Shrubs for Privacy Screens
in the Northeast Florida Landscape
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There is no denying that here in America we value our privacy, there is nothing worse than feeling like you are
on display when in your own backyard. So we put up fences... ? I can't tell you how many times I
have gotten a phone call when a homeowner has just installed a privacy fence only to find out they don't like
looking at their privacy fence any better than they liked looking at the view they were trying to block. Even with
today's decorative fencing options, there's just something bleak about the look of a fence standing all alone in a
sea of grass that makes us want to plant something near it so it's not so lonely out there! So we plant trees or
palms and flowers and shrubs. We create Islands here and there of plants to soften the look of the sharp
corners and long expanses of our wooden 'neighbor shields'.
Why not avoid all of that hassle and plant a living fence to begin with? A lush green hedge that will let you
get in and out of the pool in peace, block the view of that boat / shed / pool equipment / etc., all
the while soothing your senses with fresh clean air, providing a noise buffer, and giving you the feel
of a garden?
Choosing the right Privacy Hedge Screen Plant for You
There are several factors to consider outside of the regular sun, soil, and drainage issues that we look at
when deciding what hedge will work the best to solve your particular problem.
How fast do you need coverage for your shrub privacy
If you need privacy now, we have large shrubs and trees in stock that will meet those needs. Unlike smaller
garden centers, here at S & J Nursery in Northeast Florida, we grow most of our own plant material and have
access to the equipment that is needed to install large 10-14 ft hedges for instant privacy screening. So
whether your in the market for a 10 ft high and 10 ft wide patio Ligustrum tree to shade your backyard
grill or you need a few a 12 ft tall and 12 foot wide Viburnum or Podocarpus hedges to screen out the
neighbors new home, we have what your looking for and we can install it faster than you think!
Here is a photo of where we needed to screen our unsightly loading and unloading
area view for neighbors at our Switzerland growing location. When these Viburnums were planted three
years ago they were 8' high by 8' wide. Now they are 14'!
If you can spare some time but want something that will grow up to be large within a few years time, we have
those too! Don't be like most of us who dream of a nice big beautiful hedge but just cant seem to stomach
the price for the ones we want, only to realize three years down the road we still haven't put that hedge in
and if we would have gone ahead and installed the smaller ones they would be HUGE by now! Since we grow our
material, we have them available in lots of different container sizes and heights, for example... Most
nurseries sell 3, 7, 15 and maybe 30 gallon Viburnum bushes, we grow and sell them in 1,3
, 7 , 15 , 30 , 45 , 65, and even 100 gallon pots!
So not only do we carry little 10-12 inch tall one gallon pots for just a few dollars each, we sell great big
plants that just one planted would get rid of the site of that boat this afternoon! No matter what your
project size or budget, we have a plant and a price that's just right for you're privacy screen!
How tall do you want to keep your hedge privacy screen?
Some people will want to plant an evergreen tree like the beautiful Southern Red Cedar or Arizona
Cypress that can reach as tall as 30-50 ft in height and 15 or more feet wide and never needs trimmed.
While others of us would prefer to keep a nice tidy hedge at about 8 ft tall so that we can easily maintain a
nicely manicured wall of green.
How much width do you have to let your hedge grow, does it need to be kept
Width available is often the number one factor when determining what hedge you would like to use as a privacy
barrier. But if you don't have alot of room sideways, you can still get a nice narrow hedge or tree that may
take a little longer to grow but will stay within just a few feet wide. With lot sizes seemingly shrinking,
more great options for narrow upright plantings are popping up in garden centers everywhere, there is a new
upright cultivar of the famous bottlebrush tree called "slim" that is just perfect for narrow side yards and
walkway areas. there's new narrow columnar Junipers with gorgeous deep green like the new
'skyrocket' or even silvery blue foliage like Juniper 'Moonglow', old school Italian cypress that grace
the European countryside, Japanese yew, upright Youpon Holly, or Sky pencil Holly just to name a few.
How Many Shrubs Will I Need for My Privacy Hedge Screen?
In most cases plant spacing is directly affected by the size of plant you choose to install. That is
because most of the time, regardless of the size plant being installed we choose to install the hedge without
leaving large gaps between the foliage of the plant for the plant to have to grow into to form a solid hedge.
Although, plant spacing is a matter of personal preference, your hedge may not look much like a hedge if
you opt to install a small plant on the maximum recommended spacing. However, with time even a one gallon
plant planted on 10 ft spacing (from the center of one plant to the center of another) will grow into a
solid hedge and could reach heights of 20 feet high and 10 feet wide if allowed to grow unchecked
by yearly pruning.
The chart below shows how the height and width of the plant size at the time of purchase
can influence the minimum recommended spacing distance. Viburnum odoratissimum / Sweet Viburnum was used as an
|| One Gallon
|| 10 - 12 " H x 6 - 8 " W
|| Plant 2 -3 ft apart
|| Three Gallon
|| 18 - 24 " H x 14-16" W
|| Plant 3 ft apart
|| Seven Gallon
|| 2 - 3 " H x 2 - 3 ' W
|| Plant 3-4 ft apart
|| 15 Gallon
|| 3.5 - 5 ' H x 3.5 - 4' W
|| Plant 4-5 ft apart
|| 4.5 '- 6' H x 4 - 5' W
|| Plant 5-6-7-8 ft apart
|| 45 Gallon
|| 6 - 8 ft H x 6 - 8 ft W
|| Plant 8-10 ft apart
|| 65-100 Gallon
|| 8-12 ft H x 8-12 W
|| Plant 8-10 ft apart
Step By Step Installation of
Your Privacy Screen or Living Fence
Check for underground utilities
Call before you dig when installing large plants and trees, or large areas of lawn you will need to call your
utility company and have them come and mark out the lines to make sure they don't interfere with your project.
