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10 Best Tall Plants For Screening – Create The Perfect Privacy Screen

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I’ve been a professional gardener and worked at my family’s garden centre for over 20 years. If there is one thing most people want in their gardens, it’s privacy, and they usually want it yesterday. When it comes to privacy, I always recommend a handful of plants, which I’ve shared in this guide to help you choose the best tall plants for screening and creating much-needed privacy.

Clematis Montana i' ve used a number of times to provide screening and privacy
Clematis Montana i’ ve used a number of times to provide screening and privacy

There are a few things to consider when choosing the right plant to use as a screen, including the type of plants. Do you want a climber such as a Clematis montana as pictured above that will cling to an old fence or wall, or maybe a fast-growing shrub such as Photinia as shown below to add colour and create a screen in your garden to create some privacy?

Photinia red robin is perfect for creating an evergreen screen in the form of a hedge or trained against a wall
Photinia red robin is perfect for creating an evergreen screen in the form of a hedge or trained against a wall

Think of the eventual height and width of the plants – it’s essential for achieving the desired coverage without overwhelming your space. Maintenance is another factor to take into consideration; some plants may require regular pruning or sturdy support structures, especially climbers like clematis. Some shrubs require no support and minimal pruning, making them ideal for anyone looking for a low-maintenance screen.

Additionally, the choice between year-round privacy or seasonal coverage can significantly influence your plant selection. Do you need an evergreen plant, and are you happy to get masses of flowers in summer but little coverage in winter.

It would help if you also considered your garden’s position, which affects soil type, how much sun it gets and whether it’s shady, which are all critical factors when choosing the best plants to create a screen.

Forsythia make great screening and flower very early along with many spring bulbs when there not much colour around
Forsythia make great screening and flower very early along with many spring bulbs when there not much colour around

For sunny spots, the vibrant Forsythia or the evergreen Photinia ‘Red Robin’ are great options and two of my favourites, while the Ceanothus ‘Concha’, with its deep blue flowers, is perfect for adding summer colour as well as providing all year round colour. Dogwood is a good choice for shadier positions with its striking winter stems, and some varieties have attractive variegated foliage.

Bamboo planted in troughs and used to create a screen and a feature
Bamboo planted in troughs and used to create a screen and a feature

If you need exceptionally tall privacy screens, bamboos, with its towering, rustling elegance, offer a unique and fast-growing solution. I often see them used for this reason in zoos.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting, I’ve got some of my favourite recommendations below, which include Clematis, Forsythia, Bamboo, Photinia ‘Red Robin’, Dogwood, and Ceanothus ‘Concha’.


My recommnded tall plants for screening

  1. Clematis Montana
  2. Forsythia
  3. Fargesia Murielae Bamboo
  4. Photina Red Robin
  5. Magnolia grandiflora
  6. Dogwood (Cornus)
  7. Prunus Laurocerasus (Cherry Laurel)
  8. Cypress Trees
  9. Elaeagnus x  ebbingei (Silverberry)
  10. Ceanothus Concha (California Lilac)

Below you will find eight of the best plants for screening to integrate into your garden, starting with bamboo which also works well in pots for screening:

1. Clematis and climbers

Clematis are one of my go-to plants when creating a screen, and some varieties are fast-growing, making them an excellent pick for creating that tall screen of privacy. 

These climbers are a personal favourite of mine because of their masses of flowers and rapid vertical growth, making them perfect for screening unsightly areas or adding privacy. Clematis plants thrive in plenty of sun, but many will also do well in a semi-shade south-facing position. Typically, they grow to around 2-4 meters. It’s worth noting clematis prefer the roots to be in cool shade, so adding some mulch at the base of the plant or planting in a deep pot will achieve this.

My Recommended Varieties for Screening

  1. Clematis ‘Montana’ One of my favourites, this clematis is about as low maintenance as they come. This hardy climber, known for its masses of pink or white blossoms in late spring, can reach impressive heights of up to 20-30 feet, making it ideal for covering large spaces.
  2. Clematis ‘Jackmanii’: One of my favourites, ‘Jackmanii’ has large stunning velvety purple flowers. It’s hardy and reliably produces masses of flowers every year.
  3. Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’: With striking pink and lavender striped petals, Nelly Moser adds a splash of colour and is another favourite of mine. It’s a good choice for partially shaded areas and south-facing walls.
  4. Lonicera ‘Henryi’: This isn’t actually a clematis but is an evergreen honeysuckle. It produces large, creamy white flowers. It contrasts beautifully against its darker foliage.
  5. ‘The President’: This clematis is easy to grow, making it a great choice for beginners. Beautiful large early flowering silvery blue flowers.

