9 Evergreen Trees for Shade and Privacy in Virginia

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Written By Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

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Home » Virginia » 9 Evergreen Trees for Shade and Privacy in Virginia

Don’t underestimate the beauty and utility of the average evergreen! These trees bear their foliage through every season of the year, so even in winter you’ll be able to enjoy a splash of green in the landscape.

And of course, evergreen trees tend to make excellent privacy screens and hedges, as their year-round foliage helps to obscure the view of your home in every season. Some can even be grown to provide shade for your home, among other uses.

Different evergreens can be grown in every US state, and VA is no different, as it falls under USDA hardiness zones 5-8. Let’s take a look at some of the best evergreens in Virginia for privacy and shade.

9 Classic Evergreens For Virginia Gardeners

1. American Holly (Ilex opaca)

American Holly Tree, Leaves, Berries
Images via Nature Hills, combined by Fern Berg for Tree Vitalize

While this iconic Christmas decoration may not be your first thought when it comes to planting privacy screens, don’t be fooled! The American Holly is a small tree or shrub that is best known for its shiny green leaves with their spined margins and tiny bright red berries that are inedible but highly ornamental.

But this holly variety is also a useful landscaping tool. It is a dense shrub that can soar up to 30 feet tall if you let it (and up to 50 feet in the wild), but can also be pruned down low to the ground. With their dense, pyramidal form they make attractive privacy screens and sound barriers and can be used as an accent or in foundation planting. No matter how you use them, they’ll look great throughout the year.

Plant your American Holly in moist, well-draining, acidic soil in a location with full sun to partial shade.

Other Common Names: Hummock Holly, Dune Holly, Scrub Holly

Growing Zones: 5-9

Average Size at Maturity: 30-50 feet tall, with a 15-30 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

2. Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Eastern Red Cedar
Images via Fast-Growing-Trees, combined by Fern Berg for Tree Vitalize

This hardy, slow-growing native tree is an evergreen known for its ability to thrive even in the toughest locations. This makes it a good option for VA gardeners who want to establish a privacy screen or tree in a location with exceedingly poor, dry, rocky soil.

The Eastern Red Cedar can tolerate heat, salt, drought, air pollution, and more! The only catch is that they do not grow well in overly wet, waterlogged soil. Ideally, it enjoys rich, loamy, moist, well-draining soil, but you need not worry too much about the conditions you are planting in. They are very much a “set and forget” type of tree, able to survive and thrive with minimal attention.

Naturally, the Eastern Red Cedar is most often used for privacy screens and windbreaks, but they aren’t just rugged tools for landscaping – they have a genuine elegance, with needles that change color through the year and delicate blue fruits that add an extra pop of color to the winter landscape.

Other Common Names: Eastern Redcedar, Red Cedar, Eastern Juniper, Red Juniper, Virginian Juniper, Pencil Cedar, Aromatic Cedar, Virginia Red Cedar, Savin Evergreen, Cedar Apple

Growing Zones: 3-9

Average Size at Maturity: 40-60 feet tall, with a 10-20 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Early Fall through to Late Winter

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

3. Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica var. radicans)

Japanese Cedar Tree (Cryptomeria japonica var. radicans) and Foliage
Images via Fast-Growing-Trees, combined by Fern Berg for Tree Vitalize

Like the aforementioned eastern red cedar, the Japanese Cedar is not a ‘true’ cedar, though it is still an aromatic evergreen. It is actually a cypress native to parts of Japan and China and comes with its own appealing features. The Japanese Cedar is an attractive, pyramidal evergreen with short but soft blue-green needles and a straight trunk adorned with highly textured reddish-brown bark.

These graceful cypress trees also have another useful secret – they are exceptionally fast growers, reaching additional heights of 3-4 feet per year. This growth rate combined with its branching evergreen foliage makes it a perfect choice of privacy screen for VA gardeners. It even keeps its color through the winter, with just a touch of bronze in harsher temperatures!

