Screening trees are becoming more and more necessary as houses are getting closer and closer together. Let’s face it, we like our privacy and fences can only provide so much. This is where trees come into play. Our saying here at Big Trees is “Big Trees Make Great Neighbors.” Whether it’s a solid row of evergreens or a strategically placed deciduous tree, this article will help you determine what options are available and what choices are best for your particular situation.

Best Pick for Small Planting Spaces:

Emerald Green Arborvitae

Emerald Green Arborvitae

One of the most popular trees for screening is the emerald green arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘emerald green’). The emerald green arborvitae and the pyramidalis are different varieties of the same genus and species of tree. The emerald green has become the more popular choice over the years because it maintains a nicer shape as it matures. However, the pyramidalis are still effective screening trees.

The emerald green is a dense evergreen that maintains its deep green color all year. Because of its columnar growth habit, and limited spread, the emerald green is a great selection for small planting spaces.

If planted correctly, emerald greens will form a low maintenance solid hedge. The dense and columnar growth habit of emerald greens means that they require little maintenance and no pruning. However, emeralds can easily be sheared back to limit their spread and the tops can be trimmed to create uniform heights. Emerald greens are often planted on two to three foot centers. This means that there will be two or three feet between each tree trunk. Selecting a wider spacing means that you save on cost but you will have to wait for the hedge to become solid.

Emerald greens mature to be 15-20’ tall by 3-4’ wide. They thrive in full sun and in moist but well drained soils. When planted in shady areas, emerald greens have a tendency to thin out and develop patchy brown spots. The one down side to the emerald green is that they are slow growing. On average they will grow about 6-8” annually. Attention to irrigation and proper fertilization can help promote growth.

Best Picks for larger Planting Spaces: Leyland Cypress and Excelsa Cedars

Leyland CypressBoth the leyland cypress and the excelsa cedars make excellent screening trees. They are fast growing trees that can be hedged or maintained at a smaller size if necessary. The leyland cypress can seem less than impressive initially but they get big and full fast. Once established the leyland cypress can grow 3’ per year and the excelsa cedars trail slightly at 2’ per year.

Leyland cypress mature to be 50’ tall by 20’ wide and the excelsa matures to be 40’ tall by 12’ wide. Both are often planted on five to twelve foot centers. Our Big Tree horticulturalists can help you determine the best spacing for your particular situation and your long term landscape goals.

The leyland cypress thrives in full sun whereas the excelsa cedar will thrive in full sun to shade. Other, larger evergreen tree option are; castlewellan cypress, virescens cedar, Douglas fir, western red cedar, pines and incense cedar.

Broadleaf Evergreens

Broadleaf evergreens are leafy trees that maintain their foliage year round. Our most popular types of broadleaf evergreen used for screening are the Portuguese and English laurels. Both mature to be close to 20’ tall by 15’ wide. They can grow one to two feet per year.

Deciduous Trees  Chanticleer Pear

Deciduous trees, or trees that drop their leaves in fall, are often overlooked for screening purposes. We suggest them regularly here at Big Trees because they can give you coverage when you are outside in the summer and they let light into your house in the winter. Deciduous trees often are the right shape for screening, wide at the top narrow at the base unlike evergreens which are mostly cone shaped, wide at the base and narrow at the top. Deciduous trees give you coverage when you need it and where you need it and often when they are bare in the winter the branch structure alone can create a good visual block. Some deciduous trees are better screeners than others. Trees like the thundercloud plum or ornamental pears have dense branch structure and they leaf out early and they hold their leaves longer than other deciduous trees making them excellent screening trees.

We hope this helps you narrow down the search for the perfect screening tree. Please call or Email us if you have any questions. We can help you pick the best trees for your particular situation and budget.

Category : Privacy Trees


Debbie Baillie June 23, 2009

My parents returned to WA about a month ago after spending 6 months in South Africa. A day later, my Mom tells me that they want to cut down 4 trees at the bottom of their garden. She had the idea that they didn’t “look good.” I was horrified. Could she not see the privacy that those trees provided them. There is another home right behind those trees. I had her imagine what it would be like without those glorious big trees providing such a private space for them. She was very quickly grateful that she had mentioned her idea to me before she just went ahead and cut them down.

If anything, I think they should plant more big trees and, without any doubt, they should come to Big Trees Inc to do their shopping. One can buy a “tree” at many places and you can always find a cheaper tree somewhere else….when you shop at Big Tree Inc though, you KNOW you’re getting quality, you KNOW that you are valued as a customer, and you KNOW that they are always generous with sharing their knowledge. You can buy a cheaper tree from somewhere, but that is all you will get. If you want to know that you’re spending your hard earned money on the most value you can get, then I say: “Big Tree Inc” is definitely the place to go.

I appreciate what you provide for the community….thank you.

admin June 24, 2009

Debbie: Thank You for the kind words! Send your parents to Big Trees. We are always here to help answer any questions they have.

Michael January 15, 2010

Hi there from merry old England, my parents actually got some Tree Screening in there front garden and my word! it makes all the difference. They love the privacy and relaxing they can get in their own home now.

Supra shoes April 22, 2010

Good job. I’m definitely going to bookmark you!

admin August 23, 2010

Hi Wendi,
Thanks for your question, but we don’t discuss pricing on the blog, and would love to have you contact the office for current pricing and availability!

Priscilla August 30, 2010

This is probably a stupid question, but I need to know the answer.
If Sapphire Cypress are planted closer together, say 8 – 10 feet apart, will it prevent them from growing that wide in all directions, or only on the sides where they are crowding eachother? If I plant them along and slightly within the property line, I don’t want them to grow too far onto my neighbors lawn. Do you understand what I am asking?

admin September 3, 2010

Hi Priscilla, I understand what you are asking, and I think you will need to plant the trees anticipating them to reach their maximum width if you are nervous about them encroaching on your neighbor’s property. The Cypress will grow together fine enough between themselves, but it will not help to limit any natural growth on the rest of the trees perimeter. Ya know, they say there are never any stupid questions, I didn’t think this was, and I hope my late response is still of use to you!

Priscilla September 18, 2010

Not too late, thanks so much!

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