20 Fast-Growing Shrubs for Privacy

20 Fast-Growing Shrubs for Privacy

Comfort and privacy at home are important. Have you ever been dining on your patio only to find the neighbors sitting on their patio watching you? Do the people walking their dog or kids biking past your home have a clear view into your yard? There may be a view you consider undesirable that you would like to obscure with plantings of trees and shrubs

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Start by assessing your outdoor space. Determine which areas need more privacy. Also, determine the height needed. If you live in a sloping subdivision, your need for privacy may include the neighbors above you and the neighbors below. If you have a next-door neighbor who likes to sit on his balcony which overlooks your backyard, a well-placed tree may be necessary to provide the privacy you seek. There is also the need for a space to just relax and escape the pressures of job and family–a quiet corner where you can recharge your batteries and not be distracted by anything but the book you are reading, the music you listen to or a place to meditate.

Apart from privacy, another thing to consider is how you can use shrubs to act as a sound barrier. If your home is near a busy street, intersection or adjacent to businesses or other noise-producing spots, shrubs offer a convenient, effective and affordable way to keep noise pollution from detracting from your outdoor relaxation spaces.

Once you determine which areas you want to improve privacy, determine which shrubs will be most effective and are the optimum mature size. Another factor to consider is whether your need for privacy is year-round, in which case, you would need a shrub that is evergreen. If the need is only during the summer, a deciduous shrub would be adequate. Do you want your shrubs to flower or are you interested in a shrub that will also provide winter interest? All these decisions will help you to select the best shrub for privacy and the shrub that has the most aesthetic value for you and your yard.

home with a variety of shrubs

After you have selected and ordered the shrubs you want to add to your landscape, it is time to prepare the site. Remove any sod from the site. This isn’t the easiest job, but it is manageable with a shovel that has a well-sharpened blade. If you intend to add a hedge and the area that needs to be prepared is significant, you may want to rent a sod cutter. This machine has a horizontal blade that cuts the sod away. The sod can then be used elsewhere or disposed of. Add organic material like compost and also plant fertilizer. Your plants will be growing in this location for a number of years and this is your one chance to amend the soil and give your plants the best chance to thrive when planted. Your shrubs should be shipped when it is safe to plant in your growing zone. Be prepared to water more frequently until your new shrubs become established. A good layer of mulch will help to keep the moisture level stable.

There are literally hundreds of different shrubs available. Choose from those that are tolerant of conditions in your growing zone and then use some of the criteria mentioned earlier to narrow down your choices. To help you, the following list includes shrubs of different sizes, as well as growing zones.

