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.

An annual or semi-annual pruning is key to shaping fast-growing plants into a hedge. Many of these prodigious growers can quickly get out of hand if you neglect to prune them regularly. A privacy hedge need not be taller than 6 feet (in most cases), so be sure to prune for height as well as width and overall shape.

  • 01 of 17

    Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea)

    Redtwig Dogwood

     

    Mark Turner / Getty Images

    Its leaves are gone. Its berries have disappeared. Its flowers are absent. It is winter, and yet 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 finest 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.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, fertile, moist soil
  • 02 of 17

    Mock Orange (Philadelphus coronarius)

    Philadelphus coronarius (sweet mock-orange, English dogwood) white flowers
    aga7ta / Getty Images

    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

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, loamy soil
  • 03 of 17

    Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

    Blossoming lilac
    vav63 / Getty Images

    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.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Loamy soil
  • 04 of 17

    Forsythia (Forsythia)

    Close-Up Of Yellow Flowering Plant
    Olga Strogonova / EyeEm / Getty Images

    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 some of the earliest spring flowers.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Loose, well-drained soil
    Continue to 5 of 17 below.
  • 05 of 17

    Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis)

    Cotoneaster bush with small red berries and glossy green leaves
    IB_photo / Getty Images

    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.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 7
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, well-drained, evenly moist soil
  • 06 of 17

    Beautyberry

    beautyberry tree or American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) transition of unripe green to ripe purple or Beautyberry Shrub with Purple berries
    nitimongkolchai / Getty Images

    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. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 7
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, rich soil
  • 07 of 17

    Diablo Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)

    Physocarpus opulifolius diabolo or ninebark foliage with white flowers
    skymoon13 / Getty Images

    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. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 7
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Clay or loamy soil
  • 08 of 17

    Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)

    Many branches of flowering spring willow
    Sviatlana Lazarenka / Getty Images

    Forsythia may be one of the earliest heralds of spring, but it's not as early as pussy willow, which displays its characteristic fuzzy white catkins even before the arrival of forsythia's yellow blooms. You can also try another willow shrub that grows quickly, Flamingo Japanese willow

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, loamy soil
    Continue to 9 of 17 below.
  • 09 of 17

    Loropetalum (Loropetalum chinense)

    Green Chinese Fringe Flowe backgrund
    Supersmario / Getty Images

    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.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 10
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained, loamy, acidic soil
  • 10 of 17

    Arborvitae (Thuja)

    Thujas
    MariuszBlach / Getty Images

    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 large privacy hedges is the fast grower 'Green Giant', which can reach 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. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 7
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained, loamy soil
  • 11 of 17

    Yew (Taxus)

    Taxus baccata European yew is conifer shrub with poisonous and bitter red ripened berry fruits
    Iva Vagnerova / Getty Images

    One 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. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 10
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to shade, depending on type
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained soil
  • 12 of 17

    Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)

    Green Foliage of the Evergreen Coniferous Weeping Eastern Hemlock Shrub (Tsuga canadensis 'Pendula') in a Park
    pcturner71 / Getty Images

    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 Canadian, or Eastern, hemlocks. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Sun Exposure: Part sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist soil
    Continue to 13 of 17 below.
  • 13 of 17

    Burning Bush (Euonymus alata)

    Leaves of burning bush shrub starting to turn fall color.
    Barry Winiker/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    Burning bush may be the poster child for invasive bushes in North America. It is a fast grower with a terrific fall color that ranges from red to pinkish-red. Burning bush also produces reddish-orange berries in fall. Just be aware that this is an invasive shrub and should be planted with care.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Sandy, loamy soil
  • 14 of 17

    Leylandii (Cupressus × leylandii)

    fence with shrubs
    Garden fence with leylandii (Cupressocyparis leylandii) hedge. Stephen Shepherd/Getty Images

    Also known as leyland cypress, leylandii is a hybrid of Alaskan cedar and Monterey cypress. It is an aggressive grower, capable of growing up to 3 feet per year, and it gets a bad rap for being difficult to handle. However, if you keep up with annual or semi-annual pruning, leylandii makes an excellent privacy hedge or windbreak.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 10
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part sun
    • Soil Needs: Clay, loamy, sandy soil
  • 15 of 17

    Amur Maple (Acer ginnala)

    Picture of the Amur maple
    Image by daryl_mitchell via Flickr

    Like most maples, the amur maple is prized for its brilliant fall foliage, but it's also a fast-growing shrub that makes a great privacy hedge as well as a winter windbreak. The most popular cultivar for hedges is 'Flame', which grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 to 8. It can grow up to 2 feet per year and needs only an annual pruning to keep its shape.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Clay or loamy to sandy, well-drained soil
  • 16 of 17

    Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)

    Cherry laurel in bloom.
    Martin Siepmann/Getty Images

    Cherry laurel, also commonly called English laurel, is a good option for those in relatively warm climates, as its hardy only to zone 6. In ideal conditions, it can grow up to 3 feet per year. Its glossy green leaves are evergreen and do not change color in fall. Creamy white flowering clusters bloom in spring.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
    Continue to 17 of 17 below.
  • 17 of 17

    Privet (Ligustrum)

    privet flowering plant
    Nenov / Getty Images

    The privet is the quintessential (or at least the most familiar) privacy hedge plant. It grows quickly, prunes nicely, and has flowers that lead to fruit clusters that last through the winter. While Ligustrum vulgare was once the most common type of privet planted, it has lost popularity to some of the more ornamental varieties, such as Japanese privet (L. japonicum).

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained soil