Best Privacy Trees for Your Outdoor Space

Privacy trees offer many advantages to traditional fences like temperature regulation, acting as a windbreak and enhancing the natural beauty of your outdoor space!
Renee Lewis
Renee Lewis
Last Update:
April 19, 2024

For most homeowners, there is nothing like relaxing in the privacy of your own backyard on a beautiful sunny day! If you are looking for a cooler alternative to a traditional fence to add privacy to your outdoor space, look into putting in privacy trees as a living fence!

Living fences are an increasingly popular trend for creating privacy in your yard without putting up a traditional wooden fence. Privacy trees are not just one kind of tree. They encompass many types of trees from evergreens to deciduous, and flowering trees to hedges. The type of privacy tree you choose depends on your top priorities.

One of the best privacy trees are evergreen trees like arborvitae. Arborvitae have a pyramidal shape and dense branches. There are also arborvitae tree species that are some of the fastest growing trees for living fences, making them an excellent choice for privacy trees.

Privacy hedges and privacy trees not only typically grow fast and with little maintenance, but putting up a living fence also has some important advantages over traditional fences like environmental benefits, aesthetics, and long term value.

Why Choose Trees for Privacy Fencing?

Planting a living fence offers aesthetic appeal that a traditional fence just cannot offer. Evergreen trees lined up as a fence or windbreak offer luscious green leaves - and year round instead of just early spring and summer like deciduous trees. Although poplar trees are also popular windbreaks, they are a deciduous tree so they will not have green leaves year round like conifers. But it is up to you whether a privacy tree with dense foliage three seasons out of four will work for your purposes. There are beautiful flowering trees like dogwood and magnolia that are also used as privacy trees.

If you know you want an evergreen privacy tree with year round foliage, then a good place to start is to look into arborvitae species. Some popular types of arborvitae trees are Emerald Green arborvitae and Thuja Green Giant arborvitae. Another good evergreen privacy tree is cypress. A trendy cypress is the Leyland cypress, or leylandii cypress, with its pyramidal shape makes an excellent choice for a living fence. The Nellie Stevens Holly and the Sky Pencil Holly tree are other evergreen trees with dense leaves that are commonly used for privacy fences.

You can also consider hedges instead of arborvitae, like the wax myrtle hedge. They are popular for their dense green, year round foliage but they do require more pruning than arborvitae or other privacy trees to maintain a neat box shape.

Planting a living fence offers even more benefits over traditional fences than being a low maintenance, long lasting privacy fence. Trees, especially evergreen trees, can help purify the air in your backyard and regulate the temperature. A living fence offers cooler shade than traditional fences, and can also provide habitat for wildlife! And speaking of wildlife, if you are in an area with deer, be sure to look into deer resistant privacy tree species like the Thuja Green Giant or the Oakland Holly.

Although investing in trees instead of a traditional fence may be more expensive as far as up front costs, the long term cost-effectiveness is worth consideration. Once you have invested in privacy trees they will continue to grow and look beautiful as long as they are taken care of, whereas traditional fences have a finite lifespan.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Trees for Privacy

Trees as privacy fence

Before you decide on what type of privacy trees to invest in, do a little research about the climate and hardiness zone where you live. That will inform you on what types of trees or hedges will grow best on your property. Figure out which growing zone your property is in and then find out which species do best in those types of areas.

You will be able to find a privacy tree or privacy hedge for any climate, and to match any soil and sunlight preferences. Some trees prefer full sun while others prefer partial shade, so be sure to research what tree species might do the best in your particular area before investing the project.

Another consideration when deciding which type of tree to buy is the growth rate, or how much it grows each year. Another factor to consider is how long it takes to reach its mature size after being planted in your yard. These time frames and mature heights can vary widely among privacy trees. A California private hedge will grow to ten feet high after three years, whereas a cedar hedge would take ten years to grow that high.

When it comes to maintenance, privacy trees and privacy hedges both require regular watering, and fertilizing when they are first planted. However, some hedges require extra maintenance in the form of regular trimming during the growing season if you want the hedges to be box shaped. Compared to fences, a hedge can be more high maintenance because of the regular trimming.

If you have a privacy tree that can grow freely without the regular pruning and trimming that some hedges require, it can actually work out to be low maintenance over time compared to a traditional fence that has to be sealed every few years.

Top Trees for Privacy Fence

Evergreen Trees

Evergreen tree

Evergreen trees are a popular choice for living fences because of their year round foliage and the continuous privacy that they offer. Homeowners can count on a green privacy screen no matter what season it is with privacy trees like arborvitae and cypress trees. If you are interested in a privacy tree with shiny foliage, American Holly trees are beautiful evergreen privacy trees complete with red berries in the winter.

Fast-Growing Trees

Some of the fastest growing trees include Cottonwoods and Lombardy poplars, Thuja Green Giant trees, Nellie Stevens Hollies, Eastern White Pine, and Leyland Cypress trees with its blue green foliage. These are tree species that establish quickly so that they can provide rapid privacy. Some are evergreen while others are deciduous but still have dense foliage during the growing season.

Trees with Dense Foliage

Trees with dense foliage

Speaking of trees with dense foliage, here are a few of the best privacy trees if you are looking for dense foliage. These trees have thick, lush foliage that creates a dense privacy screen for your outdoor area. Arborvitae are some of the most popular privacy trees because of their evergreen dense foliage. Check out American arborvitae or Thuja Green Giant Arborvitae. English laurel is another type of evergreen tree that makes a good privacy screen. It has dense, shiny foliage year round.

Planting and Maintenance Tips

Tree planting tips

Planting instructions for every privacy tree or privacy hedge will be different, but a good rule of thumb is to leave between one and two feet between each plant. But keep in mind the size of privacy trees varies greatly - a Thuja Green Giant Arborvitae can grow to over 60 feet tall, while other species of arborvitae or the eastern red cedar top out at around 10 feet tall. So be sure to ask staff at your garden center about the specifics of the plant species you choose. Do not forget to tell them the purpose is to plant the trees as a privacy screen, that way they will be planted closely enough together to form a screen but not so close that they impact each other’s ability to grow.

Most trees thrive in well draining soil and partial to full sun, so keep that in mind when you are planning where the privacy screen will be located. After you have planted your privacy trees, place a couple inches of mulch over the top of the soil to help keep the roots healthy.

After the initial planting, maintenance needs vary by privacy tree species. Most arborvitae grow naturally in a conical, pyramid shape and do not require much pruning. If you have planted deciduous trees instead of evergreen trees, be prepared for leaves dropping in the fall and maintenance related to that.


Privacy trees, or rows of trees or hedges that form a privacy screen, are a great way to increase privacy in your outdoor space. They can keep neighbors and passersby from looking into your backyard as well as block the view of something not that beautiful that’s next to your property.

Look at evergreen, dense foliage privacy tree species like arborvitae or cypress for year round, maximum privacy. These are also low maintenance options. For less intense privacy needs, consider deciduous trees - these are also available in options with dense foliage and even flowering trees.

Consider your specific goals when choosing what type of privacy tree to plant on your property!

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