There’s nothing quite like having your own private oasis of peace and greenery — but that garden quickly loses its magic if just about any stranger (or, indeed, neighbor) can freely peek into your cozy deck, barbecue space, or even straight past the yard and into your windows!
You could opt to have giant walls installed around your perimeter, but you want your garden to feel like a little paradise, not a prison. You’ll achieve that by incorporating lots of greenery and other natural elements, and making full use of the natural landscape.
How to Create a Private Space
Plants will almost certainly be at the center of your privacy-minded garden, and if you’re hoping to take strategic planting to an extreme, you’ll select plants that cover your space from all sides — meaning not just around your entire perimeter, but also vertically and from above.
The point of it all? A space you can enjoy to your heart’s content, of course! You don’t just want cover. You want a beautiful garden for you and your family and friends to feel safe in — whether you want to drink a coffee in peace, or are planning to host large summer gatherings. Don’t choose function over form. Let’s have a look at other essentials for a garden that’s not just private, but also cozy.
Layer Your Plants
If you have a sloping garden, make full use of that fact. If not, layer low-growing and taller plants to create a stunning effect that also happens to keep the wrong eyes out. Ideally, aim for a more natural and romantic look that incorporates many different plant species — that way, if one plant species falls victim to a pest or fungal infection, you will be able to retain a barrier between your garden and the outside world. In more compact gardens, go vertical — use trellises or privacy screens, but also vertical planters.
Use Privacy screens
By mixing and matching greenery — in the form of shrubs, vines, and trees — with wooden privacy fences or screens, you can make sure that no part of your garden feels like an artificial wall designed solely to keep people and their prying eyes out. Make sure that you break up design features by adding different colors and textures. Consider willow screening rolls, which give a beach-like feel, for instance.
Privacy screens — perhaps with some lovely flowering vines growing on them — can also be used to create a discrete “room” around a seating area. On the inside, you’ll feel comfortable and cozy. Onlookers will just see a pretty picture.
To get the most enjoyment out of your garden, you’ll need a comfortable place to sit. Low seating is perfect for areas that have already been guarded by low to medium growing shrubs, and can create a romantic atmosphere — think lots of decorative cushions and a couple of ice teas on a low table!
A charming parasol or fabric canopy won’t just keep you and your guests safe from the sun — these overhead features also stop overlooking properties from seeing what you’re up to. In addition, when used right, they can be integral to your garden design. Some people have even hung curtains around their garden seating areas, creating a whimsical atmosphere.
Adding Decorative Plants to Your Privacy-Minded Garden
Of course, you don’t want the plants you choose for your garden to be tall, dense, and unwelcoming. You want to stop other people from peeking into your garden, but you definitely want your garden to be an oasis of peace for you. Make sure to choose an abundance of smaller plants, with different colors and features, to your garden.
If you do have actual walls around your garden, consider livening them up with clingy vines like the Virginia creeper, or choose trees that be trained to grow as espaliers to peek out above them. If you have already picked the best privacy plants for your garden, a good way to decide what other plants to add would be to look up what their perfect companion plants are.
Essential Elements Every Privacy Garden Should Have
Do you want to enjoy romantic dinners, entertain a bunch of guests, let your kids play freely, or even sunbathe in your garden? Whether you live in a rural area or an urbanized environment, you can always take steps to make your garden more privacy-focused — while simultaneously adding to its beauty. The key lies in planning. Design your privacy garden; never just run out to buy new living hedges after reading they’d increase privacy.
An effective and beautiful garden designed of maximum privacy should:
- Be filled with plants that match the scale of the garden space you have. Don’t just consider the plant’s current size, but also its mature spread and height.
- Contain a mix of evergreen and deciduous plants, shrubs, and trees — both to enhance the beauty of the garden, and to ensure that your privacy won’t be lost the minute fall hits.
- Make clever use of elements like wooden gates and fences, trellises, rocks, and slopes.
- Be designed with you in mind. If having a coffee on your deck, with your partner, kids, or a friend is important to you, your garden will look different than if you’re planning to entertain large crowds in your garden. If you have pets, keep their needs in mind as you design your garden, too.
Finally, thoroughly consider the angles from which your privacy might be invaded. Walk the perimeter. Drive by your property. Consider which neighbors may be able to look into your garden from a first-floor window. Then, go ahead and consider which plants are good candidates for your garden — living hedges should be tall and obscure the view into your garden while still letting some light through, but you will also want to add some climbers — which can be grown on trellises. If you’re looking to stop neighbors from looking into your garden from above, you’ll want some sort of canopy.
Ready to take a look at some of the best plants for a private garden? Keep reading!
Top 12 Garden Plants for Privacy
To create your very own “secret garden”, one that doesn’t just shield you from the outside world but that also looks and feels magical, you will always want to add a diverse mix of plants to your garden. We’ve selected 12 species that each offer unique benefits to the privacy-minded gardener, and we hope they’ll inspire you to keep exploring!
