Create privacy and add intrigue to your garden display with these excellent screening plant options.
Whatever the motivation, there are a few things to consider when choosing the best plants to create screening in your garden.
First and foremost, you need to decide how high you wish your screen to be, as well as whether it needs to provide year-round coverage or only during the warmer months.
You should also take into account the soil type available to you, as well as how quickly you need the screen to be in place and how much of an appetite or ability you will have to maintain it going forwards.
Meanwhile, there are certain legal implications to be aware of, including how high your screen is allowed to be by law, as well its proximity to other infrastructure.
This last point is particularly salient if you opt for a screen composed of trees, since the roots can reach far and wide, potentially disrupting drainage or buildings and structures in the vicinity.
Once you’ve given plenty of thought to the practical considerations, it’s time to turn to aesthetics –
What sort of visual impact do you want the screen to have? Should it be discreet and understated, only serving as an impediment to vision, or would you prefer it to be a feature in its own right?
Having taken all that into account, you’re ready to choose the plants to make up your screen. There is an extensive array of options to make your selection from, which is why we’ve narrowed the shortlist to 14 of the best tall plants for screening below:
Viburnum – otherwise known as arrowwood – is a dense shrub which can be either deciduous or evergreen depending on the species.
Most options grow to a decent height and offer excellent coverage when placed in a garden, though their bushiness may make them unsuitable for smaller spaces.
Choose a variety like dentatum to benefit from beautiful white flowers that burst into life in late spring and lush green foliage that fades into browns, yellows and oranges later in the year.
It’s also very popular with bees, butterflies and other pollinators, so it’s good for the environment, good for privacy and good for offering colourful appeal, all in one attractive package.
Bamboo screens are becoming increasingly popular in backyard landscaping due to the modern yet natural qualities they bring to a space.
Their clean and uncluttered appearance adds a minimalistic touch to your display, while their propensity to shift and sway slightly in a breeze brings movement and intrigue.
Just be careful to choose a clumping variety such as Chusquea montana or fargesia murieliae, since some types of bamboo are invasive and will run riot in your garden if left to their own devices.
Bamboo plants also lend themselves well to being grown in containers and couldn’t be simpler to cut down to size, making them a portable and highly versatile screening option.
The first out-and-out hedging option on this list, boxwood is perhaps the most well-known and most widely-used hedge variety in the UK.
That’s due to its resilience and malleability; this hardy evergreen can withstand frequent shearing and is even adaptable to a spot of topiary, allowing you to turn a box into whatever shape your heart desires.
It’s another ideal option if you want to use pots or planters to begin with, too, meaning it has a host of advantages to offer a homeowner on the hunt for a solid screening option.
Clematis is an avid climber which will quickly scale and cover the surface of a trellis, pergola or veranda, offering privacy from the outside world and shelter from the elements.
There are a huge range of different varieties to choose from, bearing largely purple or pink floral blossoms, so you can tailor your selection to the colour scheme of the structure they’re intended to cover and the surrounding décor in the garden.
They do best when their roots and the soil which nurtures them is kept in shade, but the uppermost parts of the plant are supported and exposed to full sun.
This broad-leaved shrub is easily identifiable by the grey bark of its branches which is brilliantly offset by the bright red of newer shoots in winter.
This is certainly when they’re at their most spectacular, though if it’s coverage you’re after, you’ll notice better results in spring and summer, when the full-bodied foliage will block out all behind it.
Fully mature trees can grow up to 10m in height, but you can pare back your plant to the appropriate with a little bit of elbow grease.
Just be aware that it’s among the hardiest woods available – it’s so robust that the crucifix of Christ was purported to be made from it.
6) Eucalyptus gunnii
Eucalyptus trees and shrubs are hugely popular among green-fingered enthusiasts for the lushness of their leaves and the brightness of their seasonal blossoms.
Having said that, there are very few species that are truly hardy specimens, and eucalyptus gunnii is undoubtedly the most favoured in the UK among them.
Capable of growing to 10m within a couple of decades, it’ll need to be cut back regularly, but the fascinating phenomenon of its peeling bark and the foliage and flowers it boasts more than make up for the effort involved.
