Lisa's Landscape & Design

Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time

Top 10 Trees and Shrubs for Privacy

Texas Sage bush is a beautiful evergreen flowering shrub, also known as the barometer bush, it is a rain gauge with silvery leaves and lavender flowers. Excellent for privacy and sound barrier.

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”.

The builders bed below should be completely reworked for privacy, low water and low maintenance. This Crepe Myrtle tree will eventually be too wide and tall for this space, leaving a clear view to the neighbors and a hassle for you. The shrubs will be enormous over time and you will be hidden behind a shrubbery wall which is a security issue, a maintenance problem and ultimately a disease prone eyesore. Making the right choices early on is important in every way.

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I’m not a fan of looking into my neighbors windows and I certainly don’t want them seeing into mine, so the first thing I do in every home we’ve owned, is to plant trees and lots of them! If you are in planting zones 8a/b or 9. I have some great selections for you and many of these will travel to other zones as well.

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 trees to stay on budget.

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

Why did I plant small trees each time? Because I’ve always been on a budget and I was planting on a rock shelf. You can also add really small fast growing trees to your landscape for maximum benefit with the least amount of money and effort. If money is no issue, by all means get a 20 or 30 gallon and be sure to keep them on a strict watering schedule until established. Be mindful that smaller gallon/potted trees can grow more quickly in rocky soil and can be a better choice in windy areas too.

As the garden below begins to mature, it will eventually have trees from 30′ to 6′ 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. I used fruit trees and assorted sized crepes myrtles for summer color, Little Gem Magnolia Tree as an evergreen anchor and it’s surrounded by peach, apple and fruiting pear and native trees that provide food, flower and fall color. 

Surround yourself with the colors that make you happy.

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. 

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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 10 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.

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Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel, (above) is a beautiful native plant that can serve as an understory or shade tree depending on its age. Mountain Laurel are painfully slow growers so they make for excellent planting beneath larger trees that grow more quickly.

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Natchez Crepe Myrtle, Lisa LaPaso

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 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.

 Yaupon is another excellent privacy tree that is a relatively fast grower and provides berries to boot in most cases. My favorites for privacy would be a Scarlet’s Peak (above), Pride of Houston 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. These low water trees generally range in a wider tree form (12×15), to more columnar cultivars like the Sky Pencil and Will Fleming, which typically run about 4 feet wide and up to 20 feet tall.

Below is a really cool American Smoke Tree. This funky tree is a great way to add a barrier of the view that isn’t too imposing.

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, redbud is a great choice. Always be sure to choose varieties for your hardiness zone.

Layering your plants and trees is the best way to give the illusion of privacy. I designed this space 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.
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.

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 and need some help “treeing up”, these low water, evergreen shrub/tree is a delightful way to put a little space between you and your neighbor. Full to part sun.

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.

Carolina Buckhorn 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.

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.

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 8-10th wide. Purple blue flowers off and on over the summer months, followed be 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. 

Obviously I’ve gone past 10 but it shows that we have some great choices from tall to small. 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.


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, 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”

2 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Great article!

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