Best Privacy Trees For a Small Backyard

There are many reasons why you might want to own your home. One of which is the alluring benefit of privacy.

But what’s the solution when you move into your brand new house and realize your yard doesn’t offer nearly as much privacy as you anticipated?

Trees, and lots of them! Some of the best privacy trees for a small backyard are fast-growing and easy to maintain so no worries there. 

row of arborvitaes best for privacy in small yard

There are many benefits of planting a privacy screen of trees aside from the obvious.

These include low maintenance qualities, year-round greenery (especially if they are evergreen), and shield your property from wind and noise.

You should plant trees in dormant seasons such as the early spring before bud break or late fall after leaf drop.

You’ll want the weather conditions to be cool and that time allows for new plants to establish roots before spring rains and summer heat.

During the first year, you’ll likely have to water the tree more. 

Some Things to Consider Before Planting Your Privacy Trees

Your local nursery can also help you pick out the right tree for your space, but there are always several things to consider before choosing and planting the perfect privacy tree for your backyard. 

  1. Find a spot away from utility lines, homes, and driveways
  2. Make sure you know where septic lines and sidewalks are (for the roots)
  3. Determine your USDA hardiness zone
  4. Do you want to plant all the same type of tree

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18 Best Privacy Trees for a Small Backyard

No matter the size of your yard, your aesthetic preference, and the level of difficulty, there are plenty of great options for privacy trees.

1. Japanese Maple

japanese maple growing like thick privacy hedge

Latin name: Acer palmatum

Type: Deciduous

Soil conditions: rich, moist soil; prefers slightly acidic soils

Light conditions: full sun to partial shade

Size: 10 to 25 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5 to 8

Japanese maples are fairly small trees that are a good choice for privacy in a small yard. Even better, these trees are stunning to look at in the fall.

One of the major downfalls is you won’t have as much privacy in the winter when the leaves fall and you’re left with bare branches. 

Note: Japanese maples are not native to the US, but the Chionanthus virginicus (Fringe Tree) is a great native alternative. 

2. Burkwood Viburnum

burkwood viburnum with dark green, thick foliage that provides privacy
flickr photo by AndreyZharkikh shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Latin name: Viburnum × burkwoodii

Type: Deciduous shrub in northern climates, evergreen in southern climates

Soil conditions: well drained, but moderate moisture

Light conditions: full sun to part shade

Size: 8-10 feet

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 to 8

The burkwood viburnum is an evergreen that is known for its stunning pinkish white spring flower clusters that give off a spicy-sweet fragrance.

The blooms are paired with lustrous, dark green foliage. It is well-suited as a hedge, screen (much like a living fence), or accent plant and its mature height is perfect for a small yard. 

3. Leyland Cypress

leland cypresss rows of privacy trees, small cultivar used for small backyards

Latin name: Cupressus leylandii

Type: Deciduous

Soil conditions: well-drained fertile soil but tolerates acidic or alkaline soil 

Light conditions: full sun 

Size: 40-70 feet

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6 to 10

Some of the best trees, Leyland cypress trees are a very popular choice for privacy.

It is a stunning, fast-growing evergreen tree that forms a pyramidal shape and has been known to reach 50 feet in just 15 years. 

The downside to these large trees is that their shallow root system makes them not as well-adapted to warmer climates and they are more vulnerable to root rot. 

The shorty leyland cypress is a dwarf cultivar if the leyland cypress is too large for your space. This smaller version only reaches about 5-10 feet in height. 

4. Florida Anise Tree

florida anise shrub is dense and evergreen foliage with red flowers
Illicium floridanum flickr photo by peganum shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Latin name: Illicium floridanum

Type: Evergreen

Soil conditions: moist, rich and well drained

Light conditions: Part shade to full shade

Size: 6 to 10 feet

USDA Hardiness Zone: 7 to 10

The Florida anise tree is a fast-growing medium to large evergreen shrub that is also known as purple anise.

It is known for being fairly low-maintenance and tolerates heavy shade, erosion, and wet planting sites. However, it is not cold hardy and is not drought tolerant. 

The Florida anise tree foliage is bright and attractive as well as aromatic, smelling very much like the spice anise.

For a nice bonus, the leaves contain high levels of aromatic compounds that repel insects which makes them naturally pest resistant. 

5. Carolina Cherry Laurel 

for a small backyard-carolina cherry laurel hedge

Latin name: Prunus caroliniana 

Type: Deciduous

Soil conditions:  moist and well drained

Light conditions: Sun to Part Shade

Size: 15 to 20 feet

USDA Hardiness Zone: 7 to 10

The Carolina laurel cherry is a small evergreen shrub or small tree. The fresh leaves give off a maraschino cherry fragrance when crushed. 

This plant is easy to transplant, is somewhat tolerant of salt, and can handle heavy pruning. It is easily used as a hedge, in small groups, or mass planting. 

