Privacy with Plants

Privacy is a big concern in our gardens. While we love our neighbors (ok, we hope to be lucky enough to love our neighbors), having that private space when you are outside is important to what a garden is all about. None of us want to build a ten foot wall all around our property, but fortunately, there is a better way. Using plants to create privacy is not only a friendly way to keep out prying eyes of passers-by, it also makes your garden space more green! And who doesn’t want more green in a garden? No matter what your style or taste, there are plants that can be used in the ground or in movable containers, that stand on their own, or can be trained to grow up and over a structure. Use evergreen for year round privacy, or use a plant that drops it’s leaves in the winter and let’s in all that light. (Are you really gonna be out by the pool then anyway?)) Think ornamental grasses or climbing vines, trees, bamboo or shrub hedges. Whatever the privacy needs are for your space, there is a plant that can provide it! Our feature photo below, is a great example of using a hedge row of ornamental grass as a privacy fence. Photo from ‘Knibb Design‘.

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Want an evergreen choice that doesn’t look like a Christmas tree? Try “Dwarf English Laurel”, like in this photo from ‘The Tree Center‘. Glossy green shrubs like these grow in a tight and dense form, giving you complete privacy. Ask at your local nursery for a broad leaf evergreen shrub that grows 4-6 feet tall that works well in your area.

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A lot of us love bamboo, but it can be a lot of maintenance if you plant it in the ground, as many kinds spread out of control very quickly. You can remedy that by only planting clumping bamboo, (check the nursery tag) or better yet, plant it in pots. It makes a light and airy privacy screen that can be moved where needed. We couldn’t find a source for this photo, so if you know where it’s from, please email us!

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From ‘Hometalk‘, this flowering privacy wall was installed by a contractor, but there are plenty of “Living Wall” planter products available that would make a version of this DIY’able. Keep in mind, depending on where you live and what flower you plant, this wall may only be pretty 3 seasons a year.

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This plant privacy idea from ‘Ivy Clad‘ is using the technique of “pleaching”. Apparently around since ancient times, pleaching involves weaving the overhead branches of plants together so that they form one unit. This is great for keeping the feeling of the garden open, yet blocking off unsightly views at eye level. Plus, it just looks so cool. ;)

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From ‘Botanical Events‘, these fruit trees have been espaliered onto a trellis in planters for a really gorgeous privacy screen that is edible! I imagine the blossoms on these trees smell (and look!) heavenly in the spring as well.

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In the western U.S., one of the most common evergreen shrubs is the emerald green ‘Arborvitae’. Why? Because they make excellent year round screening. Plant a hedge of them along a property line, or group 3-5 in a corner to block off a less than desirable element in the neighbors yard. Photo by ‘Old Heritage Garden Center‘.

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More modern plants can be used for privacy as well. These horsetail plants have been around since the dawn of time, and make a great architectural statement in the garden. Photo from ‘Revive Landscape‘ by Lori Brookes.

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This vertical garden from ‘Balcony of Dreams‘ is created inexpensively with garden netting and climbing plants. Great for urban areas as the plants are in pots and offer greenery to all the neighboring families.

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Another option for climbing plants is to use the evergreen English ivy. These living fences from ‘Impact Plants‘ give you year round privacy screens with an English garden look.

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Image Credits: Knibb Design, Tree Center, Hometalk, Ivy Clad, Botanical Events, Old Heritage Garden Center, Revive, Balcony of Dreams, Impact Plants




  1. GardenGlove Admirer says:

    Excellent suggestions!

  2. I love the ornamental grass featured in the article ‘Privacy With Plants’. I’m just wondering what variety of grass it is?
    Love the articles you feature in The Garden Glove. I produce a newsletter for my small, local garden club (in Australia) and get many good ideas from you.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. I love the idea of plants for creating screens, especially the ornamental grass. In one picture I saw some kind of weaving of the blades. How is that done I wonder.

  4. I also love these ideas, but hate that someone has to airbrush and doctor a photo to make me think I can do the same thing. In the espaliered fruit trees in the white planters, if you click on the photo you can see all the limes on the trees are cut in half, (really!!!). and the brown supposed pine straw or hay or whatever is airbrushed in the pot. Just show me a real picture, so I know if its possible to make it look anywhere near the picture. I have accomplished a few things from pinterest without failure, so I want to know that growing a nice privacy screen will also work…..

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      We just noticed this after you pointed it out, good eye! While we wouldn’t normally want photoshopped photos, there is nothing about this photo that can’t realistically be achieved… I would rather have my limes whole, thank you very much, and anyone can put mulch into a pot… So I don’t think its misleading. However, thanks for bringing it to our attention, there are some cases where that could indeed make a big difference!

  5. Which one of these would be good for a fully shaded area?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Both English Laurel and English Ivy would work well in the shade, though the Laurel would prefer at least some sun or a partially shaded area. Ask at your local nursery for ideas for shade that grow well in your area. Hope that helps!

  6. I too would love to know the name of the big, soft, whisky grass at the beginning of this article. I love it!

  7. BEST one of them all: The English Ivy Fence!!! I can see this as being a nice permanent and affordable fence in a very windy area… We have very strong winds at our house (sometimes daily at 35 miles per hour…) from fall to early spring, then it dies down over the summer… but I always worry about putting up a much needed privacy fence, because I see it as being tipped or blown down over time by these winds! I also think that simply installing posts and stapling the wire grid fencing to these posts will be very cost effective and much cheaper than the other fencing options we have available to us… ALSO, VERY LOW MAINTENANCE!!!!! No cleaning or painting (unless you decide to paint the posts, which I think I will paint mine a neutral white and cap them with bird houses, solar lights and decorative caps alternating….) We could easily do a living hedge, but some areas are narrow with other trees planted… I started by planting Nelly Stevens Holly, but it is taking forever to grow, and it was supposed to be a fast grower! I have been living here for over 3 years and I want privacy now… so, I showed this to my husband and he likes it, so it is a go!!!

  8. Karen Gregory says:

    Since no one will give us an answer on the whispy type grass, another option would be
    ” Mexican Petunia’s”, the only difference is they have a dark purple/brown stalk the plant stalk looks and grows just like this green plant in the planters, however Mexican Petunias have foliage and flower year round here in Georgia, especially if fertilized monthly, just not as many blooms without fertilizer, they have sworded shape leaves( dense) and they produce small quarter size purple blooms that tend to close up at dusk and re-open in the mornings, they do multiple, if protected from frost they will survive and if you don’t cut off anything other than necessary they will keep growing taller and pretty fast. A great yard plant to hide those ugly electrical boxes and a great idea for this same concept in garden pots, think I will try it just bought four yesterday at Home Depot for another project but I think I just changed my mind.

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Actually, I did guess at ‘Miscanthus’grass in someones else’s comment earlier, but thank you for the suggestion!

  9. Chris Shoop says:

    Help! Suggestions for one that will survive the weather in Lubbock, TX, please: hot and dry and some snow in winter. Thank you.

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Hi Chris,
      Several of these will do fine for you in your area, but the Miscanthus grass (first photo) would be my top pick for you! Hope that helps!

  10. It looks like Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ without the blooms. It grows 4 – 7 feet tall and has thin grass blades.

  11. The English ivy wall… Could morning glory be planted to grow on a wall of the ivy or would the ivy just kill the morning glory I made a wall of morning glory once pretty flowers and great looking wall for summer then dead vines all over intwined in my fence in the fall

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Since morning glories are annuals in most climates, I think they could dress us an ivy wall really well… But you are right, when they die back in the winter, they will eventually have to be pulled down.

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