Evergreens make wonderful, quick hedges and privacy screens. Some mature quickly into dense hedges and others develop with you, over time.
When planting your living screen, don't plant in a straight line. Zig-zag the trees to give a fuller effect and to allow the trees to get air and sun. This will also help the hedge give with the wind, preventing breakage and wind tunnels.
Choose a couple of your favorite evergreen varieties. It's wise to plant more than one variety of evergreen in a border, so that disease and pests won't destroy the whole planting. Here are some top choices.
1. Boxwood (Buxus)
Long a European favorite, boxwood respond very well to pruning and shaping. Besides making great hedges, boxwoods are a favorite tree for topiary. The tiny, evergreen leaves remain tidy when clipped. Korean boxwood is proving hardier than the English varieties. Prune in late spring, as new growth darkens. USDA Zones 5-8. Size varies with species, Full sun to partial shade.
2. Yew (Taxus baccata)
Makes a dense hedge that responds well to pruning. Overgrown yew hedges can often be restored by hard pruning in late winter. Many yews used for foundation plantings remain squat. T. baccata grows to 6' tall and 16' wide, making it great for hedging. The uniformity of a yew hedge makes a great wall for enclosed gardens. Slow to medium grower. USDA Zones 5/6 - 8, H - 6', S - 10-16', Full sun to partial shade.
3. Arborvitae 'Green Giant' (Thuja 'Green Giant')
Introduced by the U.S. National Arboretum. Grow in almost any soil conditions, from sand to clay. Pyramid shape and requires no pruning. Pest resistant, even deer resistant. For a quick hedge or windbreak, plant 5 - 6' apart. For a more gradual hedge, plant 10 - 12' apart. Fast growers. Prune to shape, before spring growth. USDA Zones 2 - 10, H - 60', S - 20', Full sun.
4. Holly (Ilex)
Popular for their glossy green leaves, and bright red berries. Hollies look best if kept trimmed and full. Only the females set berries, but you’ll need a male to cross pollinate. There are some new varieties that don’t require 2 sexes. Hollies prefer an acidic soil and the addition of peat or garden sulfur may be necessary. The American holly is more widely adaptable than the English. Medium grower. Plant 2 - 4' apart. USDA Zones 5 - 9, H - 6-10', S - 5-8', Full sun to partial shade.
5. Firethorn (Pyacantha coccinea)
Firethorn can be a bit unruly, but it still looks striking in the landscape. Evergreen with white flowers in spring and orange-red berries from summer into winter. Popular for Christmas decorations. Drought tolerant. Plant 3 - 4' apart. Fast growers. Prune if necessary, after flowering. USDA Zones 5/6 - 9, H - 8-12', S - 3-5', Full sun to partial shade.
6. Leyland Cyprus (x Cupressocyparis Leylandii)
Columnar evergreen with flat scale-like leaves. Makes a tough privacy/wind screen that is salt tolerant. Many new cultivars are being bred for bluer color, variegation and more feathery foliage. Fast grower. Prune to shape, as new foliage deepens in color USDA Zones 5 - 9, H - 60-70', S - 15-20, Full sun.
7. Variegated Japanese Laurel (Aucuba japonica 'Variegata') aka Gold Dust Tree
Leathery pale bright green leaves mottled with yellow variegation make this tree a standout, especially when used to light up a shady area. ‘Variegata’ is a female and requires a male for pollination, to produce red berries. Good choices include ‘Mr. Goldstrike’ and ‘Maculata’. Prefers a moist soil, but can handle periodic dry spells. Slow Grower. Prune in early spring to summer. USDA Zones 6 -9+, H - 6-9', S - 3-5', Partial shade to full shade.
The more upright cotoneasters can be used to form a solid hedge. Several cotoneaster species are evergreen or semi-evergreen, especially in USDA Zones 7 and higher.
- C. lucidus: 6 - 10' tall. USDA Zones 6 - 8
- C. glaucophyllus: 3 - 4' tall with a 6' spread. USDA Zones 7 - 9
- C. franchetii: 6' x 6'. USDA Zones 5 - 8.
9. Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica)
Nandinas are popular in the Southern US, where their fall/winter berries are the most striking. However Nandinas are tougher than their delicate foliage would suggest. White spring flowers come in Hydrangea-like panicles and are followed by bunches of red berries. The foliage blushes red for fall and winter. Medium to fast grower. Prune before new growth. USDA ZonesUSDA Zones 6 - 9, H - 5-7', S - 3- 5', Full sun.
10. Ligustrum (Privet)
A classic hedge plant, not all privets are evergreen. The dense foliage responds extremely well to pruning. Most have white summer flowers followed by black berries. Privet are very adaptable and will grow in just about any conditions. Fast growers. Prune after flowering. USDA ZonesUSDA Zones vary 3/6 - 7/8, H - to 15', S - 5-6', Full Sun to shade.