Are you tired of your neighbours looking into your garden, be it accidentally or on purpose? Maybe your garden borders a lively street, and you want to hide your personal space from all the hustle and bustle? What if you have an overlooked garden or a balcony in a tightly packed residential area and just want to add some privacy? Thankfully, a tried and tested natural solution to this problem exists. It’s time to take control of your privacy and learn about the wonder of screening plants!
There is a vast array of possible plant species and their varieties that can be used to add some privacy to your garden, each providing different benefits while also requiring varying conditions in which to establish and thrive. All this might make it sound like quite a complex topic at first glance, so that’s why we’ll go over what screening plants are, how to choose the proper ones for you, and we’ll also list some of the best screening plants in Australia. Read to the end for a bonus space-efficient screening idea, as well!
What are screening plants
Screening plants, also called privacy plants, serve as a living fence that provides privacy from street traffic and from the prying eyes of neighbours. They dampen noise and help keep your garden cool while slowing any harsh winds that might otherwise blow straight through your property.
Strategically placed plants can help hide certain unsightly features, such as a gas meter, trash can or even your neighbour’s ugly fence. You can also use plants for the opposite reason – to draw the eye towards a certain feature of your garden. Screening plants can help provide privacy for overlooked gardens, as well. This can be done with wooden or metal arbours, trellises and arches, which can all be combined with a variety of different plant species.
There are also some benefits to adding such plants to your garden that many people don’t take into account – they add to your garden’s biodiversity, which is of great importance in today’s world of rapidly declining wildlife numbers. Birds can nest in evergreen hedges, and colourful and aromatic flowers attract insects that will pollinate your whole garden while also serving as food for your new feathery neighbours.
How to choose the proper screening plant
There are many factors to consider when choosing plants to provide you privacy. As well as picking screening plants that are pleasing to the eye, you also have to take into account the different varieties and cultivars available, whether they will suit your needs while also considering their requirements for soil, light and climate conditions.
You should also consider the available space and choose plants according to the size they can grow to. Even if you have room to spare, you shouldn’t hurry to get large screening plants, as the bigger they are, the more effort will be required to maintain them.
Think about how much spare time you have and whether it’s worth the effort to trim high hedges or prune big trees? Additionally, suppose you will be planting on the border of your garden, next to your neighbour’s property or the street. In that case, you should take into consideration whether the roots of your plants won’t grow out of control and invade your neighbour’s garden or cause damage to the pavement and street.
You should also think about how the plants you’re planning on establishing will work together with your garden visually and whether they will look good with the way you’re going to design your screen. For example, large-leaved plants look best when grown on a tall screen, while plants with small leaves can also grow tall but look best in a lower screen formation.
There are also different legal considerations you have to take into account. Depending on what your screen borders with, be it neighbours, a residential street or a highway, height restrictions limit how tall a screen you can grow.
You have to consider whether you will obscure views, block sunlight and whether your plants will shed their leaves all over your neighbour’s property. Furthermore, you must absolutely avoid planting invasive species, as such plants can overwhelm local ecosystems rapidly and what’s more, buying and selling the seeds of invasive species is illegal and prosecutable in Australia. Check out government-issued lists of invasive species for your area before choosing what to plant.
The best plants for privacy for your garden
So now you know what screening plants are, in essence, what characteristics to look for when choosing plants and what to avoid doing in the process. If you have an idea of what you want to do with your garden, then all that’s left is to choose the proper plant species for it!
With hundreds of different plant species and their varieties available, you have to choose what type of plant you’d like to make your screen out of. Do you want a plant that’s tall, small, evergreen or maybe one that grows quickly, so your screen is ready in no time? What about plants that can grow in a pot? (More on that part a bit later).
The most popular screening plants
One of Australia’s most popular screening plants is the Lilly pilly (Syzygium smithii), which also has a magenta variety known as Neighbours-be-gone (Syzygium paniculata). Lilly pillies have been used as screening plants for decades. Their popularity as a privacy plant is due to their speedy growth – they can reach up to 3-5 metres fairly quickly. The plant itself has glossy green leaves, small maroon-coloured berries (which are actually edible!), colourful flowers, and the new growth of the plant is a wonderful pink colour. This plant thrives in full sun and fertile soils that are mulched and well-drained. The Lilly pilly grows best in cooler climates.
