Not everyone is that eager to build a bulky fence, but a great many of us are pretty eager to maintain our privacy. It’s nothing against our neighbors, but whether you have an acre between you or just a few feet, you want to enjoy your home without worrying about your neighbors (or passersby) looking in on you – a tree is the best form of privacy!
Some of the best fastest-growing trees for a privacy barrier include Thuja Green Giant, Leyland Cypress, Hybrid Poplar, Weeping Willow, and Silver Maples.
You can count on any of these trees to grow at least 2 to 5 feet every year!
Of course, those aren’t your only options. There are plenty of great, fast-growing trees that you can use instead of a privacy fence.
We have an extensive list of the best trees to grow for privacy, and we’re also going to tell you what you need to know about choosing the right one, and how to grow your choice properly.
How To Choose The Best Privacy Tree For Your Space
Before we get started into which trees we’ve suggested as the best for when you need a privacy screen and fast, let’s look into what should guide your choices before you plant.
Of course, your choice will depend on several factors:
- Your local climate
- The amount of maintenance you’re willing to commit to
- Type of soil
- The amount of sunlight you have available
- The appearance you’re looking for
- The amount of space you’re trying to screen (as well as how much room you have to plant).
Let’s talk more in detail about these below!
While these might sound like complicated things, USDA hardiness zones (also called growing zones) are more straightforward than you might think.
Once you narrow down your top choices, make sure to do a quick google search on your local hardiness zone! From there, check out your selections’ preferences, and which USDA zones they can grow in.
Maintenance Is Key
Maintaining trees on your property is a necessity, even when you grow low-maintenance trees.
First, consider whether you’re willing to prune your trees just once a year, or if you’re okay with bi-annual maintenance. Of course, that’s also assuming that there isn’t any damage or infections between regular maintenance.
All trees need some maintenance. However, some need significantly less than others.
If you have other trees and use a service, adding some trees or creating a plan for their care shouldn’t be that much extra effort.
In case you plan on doing the maintenance yourself, you need to know what you’re getting into, and how and when to properly prune your tree.
Get To Know Your Soil Conditions
The good news is that no matter what kind of soil you have on your property, there’s almost certainly a tree you can use for privacy fencing (and that you can count on to grow pretty quickly, too).
The key to success in this area is knowing first what kind of soil you have. Is it loamy, sandy, or does it have a high clay content?
Does the soil drain quickly or does it tend to hold a lot of water after a deep watering? And then, you also need to look at your soil’s nutrient content. Although to be fair, you can always use soil amendments and add extra nutrients and fertilizer to better cater to your new trees.
A good general fertilizer for trees is Humboldt’s Secret Golden Tree, so depending on which type of soil you have, you may have to add nutrients with fertilizer to make it ideal for the tree you’d like to plant!
Full Vs. Partial Sun, Explained
A lot of people are confused about what full sun and partial sun mean. Let’s clear it up right now!
Full sun, by definition, is at least six hours of unobstructed, unfiltered sunlight, every day. Partial sun is at least four hours in direct and unfiltered sunlight every day.
Let it be known that for plants that need full sun, six hours of intense sunlight is really considered the bare minimum. Most of these plants are more than happy to get a few more hours of direct sun if you can provide it.
And get this, there are actually tools you can purchase like this VIVOSUN Soil Tester, 3-in-1 Plant Moisture Meter Light and PH Tester, where you can measure the sun in your chosen planting area!
Adding A Screening Area
A lot of the considerations of the screening area are pretty close to the other requirements your tree will need: soil conditions, sunlight, spacing, etc.
However, sometimes you need a line of trees that have enough width to replace a fence entirely. Other times, you may be looking for trees to cover the area above your fence, which isn’t already covered.
If you’re looking for trees that cover the typical area that you would instead place a fence in, look for trees with a wide, bushy growth habit- such as many evergreens.
Other trees, like the silver maple and poplars, are great for privacy screening, and they grow very quickly. However, they grow the majority of their bulk near the top, rather than having it evenly distributed from bottom to top.
Tree Have Different Hardiness And Tolerance
USDA hardiness zones are one thing, but a tree’s overall hardiness and tolerance for other conditions are another things altogether.
Being aware of the stresses and conditions around you is key when you select trees for privacy.
Naturally, there are seemingly endless conditions you may have to factor in. However, you can narrow your concerns down to some of the most crucial.
Here’s a list of things to consider and check trees’ tolerance for:
- Salt – this is especially important if you’re screening large portions of your property from the highway or bodies of saltwater.
- Drought tolerance – it can be difficult to irrigate a large area of screening and even more so if you live in a dry climate.
- Cold tolerance – plenty of trees tolerate cold to a certain extent. However, many trees also lose their leaves as the season’s change. Decide if you’re willing to deal with losing part of your privacy screening for part of the year.
- Soil – it bears repeating that you need to know the kind of soil you have to plant trees in. Some trees will tolerate almost any kind of soil, while others are extremely sensitive.
