Evergreen & Privacy Trees
The Complete Guide to Evergreen and Privacy Trees
Evergreen trees deliver year round color and structure in a landscape. From providing privacy and concealing the neighbors’ unattractive fence to adding architectural interest and character to a garden, evergreens serve as beautiful, wildlife-friendly anchors in a yard.
“Evergreen,” however, can be a misnomer. Needled and broad-leaf trees are available in a wide range of colors, from hunter green to silvery blue, yellow, copper, gray-green, blue-green, chartreuse, as well as plants with variegated foliage. While many traditional living walls sport dark hued plants, a golden or silver-blue conifer can add winter interest into a perennial bed, particularly when blooms have disappeared for the season.
Consider the fabulous structure of evergreens as well. From shiny magnolia leaves to weeping conifers, evergreen trees add visual interest and texture throughout all seasons in the garden. With the wide variety of colors, shapes, textures, and sizes, evergreen trees are no longer relegated to Christmas décor.
As if the beauty of evergreens wasn’t enough of a reason to add them to your garden, evergreen trees can block wind, provide shade, and reduce your heating and cooling bills. What’s not to love about evergreens?
The Top Evergreen Tree Varieties
Whether you’re looking for a large specimen to shade your garden, multiple trees to follow Robert Frost’s wisdom of “good fences make good neighbors,” mid-sized trees to frame your driveway or entrance, or unique, smaller specimens to add structural interest and color to your perennial bed, there’s an evergreen variety to meet your needs in an assortment of colors, foliage traits, and sizes.
Thuja ‘Green Giant’: Incredibly fast growing trees provide excellent screens to block out noisy neighbors, construction, and wind. No pruning required, plus they’re drought tolerant once established. 40’ height, 10-15’ width, zones 5-9.
Willow Hybrid Tree: While willows receive a bad reputation for invasive root systems, your sewers and drains are safe with the non-invasive roots of this hybrid. One of the fastest growing trees available (up to 10 feet per year), the trees form a dense wall that serves as an excellent wind barrier and privacy screen. 50-75’ height, 20-30’ width, zones 4-9.
Bamboo Hedge Multiplex: Unlike invasive bamboo species, this well-behaved, silvery-gray planting will not invade your garden. Instead, it will grow quickly to provide an excellent privacy wall, one that tolerates frost and snow without foliage damage. Cold hard to 12-15 degrees. Can also be grown as a houseplant with pruning. 20-30’ height, 5-10’ width, zones 7-11.
Italian Cypress: A classic evergreen for entrances, driveways, and borders that is low-maintenance and elegant. The blue-green foliage and narrow, compact habit of the trees are ideal for tight spaces that need vertical interest. 40’ height, 4-6’ width, zones 7-10.
‘Rainbow’ Eucalyptus: The perfect conversation starter. The brightly striped trunk provides a splash of color and textural interest, while the canopy adds shade. With blooms in both spring and fall, the plant adds four seasons of interest to the garden. Tolerates dry conditions. 100’ height, 30’ width, zones 9-11.
‘Leyland’ Cypress Trees: When you require an immediate screen for privacy or a noise buffer, these quick-growing, low maintenance, drought tolerant trees are your solution. 60-70’ height, 15-20’ width, zones 6-10.
Southern Magnolia: Also known as Bull Bay or Sweet Magnolia, this symbol of the south delivers exquisite, fragrant blooms that contrast with dark foliage. 40-80’ height, 30-40’ width, zones 7-9.
Eucalyptus Tree: A multipurpose tree that provides shade, fragrance, and seasonal interest—but that also is ideal for floral arrangements and to deter pests, such as fleas and ticks. Both disease resistant and deer resistant, the silvery-blue foliage in prized among florists. 40’ height, 10-12’ width, zones 7-11.
‘Lombardy’ Poplar Tree: A terrific evergreen that can reduce energy costs by serving as a wind or sun screen. This living wall’s foliage turns golden yellow in autumn. Provides shelter and nesting sites for birds. 40-50’ height, 10-15’ width, zones 3-9.
Cryptomeria Radicans: Fast-growing trees quickly provide privacy, growing 3-4 feet per year. Soft blue-green foliage and graceful, conical shapes add elegance to the evergreen border. 30-40’ height, 15-20’ width, zones 5-9.
‘Nellie Stevens’ Holly: A highly versatile planting ideal for small spaces (with some pruning), or as a focal point in the garden, showcasing the bright red berries that attract wildlife. Low maintenance but high impact evergreen for the garden. 15-25’ height, 10-15’ width, zones 6-9.
