Lisa's Landscape & Design

Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time

Top 10 Trees and Shrubs for Privacy

If you’re in Central Texas, particularly Austin, you know that land is at a premium. This is true in many cities as homes being are being built on less than a quarter acre and your neighbors are typically “all up in your grill”.  There’s a good reason that one of the most common questions I get in my landscape consultation and designs is “what are the best trees and shrubs for privacy”.

The space above is a typical bed with the wrong plants with no purpose or function. While these are something we need to address, the first thing everyone should do is look at the long term privacy we are seeking. 

Start With Trees and Shrubs for Fast Privacy .

Planting for privacy with trees and tall shrubs

This property (Above) is 2 years old from construction to garden and you can see I was busy planting trees immediately. You can’t tell now, but there is a whole canopy of assorted tree sizes in this space and it will take about 7 years before it’s really on point with the desired look. All of these trees are 15 gallon or smaller.

The garden below is about 5 years old here and once again, I began with strategic tree planting for privacy, using only small gallon trees to stay on budget.

Planting with trees and shrubs for more privacy

Adding a layer of canopy and ground cover brings your eye to a desired place instead of the house’s around you.

Buy the Smallest Gallon Pot You Can get Away With

Why do I recommend planting smaller gallon trees? Because they’re more cost effective and the roots of smaller trees can navigate our hard clay and rocky soil better than larger ones.

Even if money is no issue, or if you need immediate privacy, I would still stick with no larger than 20 or 30 gallon for best results and be sure to keep them on a strict watering schedule until established. Be mindful that smaller gallon/potted trees can be a better choice in windy areas too.

As the garden below begins to mature, it will eventually have trees from 30’+ to 8′ which will basically eliminate the property behind it. This process can take some time, but you can see by this photo that even the instant result of green and texture is a whole lot better than the broad side of a barn they were looking at before. 

Planting with trees and shrubs for privacy

Surround yourself with the colors that make you happy.

1)Texas Pistache 

Some of my favorite large trees are the Chinese and Texas Pistache. Fast growing to 30-50’, beautiful spring flower/fringe and excellent fall color. These make great shade trees and work for layering understory trees in large spaces where there is room to grow. Easily managed with its upright growth habit, its a great way to get privacy for a second floor window. 
Trees for privacy, Chinese Pistache

2)Mexican Sycamore

Mexican Sycamore, fast growing trees for privacy

These beautiful Mexican Sycamore trees (above) are an excellent example of a large tree in a small bucket, ready to get growing in its new space. This could also be planted in a 15 gallon which would take a few years to catch up, but will eventually even out over time. Because this tree is ultimately 50′, this is a canopy tree and you will want to add understory trees as well for maximum privacy in years to come.

3) Little Gem Magnolia

This is one of my favorite flowering, evergreen trees along with the painfully slow growing Mountain Laurel.  This southern Magnolia is a much faster grower and could be planted along with a Mountain Laurel which will also take the shade this tree eventually provides. Maturing at 15-20’x 12-15’, it’s a perfect tree for privacy.

4)Crepe Myrtle

Natchez Crepe Myrtle trees for privacy

Natchez Crepe Myrtle, 

This stunning white, Natchez Crepe Myrtle is a great tree for privacy. Ranging in height from dwarf to 30 feet, Crepe Myrtle’s can provide a wall of privacy in a few short years depending on the variety. Always look for Crepes with Native American names for the most mildew resistant varieties and only choose trees that range from 8 to 20 feet max for privacy or you’ll end up with a window view between the bottom of the tree canopy and the fence. The tree above is a perfect example of how well they provide shade, color and privacy all in one.

5) Yaupon Shrub/Tree

Scarlets Peak Yaupon, shrubs for privacy

 Yaupon is another excellent evergreen privacy tree that is a relatively fast grower and provides berries in most cases. My favorites for privacy would be a Scarlet’s Peak (above), Pride of Houston, Skypencil, or the lovely Hightower. These evergreen beauties preform all year and if you choose a variety that has berries currently on them, you can be sure you aren’t missing out. If you prefer a non berry variety, look for the Will Fleming, Skyline or Skyward. These low water shrubs/trees generally range in a wider tree form (12×15), to more columnar cultivars which typically run about 4 feet wide and up to 20 feet tall.

6) American and Royal Purple Smoke Tree

Royal Purple Smoke Tree

American Smoke Tree. This funky tree is a great way to add a barrier of the view that isn’t too imposing. With striking color all year it’s  great specimen too. Growing to 15’t x 12’w. Full sun to part shade. 

