Evergreen Shrubs for Blocking Views

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A family recently moved into a beautiful house on a wooded lot here in Henderson County. They moved into the home during the spring of this year when all the forest surrounding the home was green and lush with new leaves. All summer long they enjoyed their seclusion behind the trees. Many evenings they would sit on their front porch and not see another person.


Hollies make great screening hedges.


Hollies make great screening hedges.

That all changed with the coming of the fall season. The veritable wall of leaves went away and suddenly the family was not secluded anymore. The problem is that there are very few evergreen trees in their surrounding forest save the occasional native rhododendron and mountain laurel. They need more evergreen plants planted throughout the forested area surrounding the home to provide winter screening.

There are many evergreen trees and shrubs that will provide privacy. It is best to utilize trees and shrubs of varying sizes, textures, and colors to provide interest as well as functionality. One must consider sun exposure versus shade as well.

Some of the best are the broadleaf evergreen trees. A few of these tall, full sun, evergreen trees are hollies, magnolias, camellias, and tea olives. Some of the best hollies are the hybrids ‘Mary Nell’, ‘Nellie R. Stevens’ and ‘Emily Bruner’. These 25-30’ tall trees are great for full sun areas and can be planted as close as 8’ apart to form dense hedges.

Magnolia Little Gem

Magnolia ‘Little Gem’ is a small magnolia form.

The Southern Magnolia is unique with its thick dark green leaves that are pubescent on the backside of the leaf. The hairy covering on the backside of the leaf is cinnamon-colored. Traditionally we think of the Southern Magnolia as being a huge tree but there have been refinements made to the plant through selection of superior cultivars. One of the best is ‘Little Gem’, a small dense tree that is perfect for screening unwanted views. For a larger magnolia try the selection ‘D.D. Blanchard’.

evergreen shrub

Camellia has winter flowers.

There are many camellia cultivars to choose from. There are so many in fact that one needs a reference book to keep up with them all. Most fall-blooming, cold-hardy camellias have the name winter in the name. Some of these include ‘Winter Star,’ ‘Winter Rose,’ and ‘Winter Snow.’ Based on research at Asheville, NC, the following cultivars are also recommended for cold hardiness: ‘Spring’s Promise,’ ‘Winter Interlude,’ ‘Pink Icicle,’ ‘April Blush,’ ‘April Remembered,’ and ‘Snow Man’. Camellias are great for the shade but can take a little sun if you mulch them heavily to keep the roots cool.


Rhododendron are native plants that make a great hedge.

The final tree-sized broadleaf evergreen is Tea Olive or Osmanthus. The Tea Olive is an extremely dense tree that does well in both shade and partial sun. The fragrant Tea Olive emits a delicious vanilla-like smell in the winter that can be detected from a hundred yards away.

Let’s not discount our own native rhododendron and mountain laurel.

These 10-12 foot tall shrubs make terrific screens. They both have great spring flowers. Try to buy these as locally seed-grown plants.

Conifers are also popular for screening plants. Arborvitae, hemlock, and cypresses are commonly available. Make sure not to plant these too close together.

A good idea is to purchase several of each of the aforementioned large evergreen


Viburnums make great hedges.

trees and shrubs and plant them in mixed plantings in strategic locations to provide privacy. To locate the areas to plant, look out of the windows and off the porch to determine where the screening plants are needed. When you use mixed plantings, utilizing various types and sizes of plants, you get a more natural look.

Interspersed in the spaces between the larger evergreen plantings plant some smaller evergreens to add some seasonal interest, texture, and variety. One of the best small evergreen shrubs is the native Pieris. This little shrub only gets about 2’ tall and it produces beautiful flowers in the spring and has outstanding evergreen foliage and purple fall color.