When planting shrubs to block unwanted views or provide privacy, choose taller plants with dense foliage. You can grow a series of plants and prune them into a hedge, or mix the shrubs in your privacy border. Although many trees and shrubs make good privacy borders, most require full sun. A few exceptions will thrive in low light.
The deciduous Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) shrub grows up to 8 feet tall and may spread 6 feet wide. This rounded shrub, with dark green leaves, produces fragrant white flowers in July and August that attract bees and butterflies. In autumn, seed capsules invite birds. They need moist, well-drained soil. Although these plants will thrive in full sun, Joey Williamson of Clemson University states that they also flower well in full shade.
The American boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) commonly grows about 10 feet tall with very dense foliage. Because they tolerate heavy pruning, landscapers often use the boxwood for formal hedges or foundation plantings. The boxwood needs moist, well-drained soil but will not tolerate flooding. Although it may live in full sun, it prefers shaded areas.
The deciduous blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium) will grow up to 15 feet tall and spread up to 12 feet. In summer, cream-white flowers cover the shrub followed by edible rosy fruit that turns black. The blackhaw viburnum does well in any soil and is drought tolerant.
The evergreen Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) will grow to 60 feet tall and spread 30 feet. Because they are so large, intersperse these with lower, faster growing shrubs for an interesting privacy border. This tree needs moist well-drained soil and will not tolerate drought. Alex X. Niemiera of Virginia State University warns that you will need to spray the tree periodically to protect against the hemlock woolly adelgid, an insect that will kill the tree if not controlled.
The evergreen Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata) has very dark green needles, and some cultivars will grow up to 40 feet tall. Landscapers appreciate their ability to thrive in the shade and their lack of insect pests. They will thrive in most soils, but need good drainage. The Japanese yew will tolerate severe pruning to keep them at the preferred height. According to Diane Relf of Virginia State University, most parts of the yew are poisonous, including the seed inside the berries.