Evergreens make wonderful, quick hedges and privacy screens. Some mature quickly into dense hedges and others develop with you, over time. When planting your living screen, don't plant in a straight line. Zig-zag the trees to give a fuller effect and to allow the trees to get air and the sun. This will also help the hedge give with the wind, preventing breakage and wind tunnels.
Choose a couple of your favorite evergreen varieties. It's wise to plant more than one variety of evergreen in a border so that disease and pests won't destroy the whole planting. Here are some top choices.
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Long a European favorite, boxwood respond very well to pruning and shaping. Besides making great hedges, boxwoods are a favorite tree for topiary. The tiny, evergreen leaves remain tidy when clipped. Korean boxwood is proving to be hardier than the English varieties. Prune in late spring, as new growth darkens. It is suitable for USDA Zones 5 to 8. Size varies with species and they prefer full sun to partial shade.
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Yew (Taxus baccata)
Yew makes a dense hedge that responds well to pruning. Overgrown yew hedges can often be restored by hard pruning in late winter. Many yews used for foundation plantings remain squat. T. baccata grows to 6 feet tall and 16 feet spread, making it great for hedging. The uniformity of a yew hedge makes a great wall for enclosed gardens. It is a slow to medium grower. It is suitable for USDA Zones 5 or 6 through 8. Yew likes full sun to partial shade.
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Arborvitae 'Green Giant' (Thuja 'Green Giant')
Arborvitae "Green Giant" was introduced by the U.S. National Arboretum. You can grow it in almost any soil conditions, from sand to clay. It forms a pyramid shape and requires no pruning. It is pest resistant and even deer resistant. For a quick hedge or windbreak, plant them 5 to 6 feet apart. For a more gradual hedge, plant them 10 to 12 feet apart. They are suitable for USDA Zones 2 through 10 and like full sun. These fast-growers can reach a height of 60 feet and a spread of 20 feet.
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Popular for their glossy green leaves, and bright red berries, hollies look best if kept trimmed and full. Only the females set berries, but you’ll need a male to cross-pollinate. There are some new varieties that don’t require two sexes. Hollies prefer an acidic soil and the addition of peat or garden sulfur may be necessary. The American holly is more widely adaptable than the English. It is a medium grower, reaching a height of 6 to 10 feet and a spread of 5 to 8 feet. Plant hollies 2 to 4 feet apart. It is suitable for USDA Zones 5 through 9 and prefers full sun to partial shade.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Firethorn (Pyacantha coccinea)
Firethorn can be a bit unruly, but it still looks striking in the landscape. It is an evergreen with white flowers in spring and orange-red berries from summer into winter and is popular for Christmas decorations. This drought-tolerant plant likes full sun to partial shade. Plant firethorns 3 to 4 feet apart. They are fast growers and can reach a height of 8 to 12 feet and a spread of 3 to 5 feet. Prune if necessary, after flowering. They are suitable for USDA Zones 5 or 6 through 9.
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Leyland Cypress (x Cupressocyparis Leylandii)
The Leyland cypress is a columnar evergreen with flat scale-like leaves. It makes a tough privacy screen or windscreen that is salt tolerant and likes full sun. Many new cultivars are being bred for bluer color, variegation, and more feathery foliage. It is a fast grower and you can prune to shape it as new foliage deepens in color. It is suitable for USDA Zones 5 through 9. It can reach a height of 60 to 70 feet and a spread of 15 to 20 feet.
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Variegated Japanese Laurel
Also known as the gold dust tree, Aucuba japonica "Variegata" has leathery pale bright green leaves mottled with yellow variegation. This tree is a standout, especially when used to light up a shady area, which it prefers. "Variegata" is a female and requires a male for pollination, to produce red berries. Good choices include "Mr. Goldstrike" and "Maculata." This laurel likes a moist soil but can handle periodic dry spells. It is a slow grower that can be pruned in early spring to summer. It can reach a height of 6 to 9 feet and a spread of 3 to 5 feet. It is suitable for USDA Zones 6 through 9.
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The more upright cotoneasters can be used to form a solid hedge. Several cotoneaster species are evergreen or semi-evergreen, especially in USDA Zones 7 and higher. They like full sun to partial shade.
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- C. lucidus: 6 to 10 feet tall. USDA Zones 6 through 8
- C. glaucophyllus: 3 to 4 feet tall with a 6-foot spread. USDA Zones 7 through 9
- C. franchetii: 6 feet tall with a 6-foot spread. USDA Zones 5 through 8.
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Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica)
Nandinas are popular in the Southern U.S., where their fall/winter berries are the most striking. However, Nandinas are tougher than their delicate foliage would suggest. White spring flowers come in hydrangea-like panicles and are followed by bunches of red berries. The foliage blushes red for fall and winter. They are medium to fast growers and can be pruned before new growth. Expect a height of 5 to 7 feet and a spread of 3 to 5 feet. Heavenly bamboo will do well in USDA Zones 6 through 9. They prefer full sun.
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A classic hedge plant, not all privets are evergreen. The dense foliage responds extremely well to pruning and can be pruned after flowering. Most have white summer flowers followed by black berries. Privet is very adaptable and will grow in just about any conditions, from full sun to shade. USDA Zones vary from 3/6 to 7/8, These fast growers reach a height of 15 feet and a spread of 5 to 6 feet.