The Q&A Archives: Privacy Hedge

Question: I am looking for a plant to use as a privacy/border plant, fast growing and at least 8 feet tall. Area is to screen neighbors pool and is about 100 feet at the edge of the property. This is a semi shaded area with dry soil but we do have a drip irrigation system for the plants. What plant/shrub do you recommend for us?



Answer: There are a number of suitable plants; you might consider planting a mixed border so you'll have seasonal interest along different parts of the plantings during the year. Here are a few recommendations:

Butterfly-bush (Buddleia davidii) - Semi-evergreen. Depending on cultivar, can grow up to 10-15 high and wide. Can be cut back to the ground every year or two to control height and improve symmetry and density. Exceptional flowers during the summer months, available in white, pink or various shades of blue. 'Honeycomb' is an outstanding Buddleia hybrid with yellow flowers.

Camellia (Camellia japonica and Camellia sasanqua) - Excellent broadleaf evergreen. Many cultivars available for a range of flower colors and mature size. Prefers shade to semi-shade and requires excellent drainage. Ideal sites would include under the cover of tall pines or at the northwestern corner of a building.

'Carolina Sentinel' Holly (Ilex x 'Carolina Sentinel') - Upright, somewhat conical holly up to 20-25 feet in height. Dark glossy green foliage with large and showy red fruit in the winter.

'Chindo' Viburnum (Viburnum awabuki 'Chindo') - Noteworthy for large, dark green, lustrous evergreen foliage and bright red fruit clusters. Up to 15-20 feet tall. Just barely cold tolerant in our region, but if planted in a protected site good results can be expected. Occasional winter damage can be pruned out.

Chinese Snowball Viburnum (Viburnum macrocephalum) - Chinese snowball viburnum. Deciduous. Large white hydrangea-like flowers in early spring. Fully heat tolerant in Craven County (Zones 6 to 9). Up to 15 feet or more in height, and in full flower makes a nice specimen plant.

Cryptomeria (Cryptomeria japonica) - Fast growing, large conifer with unique foliage similar to that of Norfolk Island Pine. Probably up to 40-50 feet under Eastern NC landscape conditions. Numerous dwarf cultivars available, although tree forms seem to have a better track record under landscape conditions. 'Yoshino' and 'Ben Franklin' are commonly available large-growing cultivars, and 'Black Dragon' is a highly regarded compact cultivar.

Cyrilla or Leatherwood (Cyrilla racemiflora) - Considered a deciduous shrub, but leaves may persist throughout the winter depending on weather conditions. Fall color is orange to scarlet. Showy white flowers are borne in 3- to 6-inch racemes in summer. Probably 10-15 feet high and wide in the landscape, but can grow larger in the wild. Prefers acid, organic, and moist but well-drained soils, but seems to be quite adaptable to most landscape conditions. Sun to partial shade.

Dahoon Holly (Ilex cassine) - Beautiful native holly growing up to 20-30 feet in the wild but usually smaller in the landscape. Foliage lacks the prominent spines or teeth of the American holly. Very nice fruit set in fall and winter. Very worthwhile and underused selection.

'Dwarf Burford' Holly (Ilex cornuta 'Dwarf Burford') - One of the numerous cultivars of Chinese holly. Excellent resistance to black root rot, and generally a very tough and adaptable plant. Good fruit set in the winter; no male pollinators needed. Usually up to 8 feet high and wide, but can get much larger. Hollies in general have very good shade tolerance, although this and many other hollies tolerate all day full sun just as well.

'Emerald' Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis 'Emerald') - This species of arborvitae is generally not well-adapted to our heat, but the cultivar 'Emerald' has exceptional heat-tolerance. Smaller growing than the species, it grows slowly up to perhaps 10-15 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide. The emerald-green color is exceptional. Worthwhile plant for a more formal setting.

Fortune's Osmanthus (Osmanthus x fortunei) - Resembles a large holly shrub in form and leaf appearance, but the leaves of osmanthus are arranged oppositely in pairs along the stem, while the leaves of hollies are arranged alternately. Fortune's osmanthus can grow to at least 15-20 feet tall, generally with a rounded or oval habit.

Foster and 'Savannah' Hollies (Ilex x attenuata) - Hybrids between American holly (Ilex opaca) and Dahoon holly (Ilex cassine). Tree form in growth habit, up to 25-35 feet and taller. Nice fruit set in the winter; no male pollinators needed. Foster hollies have shinier green and narrower leaves as compared with 'Savannah'. Which is "best" is a matter of preference. Both are very worthwhile components in any large screen. American holly (up to 40-50 feet in height) is somewhat slow-growing but would also make an excellent addition to a screen.

'Green Giant' Arborvitae (Thuja x 'Green Giant') - Some advertisements refer to this fast-growing arborvitae as a "bionic" tree. Excellent deep green color, fast-growing and with a distinctly symmetrical, almost conical form, 'Green Giant' appears to be an obvious alternative to the overused and problematic (phytophthora root rot, windthrow in storms, bagworms, seridium canker) Leyland Cypress. However, 'Green Giant' is not totally immune to bagworms, and should be used with some restraint. Eventual height in the landscape is probably 40-50 feet and taller.

'Gulftide' Osmanthus (Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Gulftide') - Slightly smaller in stature and with finer textured foliage as compared with Fortune's Osmanthus. Fairly good shade tolerance, and in fact will probably perform better with some shade during the day. "Heterophyllus" refers to distinct differences between the juvenile and adult foliage (phylla).

Hope these suggestions are helpful!

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