15 Beautiful Shrubs for Privacy

Yew (taxus) and boxwood (buxus) shrubs
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When choosing shrubs for privacy in your landscape, look for plants that grow densely and consider how much maintenance they require. Some grow relatively fast while others may demand more of a time investment — but are worth it in the end.

Planting a living fence doesn’t just provide privacy from the neighbors, studies show that gardening helps to combat air pollution and the climate crisis. Read on to learn about 15 of the best shrubs for privacy.

Before buying a landscape shrub, always check if a plant is invasive in your area. Visit the National Invasive Species Information Center or contact your local university extension office for advice on shrubs that may be invasive in your region.

Some of the plants on this list are toxic to pets. For more information about the safety of specific plants, consult the ASPCA's searchable database.

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Golden Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)

The golden arborvitae is an evergreen shrub
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This evergreen shrub keeps its golden color year-round and, once established, doesn’t require much pruning. With its pointed top, arborvitae can reach about 5 feet in height and is slow-growing. Its thick branches provide plenty of privacy and it lives a long time (up to 150 years in some cases). Arborvitae also like to live in pairs or groups, so plant them in borders or rows to ensure they reach their full potential.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun and partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Acidic, loamy, or well drained soils.
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English Yew (Taxus baccata)

Clipped English yew hedge in a garden
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English yew plants may not grow as tall as other privacy shrubs, only reaching about 2 feet to 4 feet tall, but they can easily spread to 15 feet wide to cover a lot of ground. They are a great option for hilly landscapes that don’t require much height.

Yews are conifers, meaning that they produce cones instead of flowers. They also produce evergreen needles and have a fast growth rate initially, slowing down considerably once they mature.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 10.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to shade.
  • Soil Needs: Loamy, medium-moist, and well draining.
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American Holly (Ilex opaca)

A holly bush on the side of a building
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American holly is a large evergreen shrub that boasts heights of 40 to 50 feet and lengths of 20 to 40 feet. Their dark green leathery leaves with pointed edges have come to be associated with holiday decor, but these North American shrubs also flourish during the summer and autumn months. While other holly varieties prefer full sun to light shade, the American holly is known for being much more versatile and shade tolerant.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Moist, acidic, and well drained soil.
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Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera)

Flowering Wax Myrtle
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Easy-to-grow wax myrtle plants have lightly colored olive green leaves and smooth gray-white bark. The wax myrtle typically grows up to 8 feet tall by 8 feet wide, though they may also reach heights of 20 to 25 feet in some cases. While they don’t necessarily need regular pruning, they will respond well to it and prune into almost any shape. They grow fast, as much as 5 feet each year, and are also deer resistant.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 10.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade.
  • Soil Needs: Average, medium to wet.
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Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia)

Forsythia shrub
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A hardy, tolerant shrub, forsythia can handle full sun to partial shade, but will need at least six hours of daily full sun in order to reach its fullest flowering potential. As long as it drains well, the plant can tolerate most types of soil. Part of the olive family, forsythia shrubs are known for their bright yellow flowers that bloom in the spring. They grow to about 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide, but can reach even more height if not pruned regularly.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Well drained, loose.
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Nikko Blue Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

Blue hydrangea bush along a fence
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One of the most well recognized and popular flowering shrubs, the nikko blue hydrangea can easily grow to 12 feet tall and 12 feet in length. Its large round blossoms bloom early in the summer, turning blue in acidic soils and pink in alkaline soils. These deciduous plants make wonderful additions to flower beds for use as screens or hedges, but are also great for containers.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Partial sun.
  • Soil Needs: Medium moisture and well drained.
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Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)

Northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)
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This deciduous shrub is native to Canada and the eastern United States. The northern bayberry is recognizable by the strong aroma that its dark green, glossy leaves emit when crushed. They love sandy or peaty soil but can grow in a wide range of environments, and are highly tolerant to drought and salt spray. When mature, these shrubs reach about 10 feet tall by 10 feet wide and are easy to take care of.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun.
  • Soil Needs: Performs best in slightly acidic, moist soil.
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Boxwood (Buxus)

