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Best privacy plants

This past weekend my family camped in the privacy fenced back yard. I built the fence so that the pickets overlap allowing no way to see through. My immediate neighbors have single story homes, but the yard dips down a bit on one side so there is a risk of being seen below the waist. Also, the neighbors across the street can see over the fence as well as a house a couple doors down. With the trees leafing out, more parts of the yard are safe to roam in, but I wonder if there are tall, fast growing plants that won't eat up too much yard space I could use in strategic spots.

I've heard bamboo as a suggestion, but I've not researched it enough to know if it will grow in clay soil or survive central Indiana winters. Any thoughts on that or other plant/tree/shrub options anyone has used?

Re: Best privacy plants

Bamboo thrives around here in Northern Virginia but our winters are probably not as bad as they are in Indiana. But there are other reasons to avoid bamboo, mainly because it is sort of an invasive plant and spreads quickly. But it may not provide enough screening anyway. Unfortunately, the best shrubs for providing a privacy screen will take time to grow and fill out sufficiently.

One generation plants the trees; the next sits in the shade.

Re: Best privacy plants

Thanks, BlueTrain. I wondered how private the bamboo would really be. It also just seems like it would be out of place...unnatural for this area.

White pines grow fairly quickly, so I'm thinking about buying one that is already several feet tall to take care of the neighbors across the street, but even at that it will take a few years for it to fill out. I'm trying to plan somewhat for the future, but there's a possibility we will only be in this house for 6-10 years.

If my neighbors on the side with the dip aren't outside and the blinds are closed on the window two doors down, I feel pretty safe in most of the yard. I even cooked breakfast over the firepit and took down the tent without getting dressed on Sunday morning. No one was up in the neighborhood yet.

Re: Best privacy plants

Have you looked into American Arborvitae? I've seen this work well.

Re: Best privacy plants

A good option over the long haul, although they can apparently grow to 40-60' tall, which is a bit much. They are supposed to grow 1-2' per year, though, so I guess if I get some that are already 2-3' I would have privacy in about 3-5 years. Whatever I do it will take a few years to really be what I need, so I will look more into this one. While I was poking around, I found that rose of Sharon can make a nice privacy hedge. I already have several in the yard that are large, so I may attempt to move one or two. They may be too big to move, though. I just need to decide and get something started this year, so I can enjoy it a few years down the road.

Re: Best privacy plants

We have a few Rose of Sharon that we keep cut at about 15 feet tall which provide a nice bit of a privacy screen. There is a small problem as they do tend to want to spread out and have to keep new plants from sprouting up where they're not wanted. Just enough to give that little bit of aded height where needed.

Re: Best privacy plants

I've done some more research on bamboo now. It seems there are two main classes: running and clumping. The running bamboo is very invasive and difficult to control, but the clumping can be contained if setup correctly and the roots appropriately trimmed each year. One of the more helpful site I found is:

I'm probably going to try to get one of the clumping varieties that will grow in my area due to the rapid growth rate and thickness of the clumping bamboo. I'm thinking I may have to go to a nursery or specialty garden store to get what I want. I may even have to order online. I'm still going to try moving one or more of my rose of sharons for one area to see how that works. Those grow well in clay soil.

Re: Best privacy plants

How about lilacs? I once lived in a house on the Canadian prairies, heavy clay soil, long cold winters - the lilacs grew very thickly and certainly provided privacy! They needed to be cut down from time to time and pruning the suckers from the roots presented a beautiful well-scented display of flowers in the (short) spring. You would need to be sure they didn't invade the neighbour's house/yard.

Re: Best privacy plants

I have seen some really big lilacs around. I'll have to look into how fast they grow. A beautiful option, though, for sure.

I wandered the yard this evening looking at the neighbors from various spots. I could get over half the yard private relatively easily. I will have to consider whether I want/need the whole yard or just enough to be able to roam and use the firepit out in the middle of the yard. I definitely want that much at least.

Re: Best privacy plants

One more hint to give you if your interested. When our neighbors put in a combination swing set, sliding board and tree house I worried that the little ones could see into our space. Late one night I took a laser pointer flashlight and determined the sight lines for the elevated pieces were safe unless they climbed on the roof. And it has also been used to determine if anyone could see into our SUV also. But driving naked is a whole other topic!

Re: Best privacy plants

I like the laser pointer idea. I've figured out that when I squat down my eyes are at approximately the same height as my waist when standing, so I do a lot of up and down. Anyone who might see my head bouncing would probably wonder what in the world I was doing. Thanks for the tip!

I've done some nude driving as well--mostly at night. I always have something ready to cover up. I really don't want to have to carry shorts around with me in the yard in case my neighbor comes outside, so I'm hoping I can get the yard much more private. (I'd have considered putting up an 8ft fence if it was allowed.)

Re: Best privacy plants

Since you are in a bit of a hurry, build a screen. Place 6'-7' tall posts at 8' ctrs. with a top panel of Lattice to allow climbing vines a place to grow.

Until the vines cover it, put a dark mesh on the lattice and remove it as the vines get longer. This is more of a landscape "feature" than a fence and more attractive to those compelled to control others behavior.

I would caution you about planting pine trees. Most pine trees, go out into a large old stand of them and see, tend to drop branches as they get taller. Thereby losing all benefit of a screening stand of trees. Of course you might be gone by then.

My backdoor neighbor put in pines all along his rear block wall fence. I was able to move around naked in my back yard for a few years. Now the lower branches have died and been removed. My screen in the back yard is just about gone.

I think fir trees or maybe even ponderosa and pinion pines keep their lower branches. Those are gorgeous trees but grow slowly.

Re: Best privacy plants

I'm glad you said that about the pines. I have seen lots of examples of that, but I hadn't thought about it until you brought it up.