Other popular dense screening plants are Star magnolia (Magnolia stellata), Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) and Golden hop (Humulus lupulus).
Fastest-growing screening plants
One of the fastest-growing screening plants is bamboo, more specifically the Ornamental gold bamboo (Bambusa multiplex), also called Alphonse Karr bamboo. This hardy, tall, and quick-growing plant is an excellent choice for a low-maintenance screen. The gold bamboo can grow to a height of around 4 metres in less than 2 years. The plant starts narrow near the ground and fans out further up. New shoots are reddish-pink colours that fade to beautiful gold with green stripes after a few months. It’s drought-tolerant, thrives in cooler climates, and can easily be trimmed down in height if required.
Evergreen and fast-growing hedges
Let us also not forget to mention one of the very best plants for privacy, the Leighton green (Cupressus leylandii), also known as the Leyland cypress. Leighton green is a hardy and fast-growing evergreen conifer that ranks among the most popular screening plants. This plant grows in a pyramidal shape, the leaves are very densely packed, and it can grow to more than 15 metres high. It can also be trimmed into a hedge if you need to keep it at a smaller size. The Leyland cypress grows best in full sun or partly shaded areas. It prefers well-drained soils but tolerates nearly all soil types. It endures frosts and droughts once properly established and can thrive in a variety of different climates – from cold and temperate areas all the way to warm coastal regions.
The eye-catching Viburnums (Viburnum tinus) also deserve a speacial place here. They’re not only evergreeen, but also produce tiny white flowers and red berries in spring, making them a favourite among many gardeners.
If you want to use grassy plants to divide a part of your garden from the rest or accent a feature of it, you can’t go wrong by choosing Reed grass (Calamagrostis), Chinese fountain grass (Pennisetum) and Silvergrass (Miscanthus). If you’d rather have somewhat of a transparent barrier, then your best choices are verbena and lavender. If you want to provide privacy for your overlooked garden, you might want to choose plants like Clematis and rambling rose.
Screening plants in pots
Like we mentioned earlier, you can also use screening plants in pots. This way, you can have a living privacy fence in a place where it wouldn’t be possible otherwise, like on your balcony, for example! Balconies in tightly-packed residential areas have neighbours peering in from many different angles. You might just want to drink your morning coffee in peace without having to indirectly share it with someone. Putting screening plants in pots and positioning them in such a way as to create a wonderful green fence around your balcony will provide you with much-needed privacy while also not being an eyesore for you or your neighbours.
Factors to consider for potted privacy plants
One of the most important factors to consider for your potted balcony screen, besides the plants themselves, is the pots you will place them into. The pots need to be big enough to house the plant’s roots with room for future growth while also being heavy enough to keep the big, bushy plants from blowing over in the wind. If your plants are growing slowly, the soil dries out too quickly, or the plants keep falling over from strong gusts of wind, then you need to re-pot your plants into bigger containers.
Take note of how much sun your balcony receives daily and whether it’s constantly windy, as well. As we said earlier, different plants enjoy different amounts of sunlight on a daily basis. So if your balcony is West-facing and gets only a smidgen of the sun in the late afternoon, then you’d have to choose plants such as succulents and shade-loving climbing plants. For a windy terrace, it’s best to select small shrubs that won’t get tattered by the constant breeze.
The best potted plants for privacy
Some of the best potted plants for privacy you can choose are tall evergreens like Sasanqua camellias (Camellia sasanqua), Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica), and Japanese box (Buxus microphylla). For a fast-growing screen, any type of clumping bamboo is a great choice. Suppose you have a narrow planting space available. In that case, you can use a trellis with a climbing plant like Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) or White mandevilla (Mandevilla boliviensis) for a compact screen of green with a wonderful splash of white flowers.
- Screening plants provide much-needed privacy from nosy neighbours and busy streets.
- Choosing the right plants for your property depends on many different factors, ranging from your own screening needs to the conditions on your property and even local regulations.
- There are various plant species available to pick from, each providing diverse benefits and requiring different conditions.
- You can use privacy plants even on your balcony by growing them in pots or letting them climb a trellis.
Establish your own green wall of privacy!
Take back your privacy by using the best screening plants in Australia.