looking for the best trees for privacy screen?
Let me just say, you’ve come to the right place. In today’s article, I’m going to share 17 of the very best trees for a privacy screen.
While there may be an overlap, I have focused largely on the fastest growing evergreen trees.
Whether you’re experienced in landscaping matters or a total newbie, there are several factors to consider when deciding the best trees for privacy.
The first consideration is the aesthetic and cultural conditions. Choose plants for a particular site based on those factors and you won’t go wrong.
The others include; US hardiness zones, soil types, sunlight requirements, and whether your house is a storey building or not.
Whatever your objectives, expectations, or approach, this list of the best trees for privacy screens will feature the perfect option for you: from the slow, medium, and fastest-growing to dwarf, and tall evergreens trees that you can plant today and instantly create a private environment for your family.
So you can be sure you’ll find exactly the right combination of trees for your landscape project.
Let’s get started:
Best Trees for Privacy that Grow Fast
1. Cryptomeria japonica ‘radicans’
Cryptomeria japonica ‘radicans,’ also commonly known as the Japanese cedar, is a fast-growing tree. The tree grows 2 to 3 feet per year and thrives well in zones 5-9.
The Japanese cedar is categorized as an evergreen conifer and has a columnar to pyramid growth habit.
The low maintenance tree has dense, blue-green, feathery foliage that retains its color in winter with less bronzing than other Japanese cedars. ‘Radicans’ grows 30 to 40 ft. tall and 15 to 20 ft. wide. It is less prone to tip blight and leaf spot but is more susceptible to root rot when young.
Dwarf Japanese cedar cultivars make good rock garden plants.
Best grown in moist, rich, fertile, acidic, well-drained soils in full sun but can tolerate some light shade.
2. Leyland Cypress (x Cupressocyparis leylandii)
Leyland Cypress makes an excellent screening plant so much to its detriment.
Here’s what I mean:
This tree is probably one of the most popular screening plants and as such, it is often planted in unsuitable areas increasing its susceptibility to pests.
Other than that, the Leyland cypress is a fast-growing evergreen tree with feathery foliage and a pleasing slender profile.
Plant in mid-fall when the soil is still warm. For optimum and rapid growth, make sure you’re in zones 6-10. Besides, the tree requires full sunlight to partial shade and prefers well-draining soil.
Keep the plants well-watered since they have a relatively shallow root system and avoid sudden temperature fluctuations as much as possible,
If most of these conditions are met, the Leyland cypress will grow to an impressive height of 40-60 feet if not pruned down, with a spread of 15-20 feet.
3. Lawson Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Ellwoodii’)
Lawson cypress is a highly decorative evergreen shrub tree. It’s also a winner of the prestigious Award of Garden Merit by RHS for its noteworthy qualities.
It’s relatively slow in comparison to Leyland cypress and grows up to 13 – 20 feet tall and 5-8 feet wide.
Lawson cypress performs best in zones 5 to 8 and requires full sun, partial shade, moist, well-draining, and slightly acidic soil
Generally, this tree requires low maintenance since no pruning is even required.
4. Emerald Green Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald’)
Emerald Green Arborvitae - $44.95
from: Nature Hills Nursery, Inc.
One of the things I love about the Emerald green arborvitae is it does not discolor in winter due to sudden temperature fluctuations.
When you plant them within US zones 3 through to 8 you’ll get one the thickest lush screen of greenery to shield your home from the prying eyes of your neighbors.
The emerald arborvitae grows well in acidic, loamy, rich, sandy, silty loam and well-drained soils. Full sun and partial shade are best for this tree, meaning it prefers a minimum of four hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.
The fully mature tree will attain the size of 12-14 feet and 3-4 feet wide. If you want to learn how to successfully grow this beautiful tree, you can get more information by reading this article by the spruce
5. ‘Nellie R. Stevens’ Holly
The Holly tree aka ‘Nellie R. Stevens,' has attractive broadleaf evergreen foliage that has a conical-like shape.
Besides, the leaves are oblong, glossy, dark green, and have spiny margins. Small greenish-white flowers appear in spring but are generally inconspicuous.
