Best Trees For Privacy And Above Fence Screening Trees

Trees not only add structure and changing beauty to gardens but can also provide privacy from unwanted views. By strategically planting trees for screening purposes, you can create a peaceful haven away from the hustle and bustle of the world. In this article, we will highlight fourteen trees that are ideal for achieving privacy from neighbors or unsightly views.

Additionally, by making these trees a focal point in your garden, you can create a long-lasting and enjoyable feature for your family and future generations.

Although not a tree Hydrangea can grow 8ft high and 8ft wide, planted in a row they make a lovely privavcy hedge and become a focal point.

Typically, trees used for above-fence screening have a clear stem that reaches fence panel heights of 6ft and are topped with a dense canopy. This type of screening is particularly useful if your property is overlooked by neighboring properties, if you want to draw attention to an attractive feature, or if you want to maintain lower exposure to a wall or area.

For optimal effect, evergreens are generally preferred for dense planting. However, if space permits, planting a variety of trees can provide a rich contrast and seasonal interest.

Planting evergreen trees, cypress trees, flowering trees, and other varieties close together can create a lush green fence that acts as a living wall. This living wall can serve as an effective barrier between your property and your neighbor’s, providing privacy and a natural boundary.

Caution should be used if your going to create the type of living wall, it can be considered a hedge or screen planting and thus subject to local building codes. For example Detroit has hedge height restrictions, Tillamook Oregon the same, he’s and article from the LA Times regarding hedges in LA. So always check local restrictions. Most towns and cities across the US have height restrictions in place which is usually 3.5ft high for front yards and 6ft to 8ft for backyards.

Individual Trees
Individual trees with spacing between them
Screen Or Hedge planting
Trees planted to close together are considered hedges or screen planting

When your looking for the best trees for privacy consider line of sight “If you can’t see them, they can’t see you.

Before selecting trees for privacy in your garden, it’s important to consider several factors:

  1. Climate: Ensure that the trees you select are suitable for the climate in your area and can tolerate the temperatures and weather conditions. ensure that the tree you select can survive the winters in your USDA Hardiness zone.
  2. Size: Consider the available space in your garden and choose trees that will fit comfortably without crowding or overwhelming the area.
  3. Growth Rate: Decide how quickly you want the trees to grow and fill in the space. Some species grow faster than others, so choose accordingly.
  4. Maintenance: Consider the amount of maintenance the trees will require, such as pruning or watering. Choose trees that fit your desired level of maintenance.
  5. Privacy Needs: Determine how much privacy you need and choose trees that will meet those needs. Some species have dense foliage that provides complete privacy, while others have a more open structure that allows light to filter through.

How to choose a privacy tree for your backyard?

When selecting trees for privacy screening, it’s important to ask your tree supplier about the growth rate and mature height of the trees. Young trees are generally more affordable and have a better chance of establishing themselves. However, if you’re looking for privacy soon, consider choosing fast-growing trees.

While mature specimens may offer immediate privacy, they can be expensive. It’s often more cost-effective to choose semi-mature trees or young trees and be patient as they grow to their full potential.

Before purchasing any trees, be sure to check your soil type to ensure that it’s appropriate for the trees you’re considering. Some trees prefer certain soil types, and planting a tree in unsuitable soil can result in stunted growth or even death to the tree. By considering these factors, you can choose the right trees for your privacy needs while ensuring that they will thrive in your garden.

1. English Holly – Ilex aquifolium

English Holly (Ilex aquifolium) is an evergreen tree commonly used for privacy. Young plants have characteristic spikes, while mature plants have smooth leaves. In the spring, small white flowers bloom on the tree, and after the first frosts of the year, bright red berries appear, which are a food source for birds and small mammals.

Holly trees grow slowly at first, eventually developing into a pyramidal shape. They prefer well-draining soil and are not likely to thrive in soils that hold a lot of water. Despite this, Holly is a hardy and low-maintenance tree that can provide year-round privacy screening in a garden or landscape.

English Holly
English Holly

2. Holm Oak – Quercus ilex

The Holm Oak, also known as the Holly Oak, is a magnificent evergreen tree that can be used for privacy screening. The leaves of the tree have leathery serrations that resemble holly leaves. With regular pruning, the tree can form a dense screen that lasts throughout the year.

