• Block neighbors’ view from their second-story windows: Opt for mature, tall evergreens for year-round privacy. Plant tall, upright trees: American holly, Leyland cypress, cedar, pine (note size and circumference of the tree at maturity and choose accordingly).
  • Block street views: Use shorter, thicker shrubs and hedges. Plant fast-growing shrubs: Red and yellow twig dogwood, American hazelnut, forsythia, Chinese privet.
  • For security: Thorny hedges are dense, and the “ouch” factor discourages intrusion (you’ll want to consider these carefully if you have small children). Plant: Spanish bayonet (yucca), roses, flying dragon (poncirus), firethorn (pyracantha).
  • “Oohs” and “aahs”: Combine ornamental trees, hedges, and trellises of flowering vines for a living privacy screen of year-round beauty. Ornamental hedges: Burning bush, purple lilac, tri-color willow. Ornamental trees: dogwood, Japanese maple, smoke tree.
  • Small, confined areas: Tall grasses and bamboo work well to screen patios and garden sitting spots. Tall ornamental grasses: plume grass (Erianthus ravennae), maiden grass.

Get in the zone

Where you live makes a big difference in what you plant. The U.S. Department of Agriculture plant zone will help you decide.

Climate and soil conditions are key. If you’re unsure of local conditions, hire a landscape architect or landscape designer to help develop a plan, or ask your state cooperative extension service for advice.

How much will it cost?

Traditional fencing for an 70-by-90-foot lot could run $3,000 to $5,000, depending on materials. Privacy screening plants for the entire perimeter easily could cost double that, especially if you use a landscaper.

You can use smaller—and therefore cheaper—plants, but your privacy will be limited until they grow. Buy in bulk for the whole yard, and you’ll get a better deal.

How long you plan to stay in the house matters, too. Some plants grow several feet in a year. Stick around for a few years and you’ll have a full-grown privacy screen.

Here are two cost estimates for a 50-linear-foot lot line:

  • Five young 2- to 4-foot American holly plants at $50 each (they’ll grow to 10 feet wide) will cost $250.
  •  Mature 6-foot evergreens with a 3-foot spread could cost $150 each. You’ll need 16, for a total cost of about $2,400.