by Jennifer Poindexter
QUESTION: What bushes make a good living fence? We have a side of the house where we’d like to grow something to hide a neighbor’s ugly chain-link fence and give us some additional privacy at the same time. – Angelica M
ANSWER: There are quite a few trees and shrubs which work for this purpose. I’m going to share a detailed list with you.
This way, you can pick which options work best for your set-up. Here are the shrubs (and a few trees) which work well as a living fence:
Why a Living Fence?
Before we dive into the plants that work best when creating a living fence, some may wonder why even create this type of fence. What are the benefits of living fences versus a regular fence? Can’t you just put a few fence posts in the ground and attach purchased fencing?
You can but some people prefer something a little different. Here are a few reasons why you might consider planting a living fence:
- It adds natural beauty to your home.
- Living fences are effective in providing wind protection, keeping unwanted guests out, providing privacy, and can also be lighter on your wallet.
- This style of fence invites pollinators and birds to your property.
- Helps prevent soil erosion better than a regular fence.
However, you should be aware there are some drawbacks to this style of fence. Namely, you must prune certain varieties of plants to keep your fence neat and tidy in appearance.
A living fence also takes time. This won’t be something you plant and have an effective fence in a week. As with all plants, these must grow to be able to produce beauty and serve their purpose. This will take patience on your part.
Now that you have a greater understanding of why a living fence may (or may not) work for you, let’s discuss which plants are best for the job.
Lilac bushes are a favorite when creating a living fence for multiple reasons. First, they smell wonderful. If you’d like a fresh lilac scent when you step outside of your home, this bush can provide it.
Also, this shrub comes in a variety of colors and grows quickly. Therefore, if you need a beautiful and fast-growing living fence, lilacs could be an excellent choice.
2. Weeping Willow
Weeping willows are gorgeous trees that are frequently chosen for a living fence. The reason being is you can plant the trees in such a way that the branches intertwine.
This can create a wonderful privacy fence or even a unique privacy tunnel around certain portions of your yard. These are cold hardy plants and are known for growing quickly, too.
Euonymus is frequently selected for a living fence because of its colors and adaptability. This shrub is an evergreen and will grow to be as tall as eight feet.
It produces gold and green foliage. Plus, it grows well in most climates and can even tolerate growing in low-quality soil.
Laurel is another favorite of many gardeners because of its classic style and durability. This bush comes in a variety of sizes.
It’s also an evergreen, so it will add beauty to your landscape year-round. If you need a hardy plant that will keep your home private and gorgeous, this could be the shrub variety for you.
5. Hicks Yew
Hicks yew is a common choice for a living fence because of its unique design and ability to keep your home lively without being too flashy.
This shrub produces spiky green dense foliage. It’s an evergreen, so it will stay brightly colored all year — a great feature for a living privacy fence. During the winter, hicks yew produces red berries. Overall, this plant is low-maintenance. However, it can brown if exposed to too much winter wind.
Some people want a living fence to provide privacy, while others desire beauty and a fresh fragrance. If you’d like all three, the Juniper could be for you.
This plant comes in many fragrant varieties. They produce beautiful berries which attract birds, and work well as natural windbreaks. Be mindful not to prune the juniper bush too heavily as this can cause dead spots in your fence line.
Boxwood is perhaps one of the most traditional shrubs used to create a fence line around homes and near property lines. The downside to this shrub is it takes time for them to grow.
However, once they’re established, they’re durable. These evergreen shrubs produce thick branches which are hard for anyone to see or climb through.
8. Thuja Trees
Thuja trees are an excellent choice for a living fence. They come in different varieties with varying heights.
They also grow quickly and are an evergreen tree. If you need a living fence, which also provides protection from the wind, the thuja tree could be a good choice for you.
In my area, many people grow bamboo as privacy screens. It’s a durable plant that has a variety of uses. If you need a fast-growing fence, this could be a great option.
Bamboo is low-maintenance and, as mentioned, grows quickly. However, it can spread quickly, too. Keep a close eye on it to ensure it doesn’t spread outside of the designated growing space.
Do you live in an area that is plagued with pests? You need a cactus. This plant makes a wonderful living fence.
You can pick between singular or multi-branch varieties. They have few problems with pests and are wonderful at keeping unwanted guests at bay.
Hydrangeas are large bushes known for the oversized blooms they produce. These bushes come in an array of colors that are sure to brighten your landscape when in bloom.
Since hydrangeas reach a height and width of eight feet, they could make a wonderful fence. Keep in mind, they lose their leaves in fall. Therefore, this won’t provide privacy year-round, but the seasonal flowers look terrific.
Privet is another traditional option for creating a fence line. It’s an evergreen bush that does produce flowers.
These blooms form in the spring and early summer which is great for drawing pollinators to your area. This shrub is dense and can be pruned to create different shapes. They make great live barriers between properties.
Many people love to grow forsythia around their home because of the stunning yellow blooms. This plant puts on quite the show in early spring.
If you’d love to have a living fence that’s show stopping during certain portions of the year, forsythia could be for you. It can also provide quite a bit of privacy since this shrub can grow to be nine feet tall.
14. Nigra Arborvitae
Nigra arborvitae is a tree, but when considering creating a living fence, it must be mentioned. This evergreen plant grows in a triangular shape.
It can grow as tall as 30 feet, so it should be great for creating privacy and providing some protection from the wind.
When I was growing up, living fences were the norm for many homes. Holly bushes were a popular natural barrier for creating this look.
If you’d like a traditional shrub to create a living privacy fence, don’t forget about holly. It’s an evergreen shrub that grows well in all climates. It produces vibrant red berries and has thick, spiky branches and not usually bothered by insects because it is very hardy.
16. Butterfly Bush
I’m a huge fan of butterfly bushes. They produce gorgeous blooms and are a wonderful way to draw pollinators to your yard.
Even more important, this shrub is drought-tolerant and will bloom from spring through fall. If you’d like a colorful living fence, consider planting butterfly bushes. They really do attract butterflies, by the way! They are relatively deer resistant.
17. Italian Cypress
The Italian cypress is another tree that you frequently see used in creating living privacy fences. These plants grow as tall as 70 feet.
Though they aren’t known for their density, they can be spaced in a way that still provides privacy. Plus, they’re great at providing wind protection. If you need a little height to your living fence, consider planting this tree instead of a shrub.
18. Burning Bush
The final plant on our list is the burning bush. This option is great if you’re looking for a vibrant pop of color as the foliage of this plant turns red during the fall.
Burning bush comes in different varieties which range in height. The dwarf varieties grow to be approximately three feet tall. The full varieties can reach heights of 20 feet or greater. You may also prune the bushes into a hedge, if this is your preference.
You now have many options for shrubs (and a few trees) which are great for creating a living fence. Whether you’d like this fence for privacy or for a windbreak, hopefully, this list has left you inspired.
Now, figure out which plant best suits your needs, check into its growing conditions, and start creating your dream living fence to brighten your home.
Learn More About Living Fences
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