Note: This plant is highly poisonous to humans. 

6. Arborvitae

Thuja occidentalis arborvitae growing in rows as privacy fence hedge. thuja can be grow small these are smaller for smaller yards

Latin name: Thuja occidentalis 

Type: Evergreen

Soil conditions: well-drained soil

Light conditions: full sun to partial sun

Size: 20-40 feet

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2 to 8

The arborvitae trees have always been a great choice when it comes to fast growing evergreen trees for privacy and there are plenty of good reasons why.

They require very low to nearly zero maintenance and can tolerate a vast array of soil types. 

There are many cultivars of this tree including ‘Green Giant’ and ‘Emerald Green.’ These are perhaps the most popular best privacy trees for a small backyard.

7. Flowering Dogwood

mature flowering dogwood screens out privacy

Latin name: Cornus florida 

Type: Deciduous

Soil conditions: well-drained soil; not too dry

Light conditions: full sun to partial sun

Size: 15-25 feet

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5 to 8

Flowering dogwood trees are North American deciduous trees and are great seasonal privacy trees and add some color to your yard as well.

They produce a variety of blooms including white flowers, pink flowers, and red flowers. 

There’s a reason this tree is the state tree of Virginia and Missouri and the state flower of North Carolina and once they start blooming, you know spring has arrived.

8. Bottlebrush Buckeye

tall bottlebrush buckeye growing thick and wide for coverage

Latin name: Aesculus parviflora

Type: Deciduous shrub

Soil conditions: average moisture, but well drained

Light conditions: Part shade to full shade

Size: 8 to 12 feet

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 to 8

Once you know what a bottlebrush buckeye looks like, you’ll be able to spot it every time thanks to its long fluffy white flower clusters that bloom in summer.

This is a large shrub that will, over time, have a much larger spread than height so it won’t do very well in a tight space. 

The dark green and coarse leaves turn a rich yellow in the fall.

Best Privacy Trees For Small Backyard- arborvitae

9. Yaupon Holly

yaupon holly privacy hedge with red berries used in small backyard

Latin name: Ilex vomitoria

Type: Evergreen

Soil conditions: medium to wet soil

Light conditions: full sun to part shade

Size: 10 to 20 feet

USDA Hardiness Zone: 7 to 9

Yaupon holly is an upright shrub or small tree with small dark green leaves and a pale gray bark with white patches.

The female plants produce bright red berries. There are many cultivars available so whether you want a columnar shape or weeping form or another, you should be able to find something suitable. 

This plant is slow-growing and has rather dense foliage and branches. It is ideal for dense hedges, and if you’re wanting it as a small tree, it will take a decent amount of careful pruning. 

10. Wax Myrtle

wax myrtle tree dense foliage for privacy in small backyard
Wax Myrtle flickr photo by treegrow shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Latin name: Morella cerifera

Type: Evergreen

Soil conditions: medium to wet soil

Light conditions: full sun to part shade

Size: 10-15 feet

USDA Hardiness Zone: 7 to 10

Wax myrtles are large shrubs that make great privacy hedges. After established, wax myrtles will grow in a wide range of soil conditions from wet swampy areas to dry uplands.

It is also tolerant of poor soil, high winds, and salt spray, making it an ideal choice for coastal areas.

The wax myrtle also has fragrant flowers that have been used for candles and soaps and edible fruits for birds. 

11. Inkberry

inkberry shrub with white berries privacy hedge in yard
flickr photo by treegrow shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Latin name: Ilex glabra

Type: Evergreen

Soil conditions: rich, moist, acidic soil

Light conditions: full sun to part shade

Size: 5-10 feet

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 to 9

The inkberry is a slow-growing, broadleaf evergreen shrub that is part of the holly family.

Greenish white blooms appear in the spring and it is an easy to grow shrub. 

12. Eastern Redbud

redbud tree blooming

Latin name: Cercis Canadensis

Type: Deciduous

Soil conditions: acidic or alkaline soils

Light conditions: full sun to partial shade

Size: 20-30 feet

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 to 9

A native tree to the Eastern United States, the eastern redbud is one of the easiest trees to grow.

It adapts well to most conditions and is the perfect size for most urban gardens or small yards. 

One of the best parts about this tree is the pretty pink flowers that bloom in the early spring.

Even without the flowers, the eastern redbud has heart-shaped leaves and it grows tall enough to have a table and chairs underneath the lower branches. 

13. Blue Spruce

blue spruce dense privacy tree in small backyard

Latin name: Picea pungens

Type: Evergreen

Soil conditions: rich, well-drained soil

Light conditions: full sun

Size: 30-70 feet

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3 to 7

Blue spruces are slow-growing trees that can reach serious heights.

However, there are dwarf varieties that are excellent for ornamental uses as they reach an average height of 15 feet. 

