The best trees for privacy hedges

Written by elizabeth tumbarello
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The best trees for privacy hedges
Holly trees create a thorny hedge. (holly image by david hughes from

Use nature to block out noisy neighbours, messy lots or unsightly commercial developments. Trees may be slow to establish, but are ideal for this purpose because they last a long time and are fairly hardy against the environment and weather. Choose trees with a wide spread to form a dense privacy hedge.

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Two cultivars of hemlock are commonly used in privacy screening: Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and Carolina hemlock (Tsuga caroliniana). Both are evergreen trees. Canadian hemlock is recommended for privacy hedges by both the University of Kentucky and University of Tennessee Cooperative Extensions because it has a graceful appearance. Canadian hemlock grows between 30 and 70 feet tall with a 25- to 35-foot spread. Both produce slim, streamlined cones. Males produce yellow flowers and females produce pale yellow-green flowers. The Canadian hemlock has a pyramidal appearance. Plants are delicate and are not drought tolerant. Their gentle appearance is caused by an open habit, which means Canadian hemlock does not provide a 100 per cent dense privacy screen. The Carolina hemlock is recommended by the University of Tennessee Cooperative Extension as an alternative to Canadian hemlock, particularly in urban areas. Carolina hemlock matures and grows slower than Canadian hemlock, but has stiffer, denser branches.


The University of Tennessee recommends American holly (Ilex opaca) as another evergreen tree suitable for privacy hedges because it is relatively resistant to most pests and diseases. This tree performs well in both sun and shade, but thrives in partial shade in well-drained soil. American holly reaches a mature height of 15 to 30 feet with an 18- to 20-foot spread. Holly can be trimmed to the desired shape and density. American holly has shiny green, pointed or spiked leaves. Male hollies produce flower clusters in dull greenish-white. Females produce single flowers. Both sexes are required for the production of berries, which appear red. American holly grows in a columnar shape, though may also appear pyramidal or conical depending on type. There are more than a thousand different cultivars of American holly to choose from.

Eastern Red Cedar

Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is described by the University of Tennessee Cooperative Extension as a "tough tree." Eastern red cedars are suitable for privacy hedges, growing between 20 to 40 feet tall with a 10- to 20-foot spread. These trees prefer full sun and can adapt to a range of soil types and conditions. The colour of the leaves, the fruit produced and the canopy shape are dependent upon cultivar. Eastern red cedar, in addition to forming a privacy hedge, also attracts birds by offering food and shelter.

Hicks Yew

The Hicks yew (Taxus x media 'Hicksii') is recommended by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension as a plant ideal for providing a total screen. Hicks yew trees thrive in well-drained soil and adapt to a variety of sun conditions from full sun to deep shade. Hicks yew trees grow up to 20 feet at maturity with a slender spread and columnar shape. While these trees do flower, the flowers are inconspicuous. Hicks yew trees produce fleshy red berries. The seeds and leaves of the Hicks yew are considered poisonous to children and animals. The Hicks yew is purported to take up little space.

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