Many homeowners have large, open areas where they wish to plant a privacy hedge, windbreak or property border screen. Leland cypress has long been a popular choice but as mentioned in a previous post, it may not be the best one. Leyland cypress has become a problem tree due to pests and disease and many of the trees planted 10 years ago are now having to be removed by homeowners.
If you are looking for alternatives to planting Leyland cypress, here are some suggestions we at Art of Stone Gardening feel are the best choices for southern landscapes. These trees do well in a sunny location with good drainage. Since most of them are conifers, good drainage is important! Most conifers hate having wet feet and do not like their roots sitting in water for any length of time.
Another tip for planting privacy hedges and rows is the cautionary tale of the Leyland cypress: be diverse. Today we can see long tows of Leylands with dead and dying trees throughout. Eventually the entire row will die. To ensure that this does not happen to you, be diverse. Do not plant entire rows of the same tree but instead alternate and mix it up. You can plant a staggered row with one type of tree in front and another behind it or spaces filled with creatively blended species. This way, should sickness strike any tree species, your entire row will not be wiped out, instead only a few trees will be lost.
Spacing is also important for the long term health of a living fence or privacy screen. Understand that these trees are 40’+ so they can be up to 20′ wide. Everyone wants an instant screen but they will fill in faster than you think. At first they will look like they are too far apart but they won’t be! If planted too closely together eventually the trees will start killing each other and you will be taking them out. Also, inadequate spacing will cause brown areas in your trees due to the excessive shade they give each other. 10′ is a minimum for any tree mentioned here and 15′ is better. Consult your nurseryman on spacing requirements.
Tall Evergreen Privacy Tree Suggestions:
Arborvitae – A large, evergreen tree with deep to mid green foliage, Arborvitae is ideal as a Leyland cypress alternative. Western is the most commonly available arborvitae in plant nurseries but you may also find cultivars such as ‘Zebrina’ (photo) which will have yellow to gold color variations. Arborvitae will create a dense privacy screen hedge or windbreak along a property border.
Blue Atlas Cedar – A tall evergreen conifer which makes a stunning statement when used in a privacy hedge. Blue Atlas Cedar is less dense when young but fills in as it matures. The upright, formal shape is quite handsome and the blue green needles can bring dramatic color to a landscape design. The color will really pop when paired with trees that have dark green foliage.
Deodar Cedar – With sweeping branches and soft looking needles, Deodar Cedar is a favorite pick for tall living fences. The foliage is a beautiful blue green and the overall look graceful. Plant Deodar Cedar with Norway Spruce or Cryptomeria ‘Radicans’ to really show off the color and shape.
Arizona Cypress – ‘Blue Ice’ and Carolina Sapphire are the two types of Arizona Cypress you will be able to find available in local plant nurseries. They are different sizes so be sure to ask your nurseryman which is best for your landscape design. Not only is Arizona Cypress a colorful tree, it has aromatic foliage and smells wonderful after a rain. This combination makes it worth working into a large size privacy hedge.
Hinoki Cypress – Hinoki Cypress are available in a variety if heights so look into which one is best suited for your needs. They are shorter than the other tress mentioned here but worth adding due to their unique appearance. The foliage grows in a fan shape and the overall look of the tree is more irregular. With the shorter height, Hinoki Cypress is ideal for using in the front of staggered rows.
Cryptomeria ‘Radicans’ – A tall evergreen conifer with a pyramidal shape once mature. Cryptomeria ‘Radicans’ is dence and has brancing to the ground. The ends of the branches are rounded and droop slightly, offering a soft, full look.
Southern Magnolia – Southern magnolia is a classic tree for Georgia landscapes. The large, showy flowers are fragrant and spectacular. Magnolia is naturally an understory tree in its native environment so can tolerate partial shade. If planting a long row of privacy or windbreak trees, consider adding a magnolia to mix it up and create visual interest.
Colorado Blue Spruce – A strong and stately tree with stiff needles and stunning blue color. Colorado Blue Spruce is a tall, dense addition to a privacy hedge row. The blue color stands out and an area of Colorado Blue planted with the contrasting darker green of Norway Spruce will really stand out in a landscape. Blue Spruce requires plenty of moisture especially for the first year.
Norway Spruce – A large growing conifer with stiff needles and slightly drooping branch ends. The upright needles add texture to a landscape design. Norway Spruce is hardy and easy to grow since it will tolerate periods of drought as well as our hot Georgia sun.