The Japanese Cedar is also adaptable, able to grow in dry, average-quality soil. However, good drainage and an acidic to neutral pH are critical for this tree.

Other Common Names: Cryptomeria Radicans, Japanese Cryptomeria, Sekkan-Sugi

Growing Zones: 5-8

Average Size at Maturity: 50-70 feet tall, with a 20-30 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

4. American Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

American Boxwood
Images via Fast-Growing-Trees, Combined by Fern Berg for Tree Vitalize

A classic evergreen beauty, the American Boxwood is known for its bright, rich colors and very dense foliage – no surprise that this shrub or small tree is a highly recommended privacy screen species for Virginia gardeners. It grows best in USDA zones 5 to 8, which is the exact hardiness zone range VA falls under!

This boxwood has a naturally rounded form, but it lends itself well to all kinds of pruning – you can shear it into columns, or even use it for topiary, as many landscapers do. You don’t have to wait either – the American Boxwood can be pruned throughout the year to maintain any neatness or uniformity that you want.

American Boxwood is most often used for hedges, screens, topiary, container planting, and mass planting. This shrub prefers to be planted in moist, well-draining soil in a location with full sun or partial shade.

Other Common Names: Common Boxwood, Common Box, European Box, Boxwood

Growing Zones: 5-8

Average Size at Maturity: 15-20 feet tall, with a 5-15 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Late Spring to Summer

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees

5. Leyland Cypress (Cupressocyparis x leylandii)

Leyland Cypress
Image by Roger Eavis via Flickr

The Leyland was an ‘accidental’ creation, mistakenly crossed between the Nootka False Cypress and Monterey Cypress in the late 19th century. And what a fortunate mistake it was for today’s gardeners! Now the Leyland Cypress is one of the go-to planting options for US gardeners who want a uniform privacy fence or property border.

The Leyland is near-perfect at its job: it’s an ornamental evergreen with an upright, columnar growth habit and dense, attractive foliage, it’s a fast grower at a rate of 3 to 4 feet per year, and it takes well to aggressive pruning. It’s also exceedingly low maintenance, with little need for regular watering or fertilizing. And with a growing range between zones 5 to 9, it’s perfect for the Virginia climate. What more could you want?

Plant these trees in moist, fertile, well-draining soil with full sun or partial shade. They are not fussy about soil types or pH levels, as long as there is adequate drainage.

Other Common Names: Leylandii

Growing Zones: 5-9

Average Size at Maturity: 60-70 feet tall, with a 15-20 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Winter

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

6. Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)

Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) Tree, Foliage and Pine Cones
Images via Fast-Growing-Trees, combined by Fern Berg for Tree Vitalize

The Eastern White Pine is a native coniferous evergreen that is so beloved it is the state tree of both Maine and Michigan. It has a long history as one of the most valuable trees in the eastern United States, with its timber widely used in construction and for ship masts. According to the USDA Government site, this pine is also one of the most widely planted trees in the US.

This pine tree grows in a naturally elegant, somewhat rounded pyramidal shape, and has a number of uses in landscaping gardening. More often than not it is used as a shade tree or specimen, but it can also be planted in a row as a large privacy screen.

Eastern White Pines are fast-growing and can reach up to 80 feet, so it will take a degree of maintenance to keep them pruned to a shorter height. Plant them in acidic, well-draining soil with full sunlight.

Other Common Names: Northern White Pine, Soft Pine, North American White Pine, White Pine, Weymouth Pine

Growing Zones: 3-8

Average Size at Maturity: 50-80 feet tall, with a 20-40 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

7. Golden Hinoki False Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Crippsii’)

Golden Hinoki False Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Crippsii') Tree and Foliage
Images via Nature Hills, combined by Fern Berg for Tree Vitalize

Not all evergreens have to be a sea of green and blue needles. Just look at the Golden Hinoki False Cypress, with its luxurious light green and gold foliage which supplies a splash of brightness throughout the year. It is an especially effective ornamental evergreen during the stark winter months.