Flowers give way to abundant amounts of berry-like bright red fruits which ripen in fall and persist into winter giving your privacy screen an interesting splash of color.
This tree performs well in zones 6-9 and has a better heat tolerance than many of the hollies, and is, therefore, a good selection for hot southern areas.
When mature, the ‘Nellie Stevens tree will attain 15-25 feet in height and spreads 8-12 feet wide. You can prune in winter if necessary.
Grow the trees in organically rich, slightly acidic, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade for the best results.
6. Green Giant Arborvitae
The green giant arborvitae is a great disease-free substitute for Leyland cypress. The tree performs well in zones 5-7 and is the fastest-growing evergreen screen tree attaining 3 feet per year until maturity.
Mature green giant arborvitae grows up to 40-60 feet high and 12-18 wide with size ranging from dwarf to large trees. For a perfect privacy screen, plant 5-6 feet apart.
This tree is best grown in moist, fertile, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade but can tolerate a somewhat wide range of soils and some dry conditions.
For the best results, plant in full sun, but generally appreciates some light afternoon shade in hot summer climates.
7. Goldspire Ginkgo
Ginkgo biloba ‘Goldspire’ is an attractive green, fan-shaped foliage that turns gorgeous golden yellow in fall, coupled with a dense columnar habit, make this variety an excellent tree for privacy screens.
The tree is an easy fit for smaller landscapes, especially those in zones 4-9, and can grow up to just 16 feet tall and only 5-6 feet wide.
Goldspire Ginkgo requires moist, well-drained soil for the best performance. You should prune lightly for the first 3-5 years to help develop its neat, tight form.
8. Flowering Dogwood Tree (Cornus florida)
Of all the best trees for privacy, the Dogwood tree is the most cold-hardy. When you grow it within zones 5-9, the tree produces an abundant display of extra-large, pure white flower bracts. Dogwood trees grow quickly, with a fast rate of over a foot a year.
Like other deciduous trees, the leaves of dogwood are green during summer and change to an attractive reddish-purple during the fall before dropping to the ground.
The flowering dogwood thrives in both sun and shade, making it a great understory tree. But they do best in moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil that contains organic matter.
For the best performance, plant in spring when the soil is still moist and warm.
9. Weeping Podocarpus (Podocarpus gracilior)
The Weeping Podocarpus is an evergreen tree with a soft, graceful, billowy appearance of bright green new growth, dark green mature leaves, and weeping branch tips.
The tree is relatively slow in terms of growth but can be extremely dense, growing up to 30 to 50 feet in height and 25-35 feet spread especially in zones 9B through 11.
You need to plant these trees in full sun or partial shade. Additionally, this plant will tolerate a wide range of well-draining soils and should be protected from frost where possible.
It is considerably tolerant of dry soils, requiring no irrigation once established.
10. Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’ Holly
Sky Pencil Holly is a popular, versatile evergreen tree. Especially since it can be planted as an accent on the corners of your exterior, or in rows for a narrow hedge, or alone as an ornamental.
You can achieve optimum performance with this tree if you are in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9. A mature sky pencil grows to a height of 8-10-foot-long and 2-foot spread.
Furthermore, you must choose a planting location with ample sunlight and protection from harsh winds.
Although the partial sun is tolerable, we recommend full sun whenever possible. For best-growing results, make sure the soil drains well.
11. Hybrid poplar (Populus deltoides x Populus nigra)
Hybrid poplar is not only one of the best trees for privacy, but the fastest of them all – growing up 5-8 feet a year in zones 3-9.
The tree has silvery-green leaves and a broad shade-tree shape. Usually planted for very fast privacy screens and grows to 40 feet to 50 feet and 30 spread.
Plant the tree in acidic, alkaline, and wet soil ideally in fall. Make sure to provide unfiltered full sunlight each day in addition to mulching to conserve moisture.
12. Spartan Juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Spartan’)
Spartan juniper is an evergreen that grows extremely quick especially in zones 5-9 and creates an attractive hedge or screen.