The Holm Oak is a hardy and resilient tree that can withstand sea salt-spray and urban pollution. It thrives in most soils and can grow in coastal regions as well as urban areas. The tree can reach a height of up to 25 meters, making it an excellent option for those seeking tall privacy trees.

Holm Oak semi mature screening being trained into shape (pleached)
Holm Oak mature tree used for above fence screening.

3. Cypress Oak – Quercus robur Fastigiata Koster

The Cypress Oak tree is an ideal option for planting in areas with limited space as it forms a regular and narrow crown. This tree is a beautiful addition to any garden or landscape with its deep lobed, glossy green leaves that turn golden brown in autumn. In less exposed climates, the leaves remain attached to the tree throughout the winter.

The Cypress Oak can grow in most soil types, but it is particularly well-suited to soils with heavy clay content. This tree can reach a height of up to 15 metres, making it a great option for those looking for a mid-sized privacy screening tree. Overall, the Cypress Oak is a stunning and low-maintenance tree that can provide year-round privacy screening and add beauty to any outdoor space.

Cypress Oak

4. Lombardy Poplar – Populus nigra Italica

The Lombardy poplar is a deciduous tree with a narrow columnar shape, making it an excellent option for screening and privacy. These trees are particularly well-suited to growing alongside riversides. In the spring, the tree produces crimson male catkins that open before the bright green ovate leaves emerge.

The Lombardy poplar can grow in most soil types, including wet soils during the winter. It is a hardy tree that can withstand harsh weather conditions, making it a low-maintenance option for privacy screening. Overall, the Lombardy poplar is an architectural and attractive tree that can provide an effective and beautiful privacy screen.


5. Magnolia Bull bay – Magnolia grandiflora Gallisoniensis

The Magnolia Bull Bay is a stunning tree that produces large, shiny, white flowers that can reach up to 10in in diameter during the summer. These beautiful flowers not only look great, but they also emit a sweet and citrus scent. The tree has large, ovoid leaves that are dark green on top and coppery on the underside. When young, the leaves are reddish in color, but they turn grayish-brown as they mature.

The Bull Bay is an excellent screening plant that also serves as an attractive ornamental feature. It is characterized by its large leaves and bushy head. To ensure the best growth, it is recommended to protect the tree from northerly exposure. The Bull Bay grows well in most soil types and can reach a height of 49ft. Overall, the Magnolia Bull Bay is a stunning and fragrant addition to any garden suitable for USDA zones 6-10.

southern-magnolia-bull-bay-magnolia flower.jpg
The flower can reach 10in diameter

6. Cherry Laurel – Prunus laurocerasus

Cherry Laurel is a great option for screening due to its upright and bushy growth habits. This plant produces small, sweet-smelling, white flowers and vertical racemes that can reach up to 0.4in in length. It also produces small fruit that resemble cherries. Cherry Laurel thrives in moist, slightly acidic soil and can grow well in full sunlight to partial shade.


7. English Yew – Taxus baccata

The English Yew is renowned for its graceful appearance and impressive longevity, and few trees can match its allure. The branches of this tree are adorned with small, dark green leaves that are arranged in whorls, lending it a unique aesthetic. Moreover, the tree produces red, fruit-like arils that expose the seeds, adding further intrigue to its already captivating nature.

If you want to revitalize the English Yew, it’s advisable to prune it in early spring. Additionally, this tree thrives in well-drained, lighter soils. One of the most remarkable features of this tree is its dense foliage, which makes it an ideal candidate for creating a verdant privacy wall. In fact, the English Yew is among the best trees for this purpose, as it can form an almost impenetrable green barrier.

English Yew – Tallest Hedge In World Located in the UK

8. Western Red Cedar – Thuja plicata

Western Red Cedars are magnificent evergreen conifers that boast dense branches, making them an ideal choice for screening trees. Their dark-green glossy scales emit a delightful aroma, adding to their appeal. Moreover, these trees are typically frost-hardy and can withstand urban pollution, making them a great addition to any cityscape. Suitable for USDA Zones 5 to 9.