The Golden Hinoki is a small, manageable plant that grows in a neat conical shape. Its foliage is soft and fern-like, almost feathery, adding extra texture to its surroundings. Aside from its use as a specimen plant, it is also used as a privacy screen, a backdrop for flower beds, an accessory for water features, or as a colorful way to fill empty spaces in your garden.

Plant your Golden Hinoki in moist, loamy, well-draining soil with an acidic pH, in a location with full sun or partial shade. It is somewhat drought-resistant, but won’t tolerate wet, boggy soil.

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 8-10 feet tall, with a 3-4 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Summer

Available at: Nature Hills

8. Wax Myrtle Tree (Myrica cerifera)

Wax Myrtle
Image by NC Wetlands via Flickr

Native to the southeastern US, the Wax Myrtle is an evergreen tree or shrub that grows especially well in coastal areas, marshes, and swamps.

Despite its less-than-glamorous native habitat, it is an attractive specimen – pale leaves, smooth gray-brown bark, and a rounded, multi-stemmed growth habit. It bears waxy pale blue fruit that attracts local wildlife and was historically used in candlemaking, according to the Clemson Co-operative Extension.

The Wax Myrtle is most often used as a privacy screen or hedge, due to its dense foliage and speedy growth rate (3-5 feet per year). It is adaptable and highly tolerant of salt, wind, shade, waterlogged soil, and most pests and diseases.

Before you choose the Wax Myrtle for your garden, take note of its growing range: zones 7 to 10. While it is hardy to the majority of the state, gardeners in the northeast and southeast regions of Virginia will have trouble growing this tree.

Other Common Names: Bayberry, Dwarf Bayberry, Candleberry, Dwarf Wax-Myrtle, Tallow Shrub, Waxmyrtle, Southern Bayberry, Southern Wax Myrtle

Growing Zones: 7-10

Average Size at Maturity: 10-25 feet tall, 10-20 feet wide

Fruiting Season: Late Summer to Mid Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees

9. Hicks Yew (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’)

Hicks Yew (Taxus x media 'Hicksii') Tree, Foliage and Berries
Images via Fast-Growing-Trees, combined by Fern Berg for Tree Vitalize

Another compact shrub that fits the VA climate perfectly is the Hicks Yew, esteemed for its dense evergreen foliage and high tolerance to pruning and shearing. Its dark, compact, shiny-green needles and bright red fall berries also add a distinctive touch to this landscaping treasure.

The Hicks Yew is a stupendous choice and a great tool for the home garden. It is best used as a screen or hedge on any part of your property, providing privacy, structure, and year-round color. There is versatility too – you can let it grow loose and natural, or keep it neatly manicured.

These evergreen shrubs are also very easy to grow in the right hardiness zones. They only need to be pruned and fertilized once a year and can grow in almost any soil type. They are naturally pest and disease resistant and can thrive in both sun and shade. Its only real weakness is wet roots – keep soil well-draining for best results.

Other Common Names: Hicks’s Yew

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 8-12 feet tall, with a 2-3 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Early to Late Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

Perfect VA Evergreens For Shade and Privacy

As you can see, the lasting foliage of evergreen trees makes them immensely useful for landscape gardening. From the shade-giving Eastern White Pine to the classic hedgerow American Boxwood, these evergreens are a dream come true for Virginia gardeners.

While these are the more obvious form of evergreen trees that Virginia gardeners often choose, they aren’t the only ones available. You may want to consider planting an evergreen palm tree in your Virginia garden, for extra year-round interest. You can also offset your evergreens with a deciduous maple tree perfect for VA.

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Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

Shannon has always loved looking after trees and plants since as long as she can remember. She grew up gardening with her family in their off-grid home and looking after her neighbor's plant nursery. As a child she also participated in native tree replanting, and as an adult has volunteered in reforestation programs in northern Vietnam. Today, she puts her horticultural efforts into tending her vegetable and herb gardens, and learning about homesteading and permaculture. When she’s not reading, writing, and gardening, she’ll be out fishing and foraging for edible flora and fungi in the countryside around her home.

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