Hort Q&A: Privacy screen ideas

Carla Smith, horticulture educator
Pottawatomie County Extension Service

Do you have recommendations for a privacy screen?

Many enjoy spending time in the great outdoors. Blue skies and wide-open spaces are appealing. Some people, however, may love the outdoors, but prefer a bit of privacy. Using shrubs to create walls or screens in your landscape is one way enjoy the outdoors but still maintain some privacy. Many people may have had their privacy hedges damaged from our weather event last February. If you are considering planting, or replanting, here are some resources.

In addition to creating privacy, shrubs also can help hide things in the landscape such as water spigots or electrical/meter boxes. (Just make sure you are not blocking access and allowing proper clearance.) The nice thing about shrubs is they have longevity in the landscape.

As a bonus, the shrubs can provide additional benefits, such as reducing noise, blocking wind or dust, conserving energy, and improving water and air quality. They also can define a space, create habitat for beneficial wildlife and beautify the landscape by adding texture and visual interest.

When selecting a species for your screen or hedge, be sure to consider the adaptability to your region of the state, mature size (both height and width), the space available in the landscape, maintenance level and your overall aesthetics and function desired. Some of the plants lost last winter were on the edge of their comfort zone, or using proper terminology, their hardiness zone. Our area is hardiness zone 7.

For homeowners who have a desire for year-round screening to provide privacy or block an intrusive view, select broadleaf evergreens or conifers. However, if your goal is seasonal performance, such as acting as a privacy screen or reducing summer heat, a deciduous species may be more effective.

There are so many plant species and many varieties within a species, so your options from which to choose are broad. For those wanting a more formal, clipped hedge look, a few examples to consider include boxwood, firethorn, holly, abelia, arborvitae or yew. A great thing about some of these options is they also are great choices for natural hedges for those who don’t care for the formal, clipped hedge.

If you’re looking for something to serve as more of a background or screen, consider evergreens such as arborvitae, cherrylaurel, American olive, fringeflower, mugo pine, Japanese plum yew or waxmyrtle.

No matter what look you’re going for, shrubs are a great addition and provide multiple functions in your landscape. For a list of shrubs suitable for Oklahoma see our OSU Extension fact sheet HLA-6439 Selecting Shrubs for the Landscape. Now is a great time to plan and then plant in the fall!

Oklahoma State University, as an equal opportunity employer, complies with all applicable federal and state laws regarding non-discrimination and affirmative action. Oklahoma State University is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all individuals and does not discriminate based on race, religion, age, sex, color, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability, or veteran status with regard to employment, educational programs and activities, and/or admissions. For more information, visit https:///eeo.okstate.edu