Fences make good neighbors, but privacy hedges might be even better. Shrubs and trees tend to be cost-effective, lush and green, and you’ll never have to deal with sanding or staining them.
Plus, a privacy hedge can grow taller than a fence and block out those pesky kids, dogs or naked hot tubbers next door.
Even if you adore your neighbors, creating more privacy in your landscaping will add value to your home and give you a retreat to enjoy for many years.
Here are some ideas for your privacy hedge, including how to plant and care for the skip laurel, my privacy shrub of choice.
Note: This article contains affiliate links. See my disclosures for details.
Best Shrubs and Trees for Privacy Hedges
You’ll probably want to choose plants that are dense, evergreen and hardy in your climate. Consider these popular choices.
Arborvitae trees are affordable and provide instant privacy. With their columnar shape, they grow nice and tall without taking up too much yard space, and you can find full size options each spring at Costco.
As a kid I was an arborvitae hater, because they were overused in my neighborhood (mostly by my family, who planted them like they were money trees).
Over time, I have softened to the idea of the arborvitae hedge. Try complementing your arborvitae with flowering shrubs and dwarf evergreens.
Related: 75+ places to order plants online
Mixed Pine Trees
A wall of pine trees is the fancier alternative to the arborvitae hedge. You can pick a variety of evergreen pines in different sizes and foliage colors to create a beautiful year-round display.
Check the mature height and width to make sure they won’t outgrow your space. Pine trees can get incredibly tall.
The pieris is more often used as an ornamental shrub, but you can plant several in a row to create a flowering, evergreen privacy screen reaching about 12 feet tall.
They have a disheveled look when left unpruned. I prefer to give them a rounded haircut.
Related: How to prune a pieris like a tree
Many varieties of rhododendrons will give you 10 feet of height or more. They are happy in the shade and burst with pretty flowers in the spring.
Where I’m at in the PNW, rhodies practically take care of themselves. They are evergreen but will drop a few leaves throughout the year, so they may need some raking.
Laurels are serious hedge plants. Like labyrinth material.
They can grow to be ten feet thick, so you need to make sure you have the room in your yard. But if you want a dense, evergreen hedge, this is the winner.
There are several varieties. English laurels have broad leaves and are rapid growers of up to three feet per year. Bay laurels provide aromatic bay leaves, and Portuguese laurels are hardy in coastal areas.
My local nursery had a healthy supply of 6-foot skip laurels, AKA Prunus Laurocerasus Schipkaensis. This fast-growing, shade-tolerant shrub was just right for my yard, so I bought nine to create a green wall.
Planting Your Privacy Hedge
OK let’s plant some shrubs!
It’s best to plant a privacy hedge in the fall or spring, when the weather is mild and the rain will do most of the watering for you.
1. Measure and Plan
Measure the space where you want to plant your privacy screen. Decide how you want to space your privacy shrubs and calculate how many you’ll need.
Even though skip laurels can grow up to 8 feet wide, it’s OK to plant them closer together to get that screen effect sooner.
I ended up spacing mine about 4.5 feet apart on center. They still have plenty of room to grow, but they should grow together in a year or so.
2. Mark Planting Areas
You may want to run a chalk line. We used spray paint to mark the placement of our skip laurels.
3. Dig Holes
Pop out a shrub to check how big the root ball is, and dig each hole twice the size of the root ball. Our skip laurels were in HUGE pots, but the actual root ball was more manageable than expected.
4. Fertilize and Plant
Mix in compost or slow-release fertilizer with the soil. Laurels don’t need a ton of fertilizer, but some nutrients can get them off to a good start.
Plant your shrubs with the top of the root ball level with the ground.
Tamp down the dirt to help hold them in place, especially if you are planting 6-foot beasts like I did. My laurels were so big and heavy that some of them leaned after watering, until I tamped them down firmly.
5. Water and Enjoy
Water thoroughly and regularly until established. Then kick back and enjoy the sweet serenity.
Before and After
Here’s my side yard before planting the privacy hedge. There wasn’t much separation between yards except for a wire fence.
We had an overgrown yew tree crowding our neighbor’s deck, and a tiny yew tree that refused to grow at all. We removed both of those and planted nine skip laurels.
Now it feels like a private woodland escape. We left room behind the laurels so they won’t crowd our neighbor’s yard, and everyone can enjoy the new greenery.
Skip Laurel FAQs
The skip laurel is a tough, fast-growing privacy shrub that can tolerate a variety of growing conditions.
My side yard is mostly shady with some scorching hot rays in the afternoon. It was tricky finding plants for this area, but the skip laurels are loving it so far.
How big do Skip Laurels get?
Depending on their personal happiness levels, skip laurels can reach 10-18 feet tall and 5-8 feet wide.
How fast do Skip Laurels grow?
Skip laurels can grow two feet a year. Wave goodbye to your neighbors!
What kind of lighting do Laurels need?
Skip laurels will handle anything from full sun to full shade. Most laurels tolerate sun and partial shade, making them a dream hedge plant for any part of the yard.
How often do Skip Laurels need to be watered?
They are drought tolerant once established but need regular watering at first. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. I’ve been watering mine a couple of times a week.
Do Laurel shrubs need to be pruned?
You don’t have to prune them, since they look fine in their natural state. But they do handle pruning well if you want to give them a modern box shape, or if you need to keep them from overcrowding an area.
Why are the leaves turning yellow?
After you plant your skip laurels, you may notice some of the leaves turning yellow. This is probably from the shock of planting, especially if they’ve been bound in burlap for a while. Just give them time to adjust.
Leaves may also turn yellow if they are under watered, over watered, have too much fertilizer, or too little. So it’s a fun guess-and-check game for you.
Why do the leaves have holes?
If you see holes appearing in some of your skip laurel leaves, you probably have a party of slugs enjoying the free buffet. This shouldn’t hurt the plants, but you can start a slug relocation program to combat the issue.
Once your privacy hedge is complete, you might also like these other ideas to spruce up your landscaping.
- How to create privacy around your hot tub
- 101 ways to beautify your backyard
- How to build a landscaping berm
4 thoughts on “Planting a Privacy Hedge, AKA Your New Favorite Neighbor”
Loving your new privacy hedge! (And…I know you will enjoy seeing this “new neighbor” out your kitchen window. 😉 ) I know it was alot of work to get these all planted but now you can sit back and enjoy your side yard! Here in Las Vegas they use Oleander bushes alot for privacy hedges. We have 5 along our backyard wall. They come in several colors like Rhodies. CA uses them everywhere on their freeways for separation “fences”. You guys did good! Excellent choice and looks great!!
Great tip about the oleander bushes! I was wondering what was used in more southern areas.
I’m excited we finally got our privacy hedge installed. It’s been on my wish list for years. I tried growing yew trees here, but one died, and one never grew at all.
It will be fun to watch these laurels take off! I know they do well here because I see them in yards all over Portland.
Tara, I do love an arborvitae hedge. Plus I really miss rhodies. Here in Florida arborvitae do well, but the podocarpus makes a great hedge with tall slender trees. Similar in effect to Italian cypress.
I really miss spring in the NW. I hope it’s being spectacular for you.
The podocarpus looks like a nice hedge plant! I like Italian cypress, too. If I ever do a Mediterranean garden, that will be top of the list.
It’s been an unusually warm couple of weeks and the spring flowers are all very happy here. You would love it!