The good news is that you can usually find a fair balance of tolerance and sensitivity in any kind of tree. You just need to know the conditions you’ll plant in, and find a tree that suits your needs.
What Is The Best Fast Growing Tree For Privacy?
Now you should have an idea of what to look for when you choose trees for privacy. Assess your needs, and the environment you can provide, and you’re on the right track.
Next up, we’re going to dig deeper into the details of each tree on our list. You’ll find a list of fast-growing trees you can use for privacy screening, as well as the conditions you can plant them in, and what types of screening they can offer you.
So, read on if you’re ready to find the right trees for protecting the privacy of your property.
1. Green Giant Arborvitae
Also known as Thuja, the green giant arborvitae is a popular installment for people that want more natural privacy screening.
These are beautiful evergreens with a classic green shade and a somewhat conical or pyramid-like growth pattern. Unlike other evergreens, they have a more distinct, broad bottom that gradually tapers to a tidy point.
These are great if you want to completely replace privacy fencing with trees, and want color and coverage all year long.
Another great thing about using green giant arborvitae for privacy is that they don’t need much space between them to grow healthily. You really only need to give them ten feet at most, and a few feet minimum. That also means that you can get a lot of coverage with very little space between trees.
These trees are pretty hardy and easy to care for. However, they don’t do as well in areas that have significant salt exposure and prefer full sun, although will still grow well in partial sun.
Another thing to note about these trees is their mature size, wherein they can grow up to 60 feet tall and reach a width of up to 20 feet at most, and 12 feet at minimum.
Need-To-Knows About The Green Giant Arborvitae:
- Grows up to 3.5 feet per year
- Very little space between planting (3-10 feet)
- Evergreen, provides color and coverage year-round
- Cold, snow, and ice hardy
- Ideal for zones 5-7
- They are salt sensitive and need well-draining soil, but otherwise very soil tolerant
- Partial sun is acceptable, full sun is ideal
2. Silver Maple
Silver maples are a classic tree, beloved for their leaves, the shade they provide, and their bushy growth habit. You’ll often see them sprinkled throughout public parks, yards, and even lining residential streets.
Another thing people love about these trees is the seasonal color changes that bring light to each changing season.
Something you will love about them is that they grow fairly quickly, and gain at least two feet per year until they reach maturity. Not only that, you don’t need to plant very many to get a good amount of privacy around your yard.
Now, one thing you do need to know is that all maples are deciduous trees. That means that they also lose their leaves in autumn and winter, sometime after the leaves change color.
Of course, the leaves come back in the spring. However, you won’t have the exact amount of coverage in the colder months.
The good news is that these trees still have pretty thick branch growth, so you’re not going to lose all of your privacy coverage.
For a deeper look at how fast your maple tree will go, take a look at our maple tree timeline!
Need-To-Knows About Silver Maple Trees:
- Grow at least 2 feet per year
- Deciduous – they will lose trees in colder months
- Tend to grow large trunks, and large, expansive root systems
- Recommended to grow away from sidewalks, driveways, and roads
- Can grow up between 50 to 80 feet tall, and up to 50 feet wide
- Best with full sun or partial shade
- Tolerates both drought and flooding (to an extent).
- Best growth in damp, slightly acidic soil
3. Weeping Willow
Is there any other tree that quite evokes visual poetry like the weeping willow?If there is, there’s not likely to be one that you can also use as an effective, fast-growing privacy screen quite like this one!
Because of the prolific spread of their drooping branches, not to mention their staggering height at maturity, weeping willows make a particularly effective tree to plant for privacy.
Here’s another great reason to plant weeping willows: they absolutely thrive in wetter environments where you just can’t plant most other trees.
A note of caution, however: you need to be prepared for just how big these trees can really grow, for more information on where they grow best – check out our article where willow trees grow!
Need-To-Knows About Weeping Willow Trees:
- Minimum growth of 2 feet per year, but can grow prolifically, with up to 4 to 8 feet per year
- Grows exceptionally well by water
- Tolerates most types of soil
- Best in full and partial sun
- Loses leaves in colder months (leaves do grow back quickly when spring comes)
- Grows well in USDA zones 6 to 8
4. Hybrid Poplar
Now, let’s talk about the hybrid poplar. It’s by far one of the fastest-growing trees to plant as a privacy screen. In fact, the rapid growth is almost unbelievable. These trees can grow up to a staggering 5 ½ feet per year. Yes, you read that correctly- over five feet per year.
While hybrid poplars don’t have as dense of a growth habit as some of the other trees on our list, they do work as fairly efficient privacy trees.
Ultimately, they can reach up to 30 feet wide and 50 feet tall. And while they are a hybrid of poplars and the classic cottonwood, they don’t produce that troublesome cotton seed that the latter does.
Another bonus! They have an exceptionally large growing zone tolerance. They are equally suited to USDA zones 3 through 9.
While these are all, undeniably, ideal conditions for a fast-growing privacy tree, there are a few small caveats.