Boxwood shrub near the water's edge
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Evergreen boxwood is one of the most used shrubs for decorative hedges, outdoor living walls, or fences for privacy. While their dense leaves are typically pruned into perfectly manicured shapes, some plants can reach 20 feet in height if left to grow freely without interference. These classic shrubs are also adaptable to various soil types and pH levels, making them suitable for traditional formal gardens and more versatile home gardens alike.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun or partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Acidic or alkaline, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, and well-drained.
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Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)

Cherry laurel shrub (Prunus laurocerasus)

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Native to the southeastern United States, cherry laurel is an evergreen shrub that can grow to heights between 15 feet and 35 feet — and it often grows twice as wide as it does tall. Its dainty white flowers pop up in the early spring and attract butterflies and bees (even in shady spots). Its dark bark is nearly black in color and its leaves contain a high concentration of poisonous hydrocyanic acid.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Slightly acidic, well drained.
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Red Tip Photinia (Photinia x fraseri)

Photinia hedge

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This hybrid evergreen shrub changes its leaves from bright red to dark green as it matures, giving it a unique multi colored foliage while it's still young. Since it's a fast grower, gaining 1 foot to 3 feet in height each year, gardeners enjoy shaping these shrubs into hedges and privacy screens. While they do grow small white blossoms, the scent can be off-putting, so most choose to prune them from the stems before they flower.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full, partial.
  • Soil Needs: Acidic or neutral, loamy, and well drained.
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Beautyberry (Callicarpa)

Beautyberry shrub
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Once your beautyberry begins to produce its signature bright purple berries, it's easy to see how these shrubs got their name. Berries usually pop up in summer or fall and the bushes range from 3 to 6 feet in height on average. These perennial plants are fast-growing, so many gardeners prune theirs down substantially each year in early spring. Foliage ranges from light to dark green with tiny flowers.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 10.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade.
  • Soil Needs: Rich, well draining.
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Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Dogwood hedge next to a path
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Most species of dogwood are usually pruned into trees, but they also make great privacy shrubs. The flowering types are small and deciduous with pretty blossoms of white, pink, or red that bloom in early spring. Its leaves are dark green during the spring but turn into a lovely red color in the fall, and in the summer will produce bird-friendly fruit. They don’t require regular pruning and grow more densely in the full sun.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Evenly moist, well drained.
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Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)

Tsuga Canadensis Canadian hemlock shrub
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Candian hemlocks are grown as trees in most of North America, but in suburban areas are popular to grow as towering privacy hedges. These evergreen plants thrive in both warm and cold regions, adapting to shady spots as the seasons change and can even grow in poor soil conditions. Plant Canadian hemlocks close together in rows to create dense hedges that will provide privacy and shield you from noise or wind.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3-7.
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun.
  • Soil Needs: Acidic, moist, and well drained.
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Japanese Camellia (Camellia japonica)

A tall camellia hedge
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These evergreen shrubs produce gorgeous thickly petaled flowers that bloom from fall to spring. As long as you pick the right growing site (partly shaded, sheltered, temperate, and an ideal soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5), camellias will live for decades. Flower colors range from pinks, reds, and whites, to solids or stripes, while shrubs can grow between 6 feet and 12 feet in the right conditions.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 10.
  • Sun Exposure: Partial sunlight to shade.
  • Soil Needs: Slightly acidic and well drained.
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Loropetalum (Loropetalum chinense)

Loropetalum hedge in Japan
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These shrubs also go by the name Chinese fringe flower and are actually members of the witch hazel family. Their dark purple leaves are complemented by clustered, spidery flowers that bloom in late spring. They grow anywhere from 1 foot to 15 feet tall and spread between 3 feet and 10 feet in length. A great option for beginner gardeners, loropetalum are easy to grow and require little maintenance.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 10.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade.
  • Soil Needs: Slightly acidic to acidic.
View Article Sources
  1. Thompson, Richard. "Gardening for Health: A Regular Dose of Gardening." Clinical Medicine, vol. 18, no. 3, 2018, pp. 201-205., doi:10.7861/clinmedicine.18-3-201

  2. "English Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)." National Gardening Association.