How To Design Your Landscaping for Privacy

We put a premium on privacy. We change our computer passwords often, use anti-virus software, and limit the personal information we share on social media. But when it comes to our backyard, seclusion is something we sometimes overlook – until we’re bothered by noisy or loud neighbors. With just a few tweaks, you can design your landscape for privacy. 

Trees, native plants, high hedges, and blooming shrubs are nature’s privacy screens, especially nice if you enjoy sunbathing or alone time in the hot tub. They’ll also provide you with the solitude you want and increase your property value.  

Landscaping for Privacy

Trees and Shrubs

Shade trees and shrubs provide privacy in spring, summer, and early fall — evergreens do so all year long.  Because trees grow in various sizes, their canopies may spread several feet wide.  Forget the idea of straight rows when planting trees and shrubs for privacy — it rarely works.  But mixing trees and shrubs protects your privacy screens from major losses like storm and wind damage, disease, or an outbreak of damaging insects.  

Pro tip: Plant fire-resistant shrubs such as Mock orange, Oregon grape, or red flowering currant to protect your home from wildfires as well as nosy neighbors. Ponderosa pine trees are another great addition since their needles hold moisture and are less likely to catch fire or make a mess in your yard. 

Before planting new trees and shrubs, design the layout with a plan to illuminate the landscaping.  If the area has no electrical outlets nearby, solar light sticks may help — but only if they are not blocked by thick foliage and tree canopies.  Solar sticks need to absorb eight or more hours of sunlight each day for lighting at night.


Evergreen and Deciduous Hedges

Tall shrubbery keeps prying eyes at bay, but before heading to the garden store, determine what grows best in your USDA plant hardiness zone.

Options to consider? 

  • Arborvitae — grows up to 30 feet tall.  Zones 3-8
  • Summer lilac (also called butterfly bush) — shrub with purple flowers. Zones 5-9
  • Forsythia — yellow blooms.  Zones 3-9
  • Viburnum — evergreen with white florets. Zones 5-8
  • Beautyberry — perennial with dark purple berries in fall.  Zones 5-8
  • Lilac — fragrant lavender spring flowers. Zones 2-8
  • Dappled willow — weeping shrub with colorful stems. Zones 4-10   
  • Pyracantha — bright clusters of red berries from fall to winter.  Zones 5-9. 

Outdoor Living Walls​​                    

Also called vertical gardens, outdoor living walls are structures usually made of wood, metal, or plastic with flowers, or vines, spreading through lattices and shelves. You can build a living wall yourself or buy a panel kit at the home improvement store. As the greenery thickens,  the colors brighten up your patio area.  Living walls also attract pollinating bees and butterflies for those serene, ethereal moments.

Tip:  Keep an eye on outdoor walls to be sure they are getting enough water.  Unless there is a drought, plants will get some moisture from rainfall, but it may not be enough.  Wall plants cannot draw moisture from the ground or nearby succulents.

Privacy Fence

Fencing comes in many sizes and materials. In the summer heat, wooden slats and bamboo won’t get as hot as iron or steel. They’re also more pet-friendly and better at keeping your dog or cat in the yard, and you can tack nails into them for guiding climbing ivy and trailing plants.  

Before hiring a fencing contractor, find out if there are legal restrictions as to what you can and cannot put on your property. For example, Seattle’s laws limit the size of fences around single-family homes. Contact your city or county and HOA to determine community ordinances and restrictions.

Landscaping for Privacy

Pergolas and Privacy Screens

Pergolas and trellises are excellent for privacy. Available in various sizes and materials, pergolas and trellises support hanging flower baskets, trailing plants, lightweight fabrics, and sunshades. Privacy screens cover up unsightly views, such as air conditioners, septic tanks, and garbage cans.  Portable, lightweight privacy screens are easy to move about when the late day sun hits your patio.

Hardscaping Extras

Now that you are designing the backyard for privacy, make it fun!  Build an outdoor kitchen, barbecue, or fire pit.  Stoned tiles are a nice touch for gardens and walkways. Add a water fountain to the backyard (complete with a koi pond). Retractable awnings give you privacy and relief from the sun. Pique your neighbor’s curiosity by installing a swimming pool … with a high fence around it.


Written by Lyle Campbell – Edited by Ashley Pasquale

Lyle Campbell is a home stager and freelance writer. He enjoys gardening and home projects and admits to having way too many power tools. Still, he can’t pass a hardware store without looking for the latest gadgets.


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