7) Texas and Mexican Redbud

Below, the telltale signs of Texas and Mexican Redbud each spring. Excellent for privacy under canopy trees or as the main event, from sun to shade, red blue is a great choice. Always be sure to choose varieties for your hardiness zone. Maturing at 15-25’. 

Texas and Mexican Redbud

Layering your plants and trees is the best way to give the illusion of privacy. I designed this space (above) to hide the mailbox cluster outside the fence and drown out the noise of traffic. You couldn’t come into this space and see anything but garden and this “side yard” was turned into an oasis and an asset.

8) Kidneywood Tree

Kidneywood Tree

The Kidneywood Tree (below) is a semi evergreen small tree or large shrub with incredibly fragrant white flowers in summer and unusually textured, herbaceous and deer resistant leaves. 8 x 10 ‘ full to part sun.

9)Anacacho Orchid Tree 

Anacacho Orchid Tree

Anacacho Orchid Tree

The tree above is one of my favorite privacy trees for front and back and with it, you get flowers and fragrance. The Anacacho Orchid Tree is one of those little native gems that you should be seeing everywhere. You can find taller versions to start with, but even as a baby they are lovely. Typically maxing out as 10 x 10, they may need some help “treeing up”. This low water, evergreen shrub/tree is a delightful way to put a little space between you and your neighbor. Full to part sun.

10)Viburnum

Viburnum shrubs for privacy

Viburnum (above) are great choices for fast growing privacy  shrubs for privacy. This is another soft neighbor hider that is just see though enough for a wave, but not a let’s hangout 🙂 Sandankwa, Sweet, and Spring Bouquet Viburnum are great choices for hardiness zone 8a/b. Full to part sun depending on the variety. Varying from 8 x 8’ to 20’ tall.

Bonus-Carolina Buckthorn

Carolina Buckthorn Tree

Carolina Buckthorn is another ever small full sun to part shade native tree that works really well in a moist or semi moist space in the garden. Beautiful berries, attracts wildlife and while it loses it leaves in the winter, it has beautiful fall color and black berries as they age. This also makes a great understory tree only needing 3 to 4 hours of sunlight to thrive. Full to part sun. 

Bonus 2-Carolina or Compact Cherry Laurel 

Compact Cherry Laurel

Another of my favorite instant privacy trees are the Carolina Cherry Laurel, the Compact Cherry Laurel and the Bright and Tight Cherry Laurel. The trees above have been groomed for height, but you can find these from fat shrubs to topiary and they are an excellent cultivar for our environment. Evergreen, little no maintenance and a pretty fast grower. The tree variety can reach 30’and the shrubs are 4 x 10-12ish. Full to part sun.

 Stair stepping your shrubs and trees is another great way to give the illusion of more privacy. Here is a staggering height of Pineapple Guava and Cherry Laurel. Taking the eye to different heights, shades and texture while leading them up to the sky, breaks the sight-line of the house behind and adjacent to you which gives the illusion of more space.

Catawba Crepe Myrtle for privacy

The purple flowering tree above is the Catawba Crepe Myrtle which is a great selection for Central Texas because it is mildew resistant and stays a neat 10-12’ tall and 8’ wide. Purple-blue flowers bloom off and on over the summer months, followed by fall color. Full sun for best results.

Below, My design concept was to just distract you with layers of color. Privacy for this pool is secondary to the view of a garden that is more pleasant to look at. When the space is narrow, we can be reduced to a hedgerow, or a clever and pleasant distraction. 

If you find your new tree or bargain bush has clearly been in the pot too long…

Simply cut the roots as shown below and loosen them up with your fingers before planting.

Always use quality soil, compost and shredded native wood mulches. Dig the hole double wide and a little deeper then be sure to stake single trunk trees for the first two years.

Here is the proper technique for tree planting in Central Texas:

You will pay a little more, but your soil should be rich and dark, not orange or beige. You get what you pay for and organic humas or compost, rich soils are a great starter kit to growing a healthy tree. Xeriscape (low water) gardens begin with proper plant selection, proper planting and soil preparation.

Planting in a layering affect will make your space feel bigger and lead your eye to the sky without the look of soldiers in a row. Varieties of trees in assorted sizes give privacy and interest and allow you to bring the view to the sky instead of the neighbor. 


Remember to be creative in your tree selection. The goal isn’t only to “hide” your neighbors, but to enhance your view. With so many great choices, why limit yourself to Live Oaks and the same ol, same ol. If you would like more great tree ideas for your space check out this post, or email me at lisalapaso@gmail.com to schedule a Landscape Consultation.

Now go plants some trees!

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

5 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Great article!

  2. Anonymous

    Great article! Do you also work in Dripping Springs?

  3. Anonymous

    Do you landscape in Temple, TX?

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