I think there is one spot or maybe two where a screen would be fitting. I will certainly take that under advisement. I'll have to check local ordinances to see if I'm allowed anything taller than the 6' fence I already have. Of course I could use a screen closer to the patio on one side or the other that would at least allow me freedom at that point of the yard.

Re: Best privacy plants

Doug B.
I've figured out that when I squat down my eyes are at approximately the same height as my waist when standing, so I do a lot of up and down.
Ha! That's been my technique for many years!

Doug B.
I've done some nude driving as well--mostly at night. I always have something ready to cover up.
Nothing like driving at night with the windows open and feeling the warm air circulate all around you. It's exhilarating, and helps keep me awake when I'm starting to feel drowsy on some longer drives during the summer.

Re: Best privacy plants

A good choice in bamboo would be Phyllostachys Bissetii, or Bisset's Bamboo. It clumps tightly together at the bottom and mushrooms out at the top. My mother in law isn't a nudist, but you can't see into her property from three sides because of her Bissetii. It doesn't really spread, but it gets progressively tighter and taller, until a certain critical mass between 20 and 30 feet tall, and about six feet across at the base (that's width, not length - it could be as long as you want it, pretty much) and twenty across at the top. Fantastic natural privacy screen!

And someone on here mentioned lattices. That's also a good idea! You could plant all kinds of things on lattices, including sweet potatoes - only problem is that the plants won't be as tightly grouped as consistently as the Bissetii. So I'd say either modify the fence or invest in a good Bissetti hedge.

I don't have any property of my own yet. My wife and I are hoping to buy a few acres out in the semi-country here in a few years and "settle down." I'm planning on planting a healthy band of Phyllostachys Bissetii ALL the way around the property. Might even put a fence in around that, too. Lol

Hope this helps!

Re: Best privacy plants

Here in the southeastern USA:
Any of the large Chinese holly varieties grow thick and tall.
Ligustrum is another potentially massive dense shrub.
Look into Camellia, Viburnum, Abelia and Lorapetalum as well.
Don't rule out some trees.
Some varieties of Arborvitae provide good cover too, Green Giant for one.

You might have to prune to encourage the most dense growth.

Re: Best privacy plants

I have a long row of Forsythia plants that from early spring to late fall are a private screen. They are planted close so as to not have any gaps between plants, They grow fast and you can let them grow as tall as you wish. Just keep them trimmed to the height that you wish.

A few more privacy plants

I've got a few more evergreens for you:
Carolina Jessamine - vine climbs up a trellis and provides good privacy.

Banana shrub (Michelia figo) reaches 6 to 8 feet in height.

Wax Myrtle (Myrixca cerifera)reaches 10 to 12 feet in height.

Myrtle (Myrtus communis) reaches 5 to 10 feet in height.

Osmanthus of various species reaches 9 to 12 feet in height.
(common names are Fortune Tea Olive, Fragrant Tea Olive, Holly Osmanthus, Curlyleaf Tea Olive).

Photina (avoid redtip or red photina) Consider Fraser or Chinese Photina
commonly reaches 10 feet in height.

English Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) reaches 10 to 12 feet in height.

Re: A few more privacy plants

Wow, lots of good options. I appreciate all the suggestions. It will help narrow my search. I'm not sure I want anything that is likely to grow to 20 feet or more unless it is a stand alone tree. 8-16 feet would be ideal in my situation.

I was using my normal squat technique last night and I'm concerned that my next door neighbor could see me near the hammock if she was standing in her dining room. That is one area I need to consider a screen for immediate privacy. Even just empty lattice might suffice due to the distance. The lattice would be about halfway between the hammock and her door (with the fence in place, too, but it just dips too low in that spot). It is probably about 150 feet between us at that point.

Re: A few more privacy plants

Doug, I have a half acre with a fenced back yard. I have the same problem that you do. Those in the homes nearby plus in a 2 story home rearward and on one side could definitely see over the fence. We had a clump of (clumping) bamboo on the property and I investigated how to transplant bunches of it on line. That was about four years ago and now the entire rear yard is fully screened except for two small areas that I'm still working on. It is enough that allows me to walk, work and relax nude which I enjoy very much (as you probably know). Watering newly planted bamboo is critical at least in Florida. It does grow very fast and I trim it once or twice a year to neaten it up a bit.

The other thing that you might consider is a fenced area within your fenced area. I built a fence behind and beside (L shaped) the back porch. I decked that area and decorated it with lighting and a portion of it is lattice with greenery. I added an outdoor shower which I enjoy immensely.
This fence prevents any of the neighbors from viewing the porch or into the house so that I can live life nude as much as I want. Be creative and I'll bet that you can come up with a good remedy. Good luck!

Max M

Re: A few more privacy plants

I think that a "fence" inside a fence may not have height restrictions since it does not secure your property from intrusion, but is a privacy screen. I have been told that height restrictions were to allow firefighters easier access in case of fire. Probably an old restriction since nothing seems to stop modern fire departments. You may need to get a permit for such a "permanent structure". Check local building codes.

Re: A few more privacy plants

If there's a homeowner's association, they are apt to be more restrictive than the city or county.

Re: Best privacy plants

Pwssssh... amatures. I drove most of the way across Montana and North Dakota the other year in the nude... LOL

Re: Best privacy plants

St. Nude NW
Pwssssh... amatures. I drove most of the way across Montana and North Dakota the other year in the nude... LOL
And what, you passed like 3 people during the entire trip?

Re: Best privacy plants

There seem to be many species of screening plants. Before making a final selection, check to be sure the selected species is not an exotic invasive.
Exotic (non native) invasives can easily escape to the wild. Typically they take over and crowd out every other species.