Thuja ‘Emerald Green’: A perfect evergreen tree for narrow spaces that needs no pruning and resists ice and snow damage. Because it’s adaptable to many soils, the tree is ideal for foundation plantings. 8-12’ height, 3-4’ width, zones 3-8.
‘Little Gem’ Magnolia: With fragrant, 8-inch blooms that can last up to six months, this is the perfect specimen plant to add fragrance, color, and seasonal interest in the garden. Pollinators will enjoy the blooms, while birds will benefit from the seed pods. Not only is the tree a beauty, it’s fuss-free—highly disease and pest resistant. 15-20’ height, 8-10’ width, zones 5-9.
American Holly: A lush living wall that tolerates partial shade, grows quickly, and benefits wildlife…all while providing privacy when planted as a hedge. This low maintenance holly is pest and disease resistant and drought tolerant. 20-30’ height, 5-10’ width, zones 5-9.
‘Jane’ Magnolia: Developed by the United States National Arboretum in the 1950s, this cold hardy beauty blooms in spring but provides seasonal interest all year. 10-15’ height, 5-10’ width, zones 4-8.
‘Skyrocket’ Juniper Tree: The perfect evergreen for urban settings. The small base and narrow habit is ideal for smaller gardens. The gray-green foliage adds brightness to landscapes, while the tree adds vertical interest to tight spaces. 15’ height, 2-3’ width, zones 4-9.
‘Wichita Blue’ Juniper: Maintenance-free silvery blue foliage provides an elegant backdrop for colorful annuals and perennials while providing a privacy screen. The best part? Deer don’t like it! 10-15’ height, 4-6’ width, zones 4-9.
‘Hetz Midget’ Arborvitae: An adaptable, low-maintenance small evergreen perfect for a wide variety of installations, from an accent in the rock garden to a low hedge or container planting. The bluish-green foliage needs only the lightest pruning to maintain its shape. Pest and disease resistant, this little workhorse can thrive in sandy soils. 3-4’ height, 3-4’ width, zones 3-7.
‘Sky Pencil’ Holly: The narrow, upright evergreen adds vertical interest to tight spaces in the landscape. Perfect for framing an entryway or adding to a perennial bed. 10’ height, 2-3’ width, zones 5-9.
Needle Palm Tree: A highly adaptable evergreen that adds architectural interest to the garden. Cold hard to -20 degrees and equally at home in sun or shade, the palm can create an exotic privacy hedge or an eye-catching specimen in the perennial bed. 4-6’ height, 4-6’ width, zones 4-11 (potted), 8-11 (in ground).
‘Benjamina’ Ficus Tree: Perfect evergreen, sculptural accent tree that’s disease and pest-resistant. Ideal for a container planting on patio, but it can also be grown as a houseplant. 6-10’ height, 3-5’ width, zones 4-11 (potted), 8-11 (in ground).
Red Holly: Ideal for a thick-walled, low maintenance privacy hedge, while also providing shelter and food for wildlife. The disease and pest-resistant plants provide year-long interest, with the added bonus of foliage to snip for creative winter/holiday décor. 10-12’ height, 6-8’ width, zones 6-9.
All of our evergreen trees score high in disease and pest resistance to ensure you spend time enjoying your garden, not battling pests and diseases.
Background Information on Evergreen Trees
Evergreen trees provide year-long interest in the garden. Whether they serve as privacy fences, accent plants, or food sources for wildlife, evergreens add many benefits to landscapes. Most evergreen trees are low-maintenance, as well as disease and pest-resistant. Little, if any, pruning is required to keep their shapes. Additionally, evergreen trees adapt easily to a wide variety of soils, sites, and applications.
How to Select the Right Evergreen Trees
Before you purchase your evergreen tree, look carefully at your site and decide how you want the plant to perform. Do you intend to grow a privacy screen along your property? Need a wind screen to reduce your energy costs? Are you looking to make a statement at the entrance of your home or along the driveway? Also, what is your hardiness zone? Most evergreen trees tolerate a wide range of climates, but check the growing information carefully prior to purchase.
Depending on your needs, there’s an evergreen tree appropriate for your landscape. They range in size from 100-foot giants to compact, narrow specimens. Consider foliage color and texture when selecting evergreens. Read the plant’s information, paying particular attention to the plant’s mature height. While evergreens are typically low-maintenance trees, an improperly planted tree can become a maintenance nuisance. Ensure that the area is free from power lines and roof overhangs, and plan the site so that the width of the mature tree does not encroach on pathways.