 9. Lombardy Poplar – Populus nigra Italica

Lombardy poplars are deciduous trees with a distinctively narrow, columnar shape that makes them ideal privacy trees. They are particularly well-suited for planting along riversides. These trees have an architecturally impressive appearance, and their crimson male catkins open up before the bright green ovate leaves emerge in the springtime. Suitable for USDA Zones 2 to 10b

Lombardy Poplar Populus_nigra

10. Hornbeam – Carpinus betulus

Hornbeams are deciduous trees that possess the unique ability to regenerate after being pruned, making them an excellent choice for screening purposes.

They can be grown as pleached trees or in their natural column form. In the autumn, their leaves turn a beautiful golden yellow color, while in the spring, they have a vibrant green hue. These trees have a vertical trunk and smooth, dark grey bark, adding to their aesthetic appeal. Suitable for USDA Zones 5 to 7


11. Snowy Mespilus / Juneberry – Amelanchier lamarckii

Anelanchier lamarckii is a deciduous shrub or tree that grows upright, featuring foliage with a bronze tint that turns red and orange during the autumn season. The unfurling of its leaves gives way to white flowers that form lax racemes. The tree also produces red to dark purple berries that are readily consumed by birds.


12. Leyland cypress – Cuprocyparis leylandii

Leyland Cypress is an evergreen conifer that grows rapidly and features a dense, columnar habit that can reach heights of over 98ft if left untrimmed. The tree’s leaves are scale-like and form flattened, slightly drooping sprays when densely packed. If you’re seeking fast-growing screening trees, then the Leyland Cypress is an excellent choice. In fact, it’s the fastest-growing evergreen tree available, with the potential to grow up to 90 centimeters per year.

Leyland cypress planted as a privacy hedge.
leyland-cypress individual trees
Leyland cypress as individual trees for privacy.

13. Japanese privet – Ligustrum japonicum

This privacy tree can either grow as a tall, upright evergreen shrub or a small tree. When cultivated as a shrub, it typically reaches a height of around 10ft. The plant features waxy, dark green leaves that are no more than 1.5in in length and have a deep green color.

During mid-summer through early autumn, the shrub or tree is adorned with conical sprays of small, sweet-smelling off-white flowers, as well as small, round, black berries that birds find irresistible. Suitable for USDA Zone 7-10

Japanese Privet Flowering
Japanese Privet Flowering
Ligustrum-japonicum Pleached-Formed
Japanese Privet Pleached

14. Red Robin – Photinia fraseri

Not strictly a tree it’s a evergreen shrub that has elliptical leaves that can grow up to 4in in length. The leaves start out as bright red when they are young and later turn dark green as they mature. Additionally, the plant produces a few cream-white flowers.

Red Robin shrubs are a versatile backyard privacy option that can be utilized in various ways, such as being grown as a pleached tree, standard, or half standard. Suitable for USDA Zone 7b to 9.

Red Robin – Photinia fraseri as a living wall or hedge.

15. Lilac Bushes – Syringa vulgaris

Lilac bushes not only add beauty to your garden with their lovely, fragrant blooms but also serve as a great option for privacy hedges. These plants require abundant sunlight, so if your area is shaded, consider choosing a different hedge variety. Regular pruning is also necessary to maintain their health and encourage new growth and flowering by removing any dead or damaged branches.

One of the most appealing characteristics of many lilac varieties is the sweet fragrance of their flowers, which appear in branching clusters or panicles and measure only about 1/3 inch across. The leaves of lilac bushes are typically gray-green to blue-green in color and can grow to be around 2 to 5in long, without undergoing any color change during the fall season. Suitable for USDA Zone 3-7

Lilac bushes

16. Boxwood – Buxus sempervirens

Boxwood is a popular choice for decorative pruned hedges in formal gardens, but it can also be stunning when grown in a less structured manner. Some varieties can grow up to 20ft tall if allowed to grow freely, however it may take a few years to reach that height.

Although commonly known for its deep green color, there are also stunning white variegated and gold varieties of boxwood. It can be grown as a fence or in containers, providing a rich landscape and a lush, living wall that offers privacy from any curious onlookers. Suitable USDA Zones 5 to 8.

boxwood buxus-species

Here’s a helpful video on fast growing privacy trees for your backyard: