15 Beautiful Shrubs for Privacy

well-groomed yew (taxus) and boxwood (buxus) shrubs
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Living fences provide privacy from neighbors, and studies also show that gardening helps to combat air pollution and the climate crisis—so, go ahead and plant that long-anticipated wall. When choosing shrubs for privacy in your landscape, look for ones that grow densely, and don't forget to take into consideration how much maintenance they require. Some grow relatively fast while others may demand more of a time investment (still, they're worth it in the end).

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 tips of an arborvitae against blue sky
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This evergreen shrub maintains its golden color year-round and, once established, doesn’t require much pruning. With its pointed top, slow-growing arborvitae can reach about five feet in height. Its thick branches provide plenty of privacy, and for a good long while (it lives 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 on bright-green grass
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Reaching only two to four feet, English yew plants may not grow as tall as other privacy shrubs, 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 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-drained.
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American Holly (Ilex opaca)

Holly bush with red berries beside a building
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American holly is a large evergreen shrub that can grow 40 to 50 feet tall and 20 to 40 feet wide. Its signature dark-green, leathery leaves with pointed edges have come to be associated with holiday decor, but this North American shrub also flourishes 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)

Close-up of pink wax myrtle flower clusters
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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 eight feet tall by eight feet wide, though it does reach heights of 20 to 25 feet in rare cases. While it doesn’t necessarily need regular pruning, this shrub responds well to it and can be pruned into almost any shape. It grows fast, as much as five feet each year, and bonus: It's 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 growing tall against a wooden fence
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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 grow even taller if not pruned regularly.

A hardy, tolerant shrub, forsythia can handle full sun to partial shade but will need at least six hours of full sun daily to reach its fullest flowering potential. As long as it drains well, the plant can tolerate most types of soil.

  • 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 with flowers spilling over wooden fence
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One of the most well-recognized and popular flowering shrubs, the Nikko blue hydrangea can easily grow 12 feet tall and wide. 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. They also do well in containers.

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

Close-up of northern bayberry leaves bright in the sun
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When mature, this deciduous shrub can reach about 10 feet tall by 10 feet wide. Native to Canada and the eastern U.S., the northern bayberry is recognizable by the strong aroma that its dark green, glossy leaves emit when crushed. It loves sandy or peaty soil but can grow in a wide range of environments. It's highly tolerant to drought and salt spray and blissfully easy to take care of.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun.
  • Soil Needs: Slightly acidic, moist.
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Boxwood (Buxus)

Well-groomed boxwood shrub near the water's edge
David Burton / Getty Images

Evergreen boxwood is one of the most popular shrubs to use for decorative hedges, outdoor living walls, or privacy "fencing." While this shrub's dense leaves are often pruned into perfectly manicured shapes, some can reach 20 feet in height if left to grow freely without interference. Boxwoods are 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)

Dark leaves of a cherry laurel shining in the sun

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Native to the southeastern U.S., cherry laurel is an evergreen shrub that can grow 15 to 35 feet tall—and it often grows twice as wide. Its dainty white flowers pop up in the early spring and attract butterflies and bees (even in shady spots). Its signature dark bark is nearly black in color, but be careful: 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 with bright-right leaves

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This hybrid evergreen shrub changes its leaves from bright red to dark green as it matures, giving it unique multicolored foliage while it's still young. Because it's a fast grower, gaining one to three feet of 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)

Close-up of beautyberry shrub blooming purple flowers
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The bright-purple berries that pop in summer or fall are where the beautyberry gets its name. These perennial bushes range from three to six feet in height. They're 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 bordering a curving stone 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. The leaves are dark green during the spring but turn into a lovely red color in the fall. In the summer, these shrubs will produce fruit that attracts birds. They don’t require regular pruning and grow more densely in 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)

Close-up of Canadian hemlock shrub's drooping evergreen needles
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Candian hemlocks are grown as trees in most of North America but as towering privacy hedges in many suburban areas. 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 to 7.
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun.
  • Soil Needs: Acidic, moist, and well-drained.
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Japanese Camellia (Camellia japonica)

Boxy camellia hedge with pink flowers against blue sky
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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. The shrub itself can grow between six 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)

Hedges bursting with purple flowers planted side by side
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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 a foot to 15 feet tall and spread between three and 10 feet in length. A great option for beginner gardeners, the loropetalum is easy to grow and requires very little maintenance.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 10.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade.
  • Soil Needs: Slightly acidic to acidic.

To check if a plant is considered invasive in your area, go to the National Invasive Species Information Center or speak with your regional extension office or local gardening center.

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.