As always, if you need assistance selecting the tree that is right for your garden, we’re happy to help. Just give us a call at 800-399-9514.
How to Plant Evergreen Trees
As soon as you receive your tree, give it a good drink, particularly if you plan to wait a day or two to plant it.
Proper site selection and preparation will help grow a happy plant. Full to partial sun, good drainage, and adequate airflow are all ingredients for a healthy tree. Remember to check your site for overhead power lines or structures that might become a problem as your tree grows. If you spot obstacles, choose another location.
Evergreen trees can tolerate a wide variety of sites and soils. However, amending heavy, compact clay soils with compost will improve the health of your tree, allowing water to drain adequately so it won’t rot the plant’s roots.
Late fall or early spring are ideal times to plant trees, allowing the plants to settle in without severe heat stress or impending freezes before roots establish in their new home.
Dig a hole approximately twice as large as the plant’s root ball. A well-dug hole gives you the opportunity to breakup any compacted soil, add amendments, and give your plant a good start without overcrowding its roots. Your tree will thank you.
Loosen the plant in the container, carefully removing it, and massaging the root ball. Place in the center of the hole, making certain the soil lines of both the root ball and the hole align. You want to ensure that you don’t plant the trunk too deep in the hole. Back fill the hole, pressing the soil into place. Water well. Add a layer of mulch over the site, but avoid the “volcano” effect—simply spread mulch over the site to conserve moisture. Never mound mulch around the tree’s trunk, which can promote disease. If planting as a privacy screen, align plants along the border and space accordingly to the plant’s recommendations. Remember to consider the mature width of the trees when planting to ensure they don’t encroach on your neighbor’s property.
Each spring, add a layer of compost over the planting site, as well as a good, organic fertilizer. However, do not over-fertilize flowering trees, as too much fertilizer will provide lush foliage—and few blooms.
Keep the tree well watered through the first growing season, approximately one inch per week. As it becomes established in your garden, normal rains should suffice. Most evergreens are fairly drought tolerant once established.
While most evergreens we offer are pest and disease resistant, bagworms can quickly damage a tree. Remove the caterpillars and web by snipping off the host branch, if possible. Apply organic controls as needed.
Broadleaf evergreens require little pruning. When necessary, prune just after flowering. Remove dead, sick, and crossing stems, as well as any stray stems, to maintain a clean shape. Pruning is typically needed only when a tree outgrows its site. Save yourself work by selecting trees appropriate to the space allocated.
Most evergreen trees we offer require minimal maintenance. If necessary, clip new growth to maintain shape in spring for non-flowering varieties, or after blooms fade.
When we think of evergreens, a Fraser Fir Christmas tree typically comes to mind. The Christmas tree tradition began in Germany in the 16th century.
Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god. In winter, as the days grew shorter and the nights longer, the people feared the sun god was ill. With the arrival of winter solstice, bringing with it the promise of longer days, the people celebrated the return of the sun god’s health. Evergreen boughs reminded them of the green plants of spring and summer, and they used them in decorating to celebrate the sun god.
Long before the arrival of Christianity, evergreen boughs were hung over doors and windows to keep out witches, spirits, and ghosts.
Magnolias are named after the French botanist, Pierre Magnolia, who lived in the 1600s. White flowers symbolize purity and perfection, while pink flowers define youth, innocence, and joy. In Chinese art, magnolias symbolize purity and nobility. In Japan, the flowers are often presented at births. The Japanese also believed that the bark of the magnolia tree reinvigorates a person’s chi, the energy of life.
Magnolias are believed to be on of the first flowering plants to evolve on Earth. According to the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society, fossil remains show that magnolias existed 100 million years ago.
The popularity of the 1989 movie, Steel Magnolias, aligned the lovely blooms to the strength and beauty of southern women.
Druids regarded holly as a symbol of fertility and eternal life. They believed it possessed magical powers. Cutting down a holly tree was bad luck, but hanging holly boughs in the home brought good luck and protection.
The cypress tree is found in Greek mythology. According to legend, Cyparissus’ favorite companion was a tamed stag, which he accidentally killed with a hunting javelin as it slept in the woods. The boy’s grief transformed him into a cypress tree, which became a symbol of mourning. Cypress trees are often planted in cemeteries to ward off evil spirits.
Cypress wood is often used in boat building, as the wood is water-resistant strong, and durable.