14. Eastern Red Cedar

eastern red cedar tree growing in small backyard to hide eyesores
Juniperus viginiana flickr photo by F. D. Richards shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Latin name: Juniperus virginiana

Type: Evergreen

Soil conditions: rich, moist, acidic soil

Light conditions: full sun to part shade

Size: 3-4 feet

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2 to 9

The eastern red cedar is also known as an eastern juniper and red juniper and is the most widespread conifer in North America.

To make it confusing, it’s also not actually a true cedar, but it is a juniper.

These trees are cold-hardy and very adaptable to many climates.

Traditionally, the eastern red cedar is a rather large tree, but luckily there are many cultivars suitable for small backyards.

For example, the blue eastern red cedar is a narrow, upright, columnar evergreen that grows to 20-25 feet.

The blue mountain eastern red cedar is a spreading evergreen shrub that only reaches 3-4 feet in height. 

15. Crepe Myrtle

crepe myrtle tree raspberry flowers widespread for coverage in small backyard

Latin name: Lythraceae

Type: Deciduous

Soil conditions: medium moisture and well drained soil

Light conditions: full sun 

Size: 6-25 feet

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 to 9

Crepe myrtles are perfect trees for the South. They are small to medium deciduous shrub or small tree.

They have lovely late spring and early summer flowers, attractive bark, and often colorful fall leaves making them a year-round beautiful tree. 

It is a common misconception that Crepe Myrtles are native to the US. The Chilopsis linearis (Desert Willow) is a fantastic native alternative if you live in the southwestern US. 

16. American Hornbeam

american hornbeam, tree used for privacy

Latin name: Carpinus caroliniana

Type: Deciduous

Soil conditions: medium moisture soil

Light conditions: Full to partial shade

Size: up to 35 feet

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3 to 9

A lesser known, but still one of the best privacy trees for a small backyard is this slow-growing, deciduous tree is low-maintenance and grows practically everywhere.

This is definitely a shorter shade tree compared to others and develops an attractive rounded shape. 

17. Dwarf Southern Magnolia 

dwarf southern magnolia thick foliage for privacy

Latin name: Magnolia grandiflora (Little Gem)

Type: Evergreen

Soil conditions: well-drained, slightly acidic soil

Light conditions: full sun to partial shade

Size: 20-25 feet

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5 to 9

When you picture magnolias, you likely picture huge white flowers and deep green leaf color.

Standard magnolias may be a bit too large for a super small yard, but a dwarf southern magnolia is a good option for a smaller yard. 

18. Arrowwood Viburnum

arrowood viburnum used a screen
Arrowwood Viburnum flickr photo by Frederick County Forest Conservancy District Board shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Latin name: Viburnum dentatum

Type: Deciduous shade

Soil conditions: slightly acidic, moist, well drained

Light conditions: full sun to part shade

Size: 6 to 12 feet

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2 to 8

The arrowwood viburnum is a multi-stemmed shrub with a rounded shape. It shows off creamy white flowers in late spring or early summer.

The flowers aren’t all this shrub offers. Afterward, the flowers are followed by blue-black berries that ripen in early fall. 

The dark green leaves change to yellow to glossy red to reddish-purple in the fall. 

Other Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Privacy Trees for a Small Backyard

What are the fastest growing small trees?

These fast-growing smaller trees will give your outdoor space more shade, privacy, and windbreak. 

  • Crepe myrtle
  • Crabapple trees
  • Leyland cypress
  • Eastern redbud
  • Star magnolia

What is a good shade tree for a small backyard?

If you have a tight space to work with, you’re probably going to want some dwarf trees that won’t take up much space. There are plenty of great trees that will make a perfect choice for your space. 

  • Japanese maple
  • Crepe myrtle
  • Eastern redbud- check out the purple leaved cultivar –Forest Pansy cultivar

What is the least messy tree?

Make your yard work for you and not add more work to your plate. The last thing you want to do is have to constantly clean up after your tree. 

  • Spruce
  • Maple
  • Flowering dogwood
  • Arborvitae

What are the best trees for small gardens?

If you’re looking for the best small tree to plant in a garden, there are several options that will give off beautiful flowering blooms or edible fruits. 

  • Blackhaw viburnum
  • Dwarf cherry trees
  • Crabapple tree
  • Crepe myrtle

Just because you have a small yard doesn’t mean you can’t have trees in your yard. There are a plethora of options when it comes to privacy trees for a small backyard.

You’ll want to consider what unique features you really want from your tree. Some things to consider before choosing a good option for you include:

  • Whether you want a flowering tree or not
  • If you want colorful foliage in the fall
  • Whether you want a deciduous or evergreen tree
  • Do you need privacy trees that grow in shade?
  • Are small trees for privacy important?
  • Do you have power lines to avoid

Don’t forget to Pin it for later!

crepe myrtle for privacy in small yard

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