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Planting for Privacy

Updated: Apr 4

Why does everyone have arborvitae in their yards? Landscapers love it. For those trying to obscure the view of nearby neighbors, this evergreen shrub provides privacy in a hurry. Aesthetically it's one of those plants that blends in...very "residential".

A major problem for me (and many others) is that deer love it. They eat all the branches within reach, leaving a top heavy, ugly monstrosity.

Then two epoch snow storms come and squish them all to the ground.

Some might be upset by this, but I'm glad...they were ugly to start. As they say, when God squashes an arborvitae, he opens a window.

There are many deer-resistant alternatives to arborvitae that create privacy in your yard. Whatever you choose, be sure to keep in mind your property line- you don't want to plant so close that your shrubs might grow into your neighbor's yard. Pay close attention to the mature width of the shrubs you choose, and take this into consideration when choosing the installation location.

Privacy Please! Shrubs for creating a screen.


The skinniest of the group, this evergreen shrub can grow up to 15' but stay only 2' wide. Look for the "arrow" series at your nursery...each comes in a variety of heights depending on your needs. This shrub can handle drought, and birds love the silvery blue berries.


A personal favorite, you'll see viburnums pop up in many of my lists. This is a great option if mature width isn't a restriction. This large deciduous shrub is native to our region so it has few disease or pest issues. White flowers in the spring, berries in the summer, and colorful fall foliage means three seasons of beauty for your yard.


The only non-shrub on the list. Fast growing and deer resistant, ornamental grasses can provide privacy in a hurry. The rooting is shallow so it's a great choice for planting close to foundations or AC units. The drawback? Grasses need to be cut down in late fall or early spring so new grass can grow the following season. So classify this option as "fast growing but semi-permanent"


A great choice for wet areas. There are many varieties of dogwood shrubs, but a personal favorite is "Red Twig"- they have beautiful bright red stems that serve as a welcome in pop of color against the winter snow. The shape of dogwood could be classified as "free-form", so if you're looking for a neat and tidy symmetrical shrub this might not be the right choice for you.


A classic garden shrub that grows in an upright shape. You don't have to be a plant enthusiast to recognize it's iconic blooms and fragrance in the spring. When making your selection be sure to pay close attention to the height- some varieties can grow over twenty feet tall. Also be sure to choose a variety that indicates resistance to powdery mildew ("Miss Kim" is a popular option)


This flowering shrub mimics the upright growth of lilac. Large, saucer shaped flowers bloom in profusion in the late summer months. There are many colors to choose from- white, pink, fuchsia, even blue! A word of warning: Japanese beetles love these, so if they're present in your yard you might want to choose something else.

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