Pyracantha coccinea, commonly known as firethorn or the Scarlet Pyracantha, is a dense evergreen shrub from the rose family — which indeed means that thorns are very much included. This, and the fact that firethorn grows upright and can reach impressive heights of up to 18 feet (that’s over five meters!) make it popular not just for privacy, but also for security. The “pyr” in “Pyracantha” comes from the Greek word for fire, so just think of firethorn as a firewall for your garden!
Firethorn plants love warmer and dryer climates, and tolerate partial shade as well as periods of drought. They’re best put to use as a living hedge, around your perimeter, where their bright red berries will attract plenty of birds as well. If you have a sloped garden, it’s good to know that firethorn helps with erosion control, too.
Akebia quinata, commonly called five leaf akebia or the chocolate vine, is a twining woody vine that can become as tall as 40 feet (over 12 meters) with the right care. This plant can be deciduous or semi-evergreen, depending on the region it’s grown in, and the chocolate vine produces charming but muted blooms emerge in spring. The graceful foliage of the chocolate vine is just dense enough to increase your privacy, but not so dense that it won’t let any light through.
Chocolate vines are fast growers that can easily be trained to grow on trellises or gates and, as a nice bonus, they tolerate most climate conditions. Chocolate vines might keep your neighbors’ prying eyes away, but they do attract songbirds!
Many azaleas, or rhododendrons, are great candidates for a spot in a privacy-minded garden. Not only do these evergreen shrubs provide dense foliage, their flowers are also notoriously beautiful. Rhododendron indicum, also known as the Southern Indian Azelea, is one example. These shrubs can grow to be up to three feet (almost a meter) tall, spread equally widely, and give rise to showy pink or red blooms in the spring.
Azaleas prefer partial shade and don’t cope well with extremely nutrient-rich soils or moist conditions. Rhododendrons prove that you never have to sacrifice beauty to gain privacy in the garden — and many gardeners choose to keep azalea shrubs around purely for their decorative value. Watch out, though, because all parts of this plant are poisonous.
Weeping Willow Tree
Salix babylonica, usually called the weeping willow tree, is a fast-growing deciduous tree that is part of the Salicaceae family. The weeping willow tree is native to China and East Asia and can grow to be 30 to 50 feet (10 to 15 meters) tall and 20 to 40 feet (six to 12 meters) wide! Weeping willow trees are best known for their charming arching stems that are covered in many leaves. This tree’s blooms, small gold and yellow catkins, appear in late winter and spring. Weeping willows thrive in moist conditions and need six or more hours of direct sunlight each day.
Weeping willow are a wonderful option for people who want to shelter their gardens from their upstairs neighbors, and make for an excellent centerpiece! Create a neat little reading nook in their shade, and you won’t have to worry about big brother watching you.
In northern and more temperate regions, American Holly (Ilex aquifolium) is a very attractive option for gardeners who want more privacy as well as a perpetually festive look in their gardens. When allowed to grow to its full height, American Holly — also known as Christmas Holly — can grow as tall as 30 feet (nearly 10 meters). American holly is also often trimmed into a living hedge, however, and their prickly serrated evergreen leaves (which are glossy and beautiful, by the way) will help to deter unwanted visitors.
American Holly produces striking orange to red berries during the fall and winter, bringing a slice of Christmas into your garden!
Baby Gem Boxwood
Baby Gem Boxwood shrubs (Buxus microphylla ‘Japonica’) are a mainstay in any supremely-manicured garden, where they are typically trimmed into a mounded shape to create a beautiful landscape or to mark a property boundary. These charming evergreen shrubs are, at just around four feet (a meter) tall and just as wide, an understated choice for a privacy hedge. If you’re looking for more coverage, Baby Gem Boxwood is best planted in an arrangement with taller shrubs and trees. These evergreens are hardy to colder regions with lots of winter frost, and resistant to deer. They are easy to grow and prefer full sun to partial shade.
If you are looking for taller evergreen shrubs, meanwhile, you can explore related cultivars like Buxus sempervirens ‘Arborescens’ and Buxus sempervirens ‘Aureovariegata’ (which also has amazing variegated leaves).
Wisteria’s absolutely gorgeous and fragrant bluish and purplish flowers make it a must-have that is not only great for privacy, but an incredibly attractive addition to any garden. Wisteria is a deciduous vine that belongs to the Fabaeceae family, and since it’s a fast grower, you won’t have to wait long for it to begin providing coverage.
There are two types of wisteria — one which is native to Asia and the other to America. Wisteria vines are poisonous to humans and pets such as cats, dogs, and horses and are also high-maintenance plants. The colorful flowers of the wisteria attract pollinators, and are great for gardeners who want to liven their garden up. Wisteria vines can grow to be around 10 to 25 feet (three to eight meters) long and four to eight feet wide with the proper care. These vines will need at least six hours of sunlight and thrive in clay and loam soil.
