The Q&A Archives: Creating privacy screen with shrubs in shade

Question: Hi - I would like to plant shrubs/trees on the border of my property to create some privacy from my neighbor's yard. The area is quite shady due to some overhead maple trees. What kind of shrub/tree can I plant in this shady area? I live outside of Boston, MA.
Thanks! Kristen

Answer: Unfortunately, based on your description this area may be very difficult to plant successfully. Although shade in and of itself is not a bad thing, shade beneath a large tree tends to be dry shade because the branches prevent rain from reaching the ground. In addition, many maple trees have aggressive surface roots which steal water and nutrients from the soil, making it even more difficult for new plants to compete with the tree. If you are lucky and do not have the surface root problem, you might be able to grow some larger shrubs such as Catawba rhododendrons or Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus) or possibly some of the shrub or twig dowoods (such as Cornus racemosa). Your local professionally trained nurseryman may have additional suggestions based on a more detailed understanding of the growing conditions where you are trying to plant. Another option might be to use shrubs clustered closer to your house or patio rather than at the perimeter in such a way as to block the sightline without actually planting a hedge. I hope this gives you some ideas.

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