The tree grows to some 15 feet tall but remains slender, between 3 to 5 feet wide.
Spartan trees grow best in full sun and require well-draining soil. If you plant them in wet soil, they will likely develop root rot and die.
13. Hybrid Willow Tree (Salix x matsudana x alba)
Hybrid Willow is one of the best trees for privacy growing in zones 4-9 and reaching a height of 35-45 feet tall when you grow them in a row, 50-75 feet tall when alone, and 5-10 feet wide.
The tree grows up to 6 feet each year, filling out to create a solid green wall. And it's an excellent, trouble-free green screen because it thrives across the country, no matter the climate or conditions.
For an instant privacy screen, plant these trees 5 feet apart. To give the trees a bit more room, plant them 20 to 30 feet apart. You can plant them in a straight line, or two staggered rows.
Plant the willow tree in full sun to partial shade for the best growth performance.
14. Eastern Red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
Eastern Redcedar is an evergreen tree that may grow 30 to 40 feet tall. The tree has scale-like, closely oppressed, glandular leaves. It makes a perfect privacy screen and is a great choice for shady areas.
This tree is considered the most drought-resistant conifer native to the US. It grows nicely in zones 3-9
You can easily grow in average, dry to moist, well-draining soils under the full sun. The Eastern redcedar will tolerate a wide range of soils and growing conditions, from swamps to dry rocky glades.
Caution: Juniperous virginiana has a high flammability rating and should not be planted within the defensible space of your home.
15. Concolor Fir (Abies concolor)
Concolor fir tree grows at a slow to medium rate, with height increases of anywhere from less than 12" to 24" per year. It grows to a height of 30–50 feet and a spread of about 20 feet at maturity.
The shape, color, and ability to thrive on harsh sites (growing zones 4-7) have made the tree a favorite for urban landscaping. It is also a major component of the Christmas tree industry.
The best growing conditions are full sun and partial shade with the white fir growing well in acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, and well-drained soils.
Lastly, the concolor fir prefers normal moisture but has moderate drought tolerance.
16. Japanese false cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera)
Native to Japan, false cypress is a medium to large evergreen shrub for U.S. zones 4-8 landscapes. In the wild, varieties of false cypress may grow 70 feet tall and 20-30 feet wide.
With a medium growth rate, these false cypress cultivars usually stay dwarf at about 5 feet tall or less.
The small thread-leaf varieties add bright evergreen color and unique texture as foundation plantings, privacy hedges.
The false cypress grows best in full sun but can tolerate light shade. The gold varieties need more sun to develop their color. In cooler climates, they can be prone to winter burn.
The trees grow in most soil types but prefer it to be slightly acidic.
17. Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)
Eastern White Pine is among the fastest-growing evergreen trees with a growth rate increase of more than 24 feet per year.
The tree is hardy with clustered soft blue-green needles making it an ideal screen or windbreak. Given the right growing conditions (zones 3-8) the tree grows 50-80 feet with 20-40 feet spread in the landscape.
The Eastern pine prefers full sun and partial shade and grows in acidic, moist, well-draining soils. While it does best in moist soil, the tree is known to tolerate everything from dry, rocky ridges to bogs.
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You’ve just gone through a list of the 17 best trees for privacy screen that grow fast.
Admittedly, some are a bit slower but it is always important to have a mixed privacy screen, where multiple species are grouped in small clusters of three or five, either in a single row where space is tight or in an alternately layered planting where possible.
Mixed-species screens help prevent the spread of problems from one plant to the next. Additionally, different growth rates will guarantee a great looking screen throughout the year.
An advantage of several rows of staggered plants is that they can be spaced more widely, allowing for better air circulation, while still achieving a full screen. Good air circulation helps reduce the incidence of disease problems.
Lastly, here are some great takeaways:
- Always plant during the fall (take care of them during winter).
- Plant in raised beds to give them a height head-start (for non-bulky trees).
- Choose the native trees from the list as much as possible
- Choose plants for a particular site based upon cultural conditions and aesthetic considerations.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section and happy gardening!