  1. Ruby Spice Summersweet Shrub. This fast-growing shrub grows to a height of four to six feet. It has great foliage for privacy and in mid-summer will bloom with fragrant flowers that attract butterflies. Besides blooming after most shrubs have finished flowering, this shrub will add color to the fall landscape when its leaves turn bright yellow.
  2. Miss Molly Butterfly Bush. This Buddleia is a prolific bloomer attracting butterflies, bees and hummingbirds to your yard. This shrub starts to bloom in midsummer and will continue until frost with enough blooms for you to use as cut flowers throughout the blooming season. This plant will tolerate most soils and does best in a sunny location. It will be about five feet tall when mature.
Miss Molly Butterfly Bush
  1. Hydrangeas. Hydrangeas are great flowering shrubs with spectacular flower heads. Hydrangeas come in all sizes so make sure the variety you choose will provide the privacy you are looking for. Gatsby Moon would be a great choice as its 10-foot height will certainly provide the privacy you seek as well as spectacular blooms from early summer on. The added bonus with hydrangeas is they can tolerate partial shade.
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  1. Forsythia. Long known as the harbinger of spring, this shrub is one of the first shrubs to bloom in spring with vibrant yellow flowers covering the stems. This plant does not need pruning, but can be trimmed to form a hedge. Forsythia will grow to five to six feet tall. Select Show Off Forsythia for its denser branching and upright growth rather than the arching habit of the other forsythia.
  2. Boxwood. Boxwood is known for its ability to be trimmed to a hedge shape and still look beautiful. Its dense lush foliage is evergreen, and its neat habit can be untrimmed for a softer look. Though it grows a little slower than some other shrubs, its versatility may make it worth the wait.
  3. Rhododendrons and Azaleas. Rhododendrons and Azaleas are known as a Southern garden staple, but now there are varieties that will be able to survive in a more Northern climate. There are many varieties of rhododendrons and azaleas, but for the purposes of privacy, look for taller versions. Varieties like Rhododendron Flame Azalea will grow to a height of eight feet with flowers in all shades of a flame standing out against the dark green foliage. This plant is hardy as far north as zone 5.
Rhododendrons and Azaleas Shop All Rhododendron & Azalea Shrubs
  1. Daphne. If you are located in a Southern part of the country, consider Daphne as your shrub of choice This evergreen shrub needs zones 7-9, so it will not survive in the North. Daphne is fast-growing and will be four to five feet tall at maturity. In March and April, this plant’s rosy buds open to clusters of white highly fragrant flowers. If you choose a variety called “Aureomarginata Alba,” the evergreen leaves are edged in a creamy white giving year-round interest.
  2. Weigela. Weigela is not the largest shrub with a mature height of four feet, but it is worth considering. This shrub is one of the easiest shrubs to grow even for new gardeners. It’s cold-hardy even in the cold zone 4 winters. This shrub has beautiful pink blossoms that stand out against the dark purple-green of the foliage.
  3. Kalmia. Kalmia, or mountain laurel, is a beautiful flowering shrub that grows to five to eight feet tall in the landscape; however, in the wild, it is much taller. This plant blooms with star-shaped flowers in a beautiful rose color edged in white.
kalmia blooming
  1. Chamaecyparis Night Light. This yellow-green evergreen shrub is perfect as a specimen plant or as a privacy screen. This dense deeply textured plant will grow to five feet tall and is rounded if used as a specimen, but also can be used as a hedge. Chamaecyparis will do well in full sun or partial shade. 
  2. Dogwood. Dogwood is a must for the winter garden. All summer the dogwood will provide privacy with its dark green foliage. It also will produce white flowers in the summer followed by berries, which will bring in the butterflies and birds. But winter is when the dogwood really shines. Its stunning red branches are beautiful against the white snow or even a dormant lawn. Dogwood comes in varieties that have yellow bark rather than red and there is a variety that has both colors. This is a very hardy, fast-growing plant in zones 3-8.
  3. Physocarpus. If you are looking for color as well as privacy, consider Physocarpus Darts Gold. The leaves of this shrub start out golden yellow in spring, gradually turning chartreuse by mid-summer and then a bronze tinged yellow in the fall. It does produce clusters of small flowers in late fall.  Winter interest is provided by this shrub’s exfoliating bark. There is year-round interest from this shrub which will grow to five feet tall in zones 3-7.
  4. Burning Bush. Burning bush is an easy-care shrub that lives up to its name in the fall of the year when the leaves turn a brilliant fire engine red. The shrub will be great as a stand-alone specimen, but a hedge of burning bushes in the autumn will be stunning.
Serviceberry shrub
  1. Serviceberry. If you need privacy with height, the serviceberry would be a great choice. This shrub can grow up to 15 feet tall. In spring, this bush is covered with beautiful white flowers followed by lots of berries which bring in the birds. In fall, the green foliage will impress with a display of reds and oranges as the leaves change color. Use the serviceberry as a stand-alone specimen or plant several as a hedge.
  2. Lilacs. We all probably have experience with lilacs at grandma’s house and even our parents. Lilacs bloom in spring on last year’s growth and can easily live for decades. Most likely you are familiar with lilacs in the deep purple shades to the soft lilac color for which it is named. Those varieties are still available, along with white. However, there are new colors of lilacs available, including a gorgeous yellow variety called Primrose. 
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  1. Cotoneaster. This shrub is a “tried and true” plant, especially as a privacy hedge. It is an easy care shrub that can be pruned any time and will grow to 10 feet tall. This shrub does have pink flowers in spring, but is best known for its bright red autumn color.
  2. Ligustrum. Ligustrum is a shrub that is hardy to zone 4. This plant can grow eight to 15 feet high providing lots of privacy. Ligustrum Cheyenne Privet is covered with white scented flowers, attractive to the butterflies, and followed by berries that will be held on the plant until winter, providing winter feed for the birds. 
  3. Arborvitae. If you need your privacy fast, how about the Green Giant Arborvitae which can grow three to five feet in one year. This shrub can grow to a mature height of 30-50 feet, but it tolerates shearing to keep it to the size you prefer. This arborvitae grows in a compact conical shape and is an evergreen with foliage to the ground.
Bottlebrush Buckeye
  1. Bottlebrush Buckeye. This shrub is very popular in Europe and is becoming so in the U.S. This shrub is easy-care and will even do well in difficult areas like steep slopes.  Growing to 10 feet in height, this dense plant will reward you with loads of eight- to 12-inch flower spikes from which it gets its name. In fall, the leaves turn shades of yellow and orange to add to the beauty of this shrub. It is hardy in zones 4-9.
  2. Hibiscus “Midnight Marvel”. There are many Hibiscus that are not cold-tolerant, but Midnight Marvel is safe to zone 4. This is a stunning plant with deep violet-purple foliage that doesn’t green out in summer–even in the heat. The foliage turns to brilliant shades of orange in the fall. The foliage alone makes this Rose Mallow desirable, but now imagine the bush covered with true carmine-red blooms of nine- to 10-inch flowers. The red against the deep purple is impressive, but as the leaves change color, the red against the orange is equally impressive. Even with the early light frosts of fall, this plant will hold its leaves and keep blooming. At four feet in height, this shrub will make a stunning hedge that will be the envy of the neighborhood.

These are some of the many shrubs available to not only improve the look of your landscape, but also provide some privacy where needed.

 

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