Clematis plants are relatively easy to grow. They prefer well-drained soil and a sunny spot with some shade at the base. Depending on the variety, regular watering and annual pruning will encourage growth and flowering. With minimal care, these plants can transform your space into a vibrant, living wall of colour with heights of up to 4 meters.


2. Forsythia

Forsythia

Forsythia, for me, is a sign that spring is here as it bursts into colour with golden-yellow flowers before many other plants have begun to wake from winter. They usually flower at about the same time as many spring bulbs. 

It’s an excellent choice for screening purposes and is often used as an informal hedge. With its dense, fast-growing habit, forsythia can quickly form an effective privacy barrier, reaching eventual heights of 8-10 feet and spreading almost as wide.

Forsythia’s adaptability to various soil types and its tolerance for both full sun and partial shade make it a versatile choice for many gardeners. It thrives best in well-drained soil but can struggle in dry soil. When it comes to pruning, the best time is right after the flowers fade, as forsythia flowers on the previous year’s growth. A gentle trim each year not only keeps the shrub’s size in check but also encourages healthier, more prolific flowering in the following season.

Forsythia
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2. Fargesia Murielae Bamboo

Known as the umbrella bamboo for its shape and design, this variety reaches an average height of 4 metres and provides tightly grown groups of bamboo stems thanks to its clumping method of spreading.

Known as the umbrella bamboo for its shape and design, this variety reaches an average height of 4 metres and provides tightly grown groups of bamboo stems thanks to its clumping method of spreading. It should be spaced about 1.5 metres apart when grown for screening, but rest assured it will quickly spread in and fill the spaces you have in between. In fact, with its growth habit, you will find hundreds of canes growing out of even the smallest region. It typically circumvents the issue of the V shape other bamboo plants commonly produce which is why it offers more of an upright habit that is perfect for creating screening compared to other varieties. 

This bamboo provides thick foliage, needs partial shade, and will survive under the most severe of conditions to which bamboo can be exposed. You can trim 20% of the leaning canes every June and watch as the plant comes back upright and new the following year. It also works well when planted in larger pots as screening too.


2. Photina Red Robin

Photinia red robin hedge planted to screen our fields

This broadleaf evergreen shrub can reach a height of up to 4 metres and a spread between 3 and 4 metres. It produces white flowers that are showy and fragrant during the early spring, so if you prefer screening that is aromatic too, this is a great option to include. It grows well in medium moist, well-drained soil and prefers anywhere between partial shade and full sun. It can be grown in areas of full shade, however, you won’t get the same floriferous qualities. After you see the red growth start to fade in spring, you can prune it to thin it out and offer better air circulation, especially in the winter. 

This plant is noted for its fast growth and the red tops/tips that complement the evergreen colour. The bright red leaves of spring and the serrated edges of the new growth start to change into a rich evergreen thereafter, giving a leaf display that ranges in colour. As if that wasn’t enough, the white flowers appear in April and bring a Hawthorn-like scent. If you do not want the aroma, but want the red and green leaves, you can always prune the flowers at the start of spring.

You can learn more about growing Photinia ‘red robin’ here


3. Magnolia grandiflora

This showy hardy tree is one that spreads quite effectively and if not pruned it will reach heights and spreads of up to 8 meters so it's something you want to plant in an area that can support a large tree.

This variety of magnolia is considered one of the hardiest, especially for severe winter weather. It is a tree and it will reach heights upwards of 25 metres and a spread between 10 metres and 15 metres but it does well in large pots too. You can use these to create screening across larger properties, particularly along the perimeter of your property and they look amazing in flower. It does well in full sun or partial shade and medium watering. The tree is best known for its flowers which are fragrant and showy, blooming white between May and June. 

This tree has stunning, dark green leaves and large white flowers that appear in the spring with some continued blooms in summer. Eventually, the flowers will produce fruiting clusters come early autumn. Unlike most other Magnolias, this variety is also evergreen making it even better for screening as it provides cover all year round.


4. Dogwood – Cornus

The red-barked dogwood 'Elegantissima' which had bright red stems in winter and beautiful variegated foliage in summer is one of our favourites and grows to around 2.5 meters but can be pruned back hard every spring.

Dogwood, both a tree and a shrub, is known for its stunning bracts of white or pink flowers and the minimal care requirements, it is also equally popular for the bright stems in winter, as pictured above. When you use Dogwood in your garden as part of your screening, you can choose from many types, including single-trunked trees to small shrubs. The most common include the flowering dogwood, Pagoda dogwood and the Cornelian cherry dogwood. These all prefer partial shade but if you water them well they will thrive in full sun. 