It does need full sun, and it’s a little pickier about its soil than some of the other trees on our list. If you can provide full sun, and wet soil, and handle some occasional replanting, it’s hard to beat this tree.
Need-To-Knows About Hybrid Poplars
- Extremely fast growth- from 5 to 8 feet per year
- Doesn’t produce bothersome cotton fluff
- Shorter lifespan, but also useful to grow for firewood and grows quickly once replanted
- Tolerates both acidic and alkaline soils, but needs moist soil
- Wide growing zone, USDA 3-9
- Does need full sun for optimal growth
5. Leyland Cypress
Leyland Cypress trees are another great, and fast-growing tree you can plant for privacy. In fact, these rival the hybrid poplar in terms of the fastest-growing trees on our list.
These are pretty dense evergreens, although they have a more slender shape than you might expect from your typical spruce or pine tree. Leyland cypress trees are ideal if you want thick coverage that lasts throughout the year.
If you’re considering planting a cypress, make sure to check out our article on the common places cypress trees grow, to make sure your cypress will grow nicely in your location!
Beyond just that, the trees are also a great pop of color for your landscape, whether you’re looking at them in the spring or in the dead of winter.
They’re not just good for privacy or color either- they’re also great when you need a windbreak to protect other crops and structures on your property.
These trees grow to be quite large when you allow them to reach maturity (keep in mind that they are pretty popular during the Christmas season). In fact, they can get up to 70 feet tall and reach just between 15 and 25 feet wide.
If you want to plant trees close together, and want a lot of height coverage to give your property privacy from a distance, Leyland cypress just might be the choice for you.
Leyland cypress can also handle just about any kind of soil- including clay and sandy soil. So if you’re struggling to find a tree for privacy that can handle these difficult soils, you’ve found a match here.
It really depends on the conditions you provide it with, but at minimum, you can expect two feet per year. With optimal conditions, you can have trees that grow at least five feet per year.
Guess what else? They’re actually pretty salt tolerant, and they can even tolerate areas with significant pollution.
On the flip side, they do need a lot of sunlight to continue healthy growth.
Need-To-Knows About Leyland Cypress:
- Fast growth habit reaching up to 5 feet per year
- Salt and pollution tolerant
- Grows up to 70 feet tall and 25 feet wide
- Handles a wide range of soils
- Adapted to USDA zones 6-10
- Does need full sun for healthy growth
Leyland Cypress is one of the most common conifers in the USA, and it’s no wonder why with all the great things they offer.
6. Spartan Junipers
If you’re looking for something a little different that still maintains a classic look, spartan junipers are the way to go.
Spartan junipers aren’t the tallest trees on our list, but they do make for excellent privacy shields for your home.
Another nice thing about spartan junipers is their slim, pyramidal growth pattern. Because they only reach five wide at most, and at little as three feet wide, they’re easy to plant in close proximity.
These trees have a distinctly formal appearance, which makes them a favorite for planting along the edges of estates and large expanses of property. They have deep green needles that will last and thrive throughout the year without much maintenance needed on your part.
Find more info on the lifespan of a juniper tree in our article on how long junipers will last.
Need-To-Knows About Spartan Junipers:
- Evergreen offers privacy year-round
- No pruning required
- Drought, cold, and heat wave tolerant
- Ideal for zones 4-9
- Prefers partial shade to full sun
- Will accept most soil, but does need well-draining soil
Remember: Know Your Soil Type
While all of the trees on our list have very positive characteristics, it doesn’t mean you can simply plant one wherever you want– even if you have the right nutrients, sun, and soil.
Some species of trees are considered invasive in certain areas. Basically, this means that they can take over other important native species and therefore damage the natural landscape (and the creatures and plants that rely on the other plants for balance).
Always check to make sure the trees you plant are not considered invasive. And, always check in with a local professional if you need assistance in finding and planting a privacy tree!
That’s A Wrap!
We’ve listed the best, and fastest-growing trees to plant for privacy.
If you’re looking for the fastest-growing shade trees, we also got you covered! Head on over to our article to learn about the fastest-growing shade trees to give you privacy, and shade!
However, you do need to take into consideration your privacy needs (i.e. do you already have a fence, are you looking to replace privacy fencing altogether, or are you willing to sacrifice privacy for coloring for part of the year).
No matter what you choose, make sure that you’re not planting invasive species in your area.
After that, just make sure you have the right conditions to allow these trees to thrive!
Griffin, J. J., Blazich, F. A., & Ranney, T. G. (1998). Propagation of Thuja x ‘Green Giant By stem cuttings: Effects of growth stage, type of cutting, and IBA treatment. Journal of Environmental Horticulture, 16(4), 212-214.
Niemiera, A. X. (2012). Leyland Cypress, x Cupressocyparis leylandii.
Peterson, D. L., & Bazzaz, F. A. (1984). Photosynthetic and growth responses of silver maple (Acer saccharinum L.) seedlings to flooding. American Midland Naturalist, 261-272.
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