The Q&A Archives: very tall privacy hedge

Question: Can you suggest any fast-growing trees/shrubs that grow 20-40 feet high, with a fairly small spread (less than 5 ft). We would like to plant a hedge along our back fence to block the apartment building that overlooks our back yard. The yard is fairly small (approx. 25 x 30 ft),on the north side of the house, with a fence or building on each side. However, the area we wish to screen is south-facing. The hedge would replace the large (40 ft or taller), ungainly (canopy covers approx. 1/3 of our yard) pine tree that grows there now. Our house is in one of the foggier sections of San Francisco. We understand that the pine must have made our soil quite acidic in that area. Can we use soil amendment to make the soil more hospitable to non-acid-loving plants?

We like the look of Italian Cypress, but have been told that they are susceptible to disease and can be short-lived in SF. So far we have not had much luck getting advice from our local garden centers.
Thank you.

Answer: Leyland cypress is a popular tree for screening and privacy plantings. You might also consider "Witchita Blue" or "Skyrocket" junipers. These are reasonably fast growing, upright plants. Or, American arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) is a tall, columnar evergreen that's a natural for planting in rows for quick screening. Thuja "pyramidalis" remains only 2-3' wide at maturity. All will grow in slightly acidic soils. You might want to have your soil tested if you think it's highly acidic. If so, the results of the soil analysis will include recommendations for applications of lime to raise the pH. Hope one of these suggestions works for you in your landscape!

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