Dogwoods grow very quickly, about 30cm or more each year. So it takes no more than a decade for a single tree to reach full maturity. Different types bring to your garden a range of colours for the petal-like bracts of flowers such as pale pink, bright pink, white, and pale red. The dogwood offers stunning colour all year round regardless, with the leaves changing colour come autumn to a red-purple shade before they drop. These shrubs are best pruned back in spring and allowed to grow because this helps keep the stems looking spectacular in winter as the old branches turn brown and lose their striking colours.


5. Prunus Laurocerasus – Cherry Laurel (hedging laurels)

The Cherry Laurel is a broad spreading shrub that produces long, dark green leaves reaching upwards of 15cm in length. The flowers produced take on an array of stunning colours with a strong fragrance of plum. The flowers are produced in racemes during the middle of summer and eventually produce red fruits whose shades convert to a purple-black in autumn. While these are not fruits you should eat, they are sure to bring an array of birds flocking to your garden. 

A fast-growing shrub, this is a superb selection for any privacy screens (or other screening) in your garden. It is commonly used for hedging and sold as laurel hedging. At its maturity, it will reach between 4 and 12 metres wide, spreading outwards more than it spreads upwards, and heights of between 3 and 10 metres. This plant loves partial shade or full sun and well-drained soil. You can prune it after the flowers have appeared but otherwise, very little maintenance is necessary. This makes a fantastic screen and comes into its own if left unpruned.


6. Cypress Trees

Cypress trees come in many varieties, over 130 species to be exact, which means there is sure to be something for your garden. The leaves range in colour from silver-green to dark green. They grow in whorled patterns or spirals and handle just about any soil type. Most people think of cypress trees and tall narrow trees but many varieties such as Thuja Plicata (as pictured above) are wider and make excellent screens if spaced and trimmed a couple of times a year.

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7. Elaeagnus x ebbingei – Silverberry

This hybrid broadleaf evergreen is easily grown in well-drained soil with partial sun or full shade. It is tolerant of shade but it does best with full sun. The lack of sunlight will deter flowers but the plant itself will be sustained. This is a very fast growing shrub and just like other shrubs on this list, it is incredibly tolerant of a wide variety of soils even soil that is otherwise considered poor and infertile. As long as you don't have incredibly wet soil or incredibly dry soil it will do just fine.

This plant is perfect for sandy, loamy soil in full sun and even partial shade. Once established it will tolerate drought quite well, and it makes an excellent choice for coastal areas. As a fast-growing shrub, you can place it anywhere with infertile soil, as long as you have good drainage.

Commonly referred to as the Silverberry, it gets its name from the rounded shape and leaves that take on a leathery, elliptical appearance. Their colours include green and silver scales. Come autumn the leaves are accented by the creamy white flowers and these aromatic flowers lead the way for small, red/brown fruits that become edible in spring.

You can plant this anywhere you need a screen, and it works well as part of an erosion control plan. It will grow in a rounded shape to approximately 3-4 metres in height and spread. Very easy to cultivate, the only real issues you need to be aware of include spider mites and fungal leaf spot but this isn’t a problem for most people. Finally, you can also get variegated varieties too. 


8. Ceanothus Concha – California Lilac

Commonly referred to as the California Liliac, this plant is sure to add something extra to your garden and is a fantastic screening plant.

Commonly referred to as the California Liliac, this plant is sure to add something extra to your garden and is a fantastic screening plant. If you want a colourful screen, the rich lilac blues/purples from these flowers will do the trick. From a distance, they are stunning, with what appears to be an overwhelming floriferous display of small, cotton-like clusters. Up close you will see they are even more stunning. They are so overwhelmed with flowers in spring that you won’t even notice the greenery underneath. The shrub brings to your garden butterflies, birds, and much-needed bees and is otherwise ignored by deer so it might make a good shrub if you live in an area where these beautiful animals can be a problem. 

It will span between 120-240cm in height and 180-360cm in spread. The milder your climate, the larger your shrub will be. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil.


Remember that with any of these, you can always choose to mix and match to create informal hedging. If you are lucky enough to have a somewhat larger space you can add one variety along your perimeter wall right up against the fence and another around an existing structure or as a border around a seating area in your garden.

Find plants that you enjoy, and require just the right amount of maintenance you are able to provide. Most shrubs and trees when planted for screening, don’t generally require any pruning maintenance, so make sure you keep them well watered for the first 12 months.

Last update on 2024-05-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at john@pyracantha.co.uk

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