These sprawling shrubs are notable for their early blooming patterns – they’ll be among the first to shoot forth their unmistakable yellow flowers in spring, long before the rest of your garden has woken up from its seasonal slumber.
The blossoms themselves are another major selling point, though it should be remembered that they work best as an informal screen, since they’re apt to grow in all directions at once and can be easily bent out of shape by the whims of the wind.
Capable of reaching around three metres in height, they can easily be trimmed back by lopping off the best flowerheads for display in indoor vases.
For many people, the only encounters they’ll have had with a holly plant come once a year during Christmas.
However, holly is an excellent option for use as a screening hedge, given that its an evergreen plant available in a wide selection of varieties.
Choose from inkberry, dwarf yaupon holly and meserve holly, to name but three, to tailor its appearance and utility to your specific needs.
As well as the glossy and spiky attraction of its leaves, your hedge will also benefit from the brilliant flashes of orange and red berries when in bloom, as well.
Just don’t prick yourself on its leaves when keeping it in check!
9) Horsetail grass
Horsetail grass could perhaps be considered a somewhat controversial entrant on this list given its propensity to spread like wildfire.
Although it’s often named invasive, it’s actually native to Europe and as such is better described as an aggressive spreader.
For that reason, it’s imperative that you take adequate precautions when using it as a garden screener, such as confining it to pots or maintaining a soil barrier to limit its chances of propagation.
When handled correctly, however, it provides an intriguing flowerless screen similar to bamboo that can reach almost two metres in height, which is why it’s a popular choice as an ornamental grass in Britain and beyond.
Many people labour under the mistaken belief that ivy is a parasite that strangles the trees or shrubs upon which it climbs.
However, nothing could be further from the truth; ivy not only doesn’t hurt trees at all, but actually offers sustenance for at least 50 organisms in the UK.
It’s ideal for arranging on a pergola, trellis or other outdoor structure, since its woody stems will cling to the support without much in the way of help up to heights of 30 metres.
Plus, the lush green foliage which it boasts lasts all year round offers great screening properties for those within.
Don’t allow it to become overgrown as it does spread like wildfire when left unchecked.
Jasmine lends itself to screening purposes in two ways.
Summer-flowering jasmine is an astonishingly fast climber, so train it up a trellis and let it work its magic to offer privacy and protection from the exterior.
Winter jasmine, on the other hand, is a dense shrub that’s tough as old boots, but far easier on the eye, especially during the colder months when many of your other plants have gone into hibernation.
Indeed, both varieties are visually pleasing with their floral displays, which also come with the added bonus of an exquisite accompanying fragrance.
12) Magnolia grandiflora
Magnolia grandiflora is an evergreen shrub or tree which grows in strict upright formations, making it an ideal option for planting in rows as a collective screen.
The foliage can be easily trained to begin from virtually any height on the trunk, which means you can position it next to a fence and have its canopy serve as an additional screening agent, while still simultaneously saving plenty of room in its lower reaches for underplanting.
Its broad leathery leaves will give excellent coverage, while its summer-flowering white blossoms are as enormous as they are enchanting.
13) Miscanthus sinensis
Miscanthus sinensis are a species of fast-growing grasses that will thrive in pretty much all conditions and can provide excellent coverage in next to no time.
Once they’ve taken hold in spring, they’ll shoot up to a maximum of two metres in a matter of weeks, gifting you a soft and undulating screen for your garden.
Of course, due to their nature as grasses, the partition they provide isn’t as robust or comprehensive as many of the other options on this list, but their gentle swaying in the breeze, alongside the changing colours of their fluffy panicles of flowers, means they carry plenty of aesthetic allure to compensate.
Privet is perhaps the main contender to boxwood’s claim on the British hedging throne and is commonly used as a screening plant in suburban gardens up and down the length of the country.
It’s distinguishable from its boxy counterpart by the smaller, lighter and more delicate shape of its leaves, the creamy whiteness of its flowers and the jet black of its berries.
Don’t be tempted to taste them, however, since they’re highly poisonous!
Jonny is an avid writer with a background in tourism, film and literature, but has a penchant for penning articles on all kinds of topics. He's always considered himself an environmentalist to some degree, but in recent times he has found himself shining a greater spotlight on his daily lifestyle choices and how the tiny changes he can make to his routine can have a cumulatively significant impact on the planet.