Some people are lucky enough to have an expansive backyard that ensures plenty of privacy by sheer size, while others must make do with a small one. If you’re one of the latter, you might want to take some extra steps to protect your backyard from prying eyes so that you and your family can truly relax while outdoors.

From trees and shrubs to fences and other types of privacy screens, there are many different options for you. Here are some of the most popular methods for increasing privacy in your backyard, each with their pros and cons, to help you decide which is the best for your needs, space and preferences.

Trees and shrubs

  • Pros: Trees and shrubs provide not only privacy but also shade and protection against wind and noise from the street. Aesthetically, they’re probably the most pleasing solution and definitely the best environmentally.
  • Cons: It will take a few years until the trees or shrubs are big enough to act as a privacy screen for your backyard. Maintaining them healthy and looking good involves regular work. Some neighbors might be bothered if leaves or branches from your plants end up on their property.

If you decide to use trees and shrubs to enclose your backyard, make sure you select ones that are suitable for the climate in your area and the space that you have. You can choose among many great options:

  • Crabapple trees offer gorgeous spring blossoms and fall fruit. They’re medium-sized trees that work well for small gardens, and they’re generally robust, unpretentious plants.
  • Flowering dogwoods are another great option for screening small gardens, and they look beautiful throughout the year, with red purple foliage in the fall and small, glossy red fruits in the winter.
  • Eastern white pines are a great choice if you’re looking for a fast-growing tree. However, they do reach a maximum height of up to 80 feet and a spread of 20-40 feet, so you need quite a bit of space for them.

  • English yew is the classic evergreen for hedging because it’s long-lived and easy to take care of — it requires little more than a bit of pruning in the spring. It will create quite compact hedges and can tolerate both sun and shade.
  • Bamboo, although it’s technically a type of grass, can definitely help you instill a sense of privacy in your backyard. Bamboo is sturdy, tough and ideal for small spaces — you can cultivate it in planters to delimit the patio area, for example.
  • Wax myrtles have dense foliage and are fast-growing, which makes them ideal for screening your backyard. Also, you can shape the hedges easily and adjust their height and width through pruning.


  • Pros: Whether they’re made of wood, metal or composite materials, fences are durable, ensure both privacy and safety and will keep children and pets safely inside your backyard.
  • Cons: Building a fence around your entire backyard could be expensive. Also, especially in a small space, a tall fence might feel a bit overwhelming visually.

Natural wood is the most common fencing material, but there are other options as well, including vinyl, aluminum or even brick or masonry. Of course, prices will vary depending on what choose. Another important consideration is related to the height of the fence. Since your main purpose is privacy, you will probably be interested in a fairly tall fence — however, you first need to check local regulations about what type and size of fence you can actually install.

If you’re not happy with how a tall fence looks from the inside, in your backyard, there are some creative ways of making it more appealing. You could, for example, paint it a color that makes it blend with its surroundings. Or you could use some chalkboard paint (or simply a dark, matte color) on it and turn it into a huge canvas where your kids can unleash their creativity. This way, it’s no longer a simple fence but a fun accessory in your backyard.

Trellises and lattice screens

  • Pros: easy to install, relatively inexpensive, ideal for small backyards and very decorative
  • Cons: less durable compared to a fence, and don’t provide a safe, enclosed backyard space for families with children or for pet owners

Trellises and lattice screens are the right solution in certain cases, such as if you want to screen and get some shade in just your patio area, or if building a fence or planting trees and large shrubs is not feasible. Once installed, you can grow annual or perennial plants on them, which will provide beautiful flowers and even fruits, shade and privacy.

  • Climbing vines like the trumpet vine, honeysuckle, clematis or jasmine are perennials perfect for trellises, with spectacular flowers that will adorn your backyard year after year.

  • Climbing roses are another great option — get varieties that flower throughout the entire season.
  • If you want some delicious, sweet fruits in the fall, grape vines will provide just that, along with plenty of shade.
  • Those who are not interested in perennial vines (which take a little bit of pruning and care) should consider annual climbing plants like morning glory or sweet peas.

Private but also cozy and comfortable — make your backyard even more inviting

Ensuring privacy in your backyard is important for your peace of mind, but to truly enjoy your time outdoors, you need a bit more than that. The backyard should be a serene, inviting space where you can spend a few hours disconnecting from work and from your other daily responsibilities. A messy, cluttered backyard with all sorts of stuff all laying around is not the ideal place for relaxation — so take steps to fix it if that’s your reality.

Make an inventory of the things in your backyard, from furniture and toys to planters, garden tools and so on. Consider whether keeping them in your backyard truly enhances the functionality of the space. If, for example, your children outgrew some of their outdoor play sets, or if you use your outdoor dining set only a couple of times each year, keeping them in your backyard year-round might not be the best strategy.

You naturally want to hold on to these items for when you actually need them. If that’s the case, a better solution is to store them in a self storage unit located close to your home. This strategy allows you to safely preserve the items you use only occasionally while also making the most of the available space in your backyard. A self storage unit is also ideal for protecting your backyard furniture and accessories, garden tools and lawnmower over the cold season. A storage unit offers protection from the elements, which prolongs the lifespan of expensive furniture, outdoor toys, planters, tools and so on. Renting a 10’x10’ storage unit offers you enough space for all of it, and the cost hovers around $128 per month at the national level. However, prices can vary significantly depending on your location:

One thing to remember when planning for privacy in your backyard is to check your local regulations and homeowners’ association guidelines before making any significant changes. Additionally, choose solutions that match your aesthetic preferences and fit within your budget and maintenance capabilities, and make sure that your backyard is a neat, uncluttered and relaxing space.


Maria Gatea is a real estate and lifestyle editor for Yardi with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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