17 Fast Growing Shrubs for Privacy

White lilac bush in bloom.

richgreentea / Moment Open / Getty Images

Fast-growing shrubs are a great choice for homeowners seeking quick privacy hedges. For that matter, homeowners simply hoping to enjoy stand-alone specimen bushes sometime in the not-too-distant future will also be glad to find plants as impatient for growth as are their owners.

  • 01 of 17

    Redtwig Dogwood

    Its leaves are gone. Its berries are gone. Its flowers are long gone. It is winter, and redtwig dogwood still stands out. Despite having lost so many features, redtwig dogwood may be at its best when nothing blocks the view of its best feature: its signature fire red bark color (the same applies to yellow twig dogwood, but in a different color). Looking at such a plant can lift your spirits on the gloomiest of winter days.

  • 02 of 17

    Mock Orange


    The wonderfully fragrant bush, mock orange is rather unfortunately named for what it is not, rather than for what it is. As the "mock" in its name suggests, mock orange is not a true orange. But the citrusy smell of its white blossoms is enough to invite comparison. Another white-flowered option is doublefile viburnum

  • 03 of 17

    Lilac

    Like mock orange, the traditional lilac is an olfactory treasure with fragrant flowers that you probably remember from your grandparents' yard. There are plenty of new cultivars available.

  • 04 of 17

    Forsythia

    There should be a special place in your heart for forsythias. When their flower buds start yellowing up, forsythia flowers herald nothing less than spring, itself. Among the bushes, they are among the earliest spring flowers.

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  • 05 of 17

    Cotoneaster

    The branching of rock cotoneaster is stiff and dense, giving the plant a rather bristly look. Stems shoot off the branches in what is often referred to as a "herringbone pattern," a term also used in hardscaping. The bristly look is significantly softened once the red berries appear, as your attention will be drawn to their fleshy orbs. But for a privacy hedge, go with one of the taller types of cotoneaster, such as C. lucidus.

  • 06 of 17

    Beautyberry

    Beautyberry is such a fast-growing bush that many recommend pruning it down to within a foot or so of the ground in early spring. The resulting new growth, laden with berries by autumn, is sufficiently large to make for a compelling display. 

  • 07 of 17

    Diablo Ninebark

    Even though ninebark was named for its bark, it is not in quite the same class as redtwig dogwood. The Diablo cultivar offers something beyond an interesting bark: dark foliage that makes it one of the so-called "black" plants. 

  • 08 of 17

    Pussy Willow

    If forsythia heralds the spring, well, in a clear case of botanical one-ups-manship, pussy willow tries to do forsythia one better. It foreshadows the coming of spring long before forsythia does. Pussy willow may lack in color (it has whitish catkins and rather uninteresting foliage), but it more than makes up for in other ways. You can also try another willow shrub that grows quickly, Flamingo Japanese willow

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  • 09 of 17

    Loropetalum

    Loropetalum's use is not restricted to the American Southeast, but that region may well be considered its "capital" in the New World, where it is evergreen and an immensely popular plant.

  • 10 of 17

    Arborvitae

    There are many kinds of evergreen arborvitae that are used in hedges (including the relatively small North Pole), and they do not all exhibit the same rate of growth. Therefore, not all arborvitaes are equally suited for use in privacy hedges. A good choice for privacy hedges is Green Giant, a fast grower. But Green Giant is just that, reaching 50 to 60 feet tall (with a spread of 12 to 20 feet). If you want a bush that is more compact and do not mind waiting a bit longer, Emerald Green arborvitae is a better option. The latter usually reaches just 12 to 14 feet tall, with a spread of 3 to 4 feet. Its foliage comes in flat sprays and, if you look closely, the needles appear covered in scales. 

  • 11 of 17

    Yew

    An advantage that yews have over many similar evergreens is that these shade-tolerant plants will thrive in north-facing foundation plantings, no matter how sunlight-deprived. Yet they can be grown in full sun, too. If you have small children, make sure they do not eat the berries: their toxic seeds classify yew as poisonous plants. 

  • 12 of 17

    Hemlock

    This is not the poisonous plant that famously killed the Greek philosopher, Socrates. Moreover, whether you think of hemlock as a tree or shrub may well depend on where you live. If you dwell in a rural area of North America, you probably know hemlock as a towering tree. But some of the finest privacy hedges in suburbia are composed of scaled-down hemlocks. 

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  • 13 of 17

    Burning Bush

    Burning bush may be the poster child for invasive bushes in North America. It is a fast grower with a terrific fall color. Its fall foliage color ranges from red to pinkish-red. Burning bush also produces reddish-orange berries in fall. But this invasive shrub is one of the most hated plants among gardeners.

  • 14 of 17

    Barberry

    As widely despised as an invasive shrub as the burning bush is, some have more of a bone to pick with barberry. Barberry spreads like wildfire in the forests of the Northeastern U.S., forming large stands in some areas. And try walking through a stand of these barbed bushes when you are out hiking—it is not a pleasant experience. This bush also lacks the beauty of the burning bush.

  • 15 of 17

    Butterfly Bush

    In the Pacific Northwest, it may be butterfly bush that most draws gardener and landscapers ire as an invasive shrub. There are plenty of other bushes that attract butterflies, so finding a substitute "butterfly magnet" should not be a problem. 

  • 16 of 17

    Lantana

    Northerners, who know it as a plant sold in hanging pots at nurseries, may be scratching their heads over the inclusion of lantana in this list. But in the Southeastern U.S., lantana is considered an invasive shrub. 

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  • 17 of 17

    Privet

    Here is another plant whose inclusion here among invasive shrubs may strike some as odd. What is more familiar than a privet hedge? If you were to write a dictionary entry for "privacy hedge," you would want to include a picture of privet. In this case, familiarity breeds not contempt, but acceptance. This fast grower is, indeed, considered an invasive shrub in North America.