The large flowers of the wisteria vines are a perfect addition to your privacy garden as long as you’re willing to look after it well. Because wisteria does require support, it will need a sturdy arbor. Incorporate this beautiful plant into your garden around a spot you’re planning to use to entertain guests — who wouldn’t want to enjoy a nice glass of wine in the company of a fragrant and charming vine?
Flowering Dogwood Tree
Many of the dogwood (Cornaceae) species make for wonderful ornamental shrubs, as well as being suited to mass planting to create a living privacy hedge. The more compact red twig dogwood, which produces striking berries and has amazing red stems, deserves an honorable mention. When it comes to privacy, however, you sometimes have no choice but to go tall.
Cornus florida, more commonly known as the flowering dogwood tree, helps you reach that goal. The flowering dogwood tree reaches heights of 30 to 40 feet (10 to 12 meters) and spread even more widely. Often planted along country roads in warmer regions like Florida and Texas, flowering dogwood trees are beautiful throughout the year. They bloom in spring, during which time they have showy white bracts concealing smaller flowers, and display vibrant orange fall colors. In the winter, you will be able to enjoy the view of their beautiful fruits.
Birds love flowering dogwood trees, and so will you if you live in a warm, dry climate — you can choose from nearly 100 different cultivars, and planting them along your boundary will keep people driving by from peeking into your garden.
Japanese Flowering Cherry
Japanese flowering cherries (Prunus ‘Kansan’) are stunning ornamental trees with beautiful fragrant blossoms, and the fact that these notoriously striking blossoms take up a lot of space make them perfect for privacy-minded folks who would prefer people to stare at cherry blossoms, and not into their property. For full strategic value, plant this tree in a spot where it will prevent people from peeking into your windows, but a good distance away from any foundational walls.
Prunus trees can grow to be 25 to 36 feet (eight to 11 meters) tall and 25 to 30 feet (eight to nine meters) wide, and they bloom in the spring. Japanese flowering cherries are deciduous trees from the Rosaceae family that also grow drupe fruits.
Dwarf Pink Almond
The dwarf pink almond (Prunus glandulosa) — also called the flowering almond — is a deciduous multi-stemmed shrub that is native to central and southern China and Korea. The flowering almond typically grows to four to five feet (one to one and a half meters) tall and three to four feet wide. The flowers are pink and white in color, blooming in spring, and also attract pollinators to your garden.
As a fairly low-growing shrub, flowering almonds can be layered to create privacy in the garden. Their growth is extremely dense, so nobody will be able to see through it. Add a bird bath nearby, and you’ll be inviting an abundance of feathered guests while keeping the humans away.
Parthenocissus quinquefolia, more commonly known as the Virginia creeper or woodbine, is a highly aggressive woody vine native to North America. These fast growers produce striking dark berries that also happen to be extremely toxic, and can quickly reach lengths of 50 feet (15 meters) or more, whether they grow as ground cover plants or as climbers. Despite their attractive foliage (some cultivars have deep purple leaves), these deciduous vines are often considered unwanted weeds.
Hear us out, though — if you’re looking for a low-maintenance privacy plant, the Virginia creeper will never let you down. (Nothing quite says “you’re not welcome here” like a plant that can literally kill people, after all.) Prune any Virginia creeper you add to your garden aggressively to keep it away from trees, from which these vines will steal sunlight, but freely encourage it to grow on a trellis or privacy screen, where its dense foliage will keep folks from peeking in. These plants tolerate shade very nicely, and attract birds.
Forsythia, also called golden bells, is such an obvious choice for a privacy plant that we saved it for last — you already know about this one! These tall flowering shrubs give rise to stunning, abundant, and very dense yellow blooms in the spring time. If you’re planting shrubs to keep prying eyes away, you might as well give them something beautiful to enjoy!
The height and spread of forsythia shrubs depends on the exact species, and while forsythia typically grows upright in a fan-like manner, cascading varieties also exist. Most forsythia species grow to be two to 10 feet (half a meter to three meters) tall and wide. They are often planted as a living hedge, but can work well as accent plants or centerpieces as well.
Designing a garden with privacy in mind is a serious undertaking — and you will always want to balance your desire for privacy with the ornamental value of the plants and other features you decide to add to your garden. Before you get started, it is important to do your homework. All plants, shrubs, and trees that make the cut should be able to thrive in your climate and in the soil type your garden provides. Taller plants can block out sunlight, so keep that in mind as well as you pick the right set of plants — the vertical growth you have going on could rob your smaller decorative plants of the light they need.
In addition to foliage, you will want to incorporate features like screens, fences, and fabrics. These will break up the wall of green you’re building, adding visual appeal.