No matter where you live, privacy screens are essential if you want your property to feel secure and separate from the bustle of neighbors and passing traffic.
And if you’re living in USDA zone 5, it’s important to find the right trees that you can use for screen planting.
With long winters that can fall as low as -20 degrees F, there are plenty of trees that need warmer weather with less biting winter frost than zone 5 can offer.
But keep reading – there are still a number of useful zone 5 privacy trees that will grow well in your backyard!
6 Trees That Can Be Used For Privacy Screens In Zone 5
1. Emerald Green Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’)
Not only is the arborvitae one of the most common choices for use as a privacy screen, but the emerald green arborvitae is one of the most popular arborvitae cultivars in landscaping.
Its soft, lush foliage and vivid color add year-round interest to any property. It is best known for its use as a handsome and elegant privacy screen or hedge, where it can be planted 3-4 feet apart to form a dense, uniform wall with no gaps.
But it has a number of other landscaping uses too. The emerald green also does well as a windbreak, accent plant, foundation plant, specimen, or as backdrop to your flower gardens. And not only is the emerald green arborvitae beautiful and practical, but it is an exceptionally low-maintenance tree.
It is naturally resistant to insects and disease and tolerant to drought and needs little watering and pruning once established.
Other Common Names: Smaragd
Growing Zones: 4-8
Average Size at Maturity: 10-15 feet tall, with a 3-4 foot spread
Fruiting/Flowering Season: N/A
2. Hicks Yew (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’)
This attractive, shrubby yew tree is a hybrid of the English and Japanese yew, that is primarily favored by landscape gardeners as a hedge, privacy screen, and border plant. They are particularly effective as a privacy screen due to their thick, bushy growing habit and considerable height.
Growing up to 12 feet tall, they are just the right height to block out any view of the street or of your neighbors. They can also be pruned heavily and easily so you are able to control the width and height of each individual shrub.
While it is best used as a privacy screen for any part of your property, hicks yew can also be used as a foundation plant or backdrop, and can even be planted in containers if you want a privacy screen that can be moved around your property.
Plant your hicks yew trees in well-draining soil, but don’t worry too much about soil types. These trees can thrive in a range of soils and in both sun and shade.
Other Common Names: Taxus Media
Growing Zones: 4-8
Average Size at Maturity: 8-12 feet tall, with a 2-3 foot spread
Fruiting Season: Early to Late Fall
3. Korean Boxwood (Buxus sinica)
Though relatively short compared to other trees on this list, Korean boxwood is often used as a privacy tree in landscaping. These soft, compact shrubs have a spreading habit and light-colored foliage and are often grown in groupings.
According to the North Carolina State University Gardening Extension, these trees are also regularly used as a border plants and in rock gardens. Korean boxwood is dense and easy to shape, making it a good choice for topiaries as well.
Korean boxwood is relatively hardy, needing little care beyond pruning once established. It is resistant to major pests and is only occasionally affected by problems like blight and leaf spot.
Plant your Korean boxwood in moist, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic to slightly alkaline pH in a location with full sun or partial shade. Consider choosing an area that protects your boxwoods from strong winds.
Other Common Names: Boxwood
Growing Zones: 5-9
Average Size at Maturity: 3-5 feet tall, with a 4-6 foot spread
Flowering Season: Spring
Available at: Nature Hills
4. Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
While most people tend to think of flowering dogwoods as ornamentals, planted as specimens to add color and make a striking statement, this is not the only use for this hardy flowering tree.
That’s right, flowering dogwoods can also be used as a privacy screen! When planted five feet apart they can make an attractive flowering wall that will block out most sight from behind it, while still leaving space for birds and mammals to nest and shelter.
Due to their spreading habit, they may need some extra pruning to keep the screen uniform, but it is well worth it to enjoy a wall of showy white and pink flower bracts in spring and early summer. Flowering dogwood is also used as a woodland border, shade tree, and patio tree, and is sometimes planted in groves, native gardens, and pollinator gardens.
Flowering dogwoods should be planted in rich, organic, well-draining soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH, in a location with full sun to partial shade.
Other Common Names: Florida Dogwood, American Dogwood, White Cornel, False Boxwood, False Box, Cornelian Tree, White Dogwood, Indian Arrowwood, American Box, Blood Twig Dogwood
Growing Zones: 5-9
Average Size at Maturity: 30-40 feet tall, with a similar spread
Varieties Suitable For Zone 5: White, Red, Pink, Cherokee Princess, Cherokee Brave, Ragin’ Red
Flowering Season: Spring and Early Summer
5. False Cypress (Chamaecyparis)
These native Japanese trees are a genus of the cypress family, known as false cypress. These evergreen trees come in different varieties that can be low-growing to tall, green to yellow, narrow to rounded, etc. But most varieties are able to be grown as dense hedges and privacy screens, specimen plants, or foundation plants. Their scaly, densely clustered foliage will do an excellent job of blocking sights and sounds from your property.
If you are considering choosing a false cypress for your privacy screen, consider varieties like the gorgeous conical-shaped ‘Golden Hinoki’, or the ‘Slender Hinoki’ for an eye-catching informal screen.
While the needs of the false cypress may differ by variety, they all tend to be low-maintenance privacy trees. They are salt-tolerant, drought-tolerant, and naturally resistant to pests like deer and rabbits. Most prefer moist and well-draining soil with a slightly acidic pH in a location with full to partial sunlight.
Other Common Names: Cypress
Growing Zones: 4-8
Average Size at Maturity: 6-70 feet tall, with a 4-20 foot spread
Varieties Suitable for Zone 5: Japanese, Golden Mop, Threadleaf, Hinoki, Verdoni, Golden Hinoki, Slender Hinoki
Fruiting Season: Spring
6. American Holly (Ilex opaca)
This native understory tree may be more popularly thought of as a Christmas ornamental, but it is just as effective as a privacy tree. With its compact shape and glossy, evergreen foliage, it is a perfect choice for a dense privacy screen and/or sound barrier.
It can be left to grow as an informal screen or sheared into hedges. This tree also bears bright red berries and small white flowers, adding extra color and beauty to your screen.
This holly tree is very hardy and adaptable, able to be grown in virtually any soil type with minimal watering. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the American holly is shade tolerant and can be grown as an understory tree or in an area with less natural sunlight, but this will also result in stunted flower and berry production.
American holly will typically prefer moist, well-draining soil with a neutral to acidic pH. Despite being highly tolerant to most soil types it will not tolerate flooding, so well-draining soil is a must.
Other Common Names: Christmas Holly, White Holly, English Holly, Oregon Holly, Inkberry, European Holly, Winterberry
Growing Zones: 5-9
Average Size at Maturity: 40-50 feet tall, with a 20-35 foot spread
Fruiting Season: Fall
Hardy Trees That Protect Your Privacy
Privacy screens are a must for anyone who wants privacy from their neighbors, a shield from the noise of the neighborhood, or just prefers the look of dense green foliage surrounding their property.
If you’re looking for a zone 5 privacy tree, we’ve got you covered. Whether it’s the colorful flowering dogwood or the subtle hicks yew, one of these excellent trees will provide you with all of the solitude you need.
And if you still want more options, some small & dwarf tree varieties for zone 5 might do the trick.