For sprinkler systems, turn a test on for the zone in the area where you will be planting and flag those lawn
sprinklers in the area you will be planting to remind yourself of where they are. Sometimes when doing a
privacy fence your lawn sprinklers will need to be moved forward in front of the planted shrub line so they are
not blocked by the newly planted shrubs and can continue to effectively water your lawn.
Prepare the area ... sod removal
You have two options for removing the existing sod in the area you will be planting your privacy hedge. You can
dig and remove the grass by hand or with a sod cutter. This may be the best option if you need to have your
project completed from start to finish within a short time frame. Sod cutters can be rented from your
local tool rental shop and used to quickly cut out the sod from an area in neat edged strips that are
easily lifted and disposed of. If your doing a small area, or have some helpers you can also remove the sod by
hand with a sharp edged shovel by cutting an inch or so down from the surface in a sideways motion.
If you have some time to wait, by far the easiest option is to mark out the area and spray it with a complete
herbicide that will kill the grass in the sprayed area. Once the grass has died, it can be easily raked up and
the area will be ready to install your new privacy hedge screen!
Spacing your shrubs
Do a sample spacing before digging holes for all of your hedges to make sure the final result will be pleasing
to you. You may decide to space your plants closer or farther away from each other once you see them in place.
So before you begin digging holes, set your privacy hedge plants out into the area to be planted and step
back to take a look.
Installing Your Shrubs
Planting Hole Depth...
Dig your hole just slightly shallower than the depth of the root ball on the shrub your are
installing and no deeper. Once your plants are installed into the hole you will need to have 1-2
inches of the root ball above the existing grade on smaller plants and 2-3 inches above the existing
grade on larger 15-100 gallon size plants. This will unsure that as the plant and soil settle into the
hole, your root system is level or just slightly higher than the level of the surrounding soil. If your
plant is lower than the surrounding soil, the root system will overtime become buried with soil
and your plant will fail to grow and thrive and can die quickly during our rain period when the soil
is saturated with water.
Planting Hole width....
Dig your hole only a 6 inches wider than the size of the root ball going into the hole.
Amending the soil....
If you have inadequate soil ( really sandy light colored soil or heavy clay) in the area your privacy
hedge shrubs will be planted, you can amending the soil by mixing 1 part compost to 3 parts native soil and
backfill with that mixed soil into this extra 6 inch space around the root ball of your shrubs during the
time of planting.
Remove your plants from their container and rough up the outside of the root ball. This can be done by making
three vertical slits evenly spaced along the outside of the root ball that go from the bottom to the top and
cut into the root about an inch deep. Or you may opt to take your hand or shovel and break up the outside
of the root. there's no need to be gentle here, the more you disturb the outside of the root th quicker and
easier it will be for your plant to get growing into the surrounding soil after planting.
Place your plant into the prepared hole making sure that the root system of the shrub is slightly higher
than the elevation of the surrounding soil. Then replace the soil around the plant with the soil you took out
of the hole or the soil amendment mix if you have problematic soil. Be sure to remove all air pockets that can
develop by tamping or stepping on the soil to compact it down as you fill the sides of your hole with soil.
When planting larger 15-100 gallon material if may be advisable to use a water hose to settle the soil as you
fill the sides to ensure that there are no pockets of air around the root of the newly planted shrub. Simply
fill the sides a third of the way and water it in then continue filling and watering until you have reached the
Once you have backfilled around the edge of your shrub, use the remaining soil to build a small burm or
well around the outside of the root ball to hold the water. Do not build the burm on top of the root but on the
outside of the plants root system. Remember to rake the burm away from the root and into the grass
area, or remove it with a shovel once your shrub hedge is rooted in and growing. Leaving the burm
in place long term can cause it to wash over the top of the new root system burying it in soil.
Watering Your New Privacy Screen Hedges
Daily, or every time the top inch of the soil is dry to the touch for the first 2-3 weeks to 2-3 months
depending on the size plant you have chosen, smaller plants will root in much quicker than larger ones. Begin
to taper back your watering when your shrubs show signs of new foliage growth they had rooted into the
surrounding soil and may only need water once to twice a week depending on the type of shrub and it's location.
Fertilizing Your new Privacy Screen Hedges
Use only slow release non burning fertilizers like Milorganite, Green Edge or Osmocote on newly planted items.
Water soluble granules and liquid fertilizers can burn the new roots your plant is forming and do more harm
than good for new plantings.
You may opt to fertilize as much as once every few months when trying to get your hedge growing, but once your
hedge reaches the height you need it to be don't forget to give it at least a once a year in the spring dose of
a good quality all purpose fertilizer. I like to mix Osmocote and Milorganite together and place 1/2 to 2 cups
per plant (depending on the size of the plant) around the base of the plant underneath the foliage.
Mulch can be applied immediately following planting, it will help the soil retain the moisture you will
be adding as well as break down into compost over time, a great food supply source to keep your plant happy and
Remember to prune your shrub during spring or summer to shape as needed. Be sure when pruning to shear the
top of the plant slightly more narrow than the base instead of making it even all the way down. Pruning
your shrub hedges with a slight taper towards the top will help keep them full to the ground instead of loosing
foliage from lack of sunlight on the lower foliage.
Need A FREE ESTIMATE on your new landscape privacy screen shrubs / trees? Call us today at
904-554-3811 and we can come out and take a look at exactly what you want done and let you
know what will work best for you and get you an estimate on your plants picked up delivered or
What Kind of Plant Should I use for Privacy Here in my Northeast Florida Landcape?