Evergreen Windbreaks And Privacy Screens

Evergreen windbreaks, evergreen wind screens, evergreen privacy fences and evergreen privacy screens…they all mean basically the same thing, and are popular uses for evergreen trees. We often get questions about planting strategies and installation techniques, and here are a few tips to get the best out of your windscreen or privacy fence project.

See also:
Evergreen Seedling Planting Instructions
Evergreen Seedling Planting Videos
Evergreen Seedling Weed Control
Evergreen Seedling Potting Instructions
Evergreen Seedling Temporary Storage Instructions

Evergreen Tree Winterburn
How Trees Sequester Carbon
Starting A Christmas Tree Farm

A Customer Email about his specific windbreak project >>

Colorado Blue Spruce as an evergreen windbreak
Colorado Blue Spruce planted for an evergreen windbreak

Spruce, Fir and Cedar are generally better than Pines for evergreen windbreaks and privacy screens due to their dense foliage and moderate growth [slow growth results in dense growth]. Cedar, Fir and Spruce in particular do not tend to foliage die back on the bottom as with most species of Pine. However, what is visually appealing to you is also important, so feel free to buy what YOU want. Also, be sure to check on what Mother Nature has already naturally planted nearby, since that is an obvious hint of what species will be happiest there.

Use Larger Trees or Plugs

We do not recommend bare root evergreen seedlings for this type of application unless you can provide significant care and watering during the first two years. Yes, small seedlings are cheap, but their root systems do not reach very far down, making them more susceptible to drought than larger trees. Bare root seedlings are also easily choked out by taller grasses and weeds, and can be forgotten and cut down by an errant lawnmower (yes, we hear variations on that story every year). Evergreen transplants are generally better due to their larger size, longer root systems and more robust nature, but will still need supplemental water for the first Spring and Summer. Plug seedlings also have an advantage over bareroot seedlings simply because plugs are technically not “dug up”, and therefore don’t suffer as much “transplant shock” as bare root trees can. But plug seedlings also have a very short root system and will also need supplemental water during the first year or two.

Evergreen Windbreaks: Recommended Tree Species

Colorado Blue Spruce evergreen windbreak
Example of Colorado Blue Spruce planted as an evergreen windbreak

Black Hills Spruce [slow growing, but very dense growth]
Black Spruce [slow growing, but very dense growth, does well in poor soils]
Colorado Spruce [good balance of speed and density, pictured at right]
Norway Spruce [fast growing, not very dense]
White Spruce [highly tolerant of strong, drying winter winds]
Serbian Spruce [good balance of speed and density]
Meyers Spruce [dense foliage, grows much farther south than most spruces]
Eastern Red Cedar [can grow almost anywhere, dense growth, can be trimmed aggressively]
White Cedar [can be planted closely and trimmed aggressively into a tall hedge]
Balsam Fir [dense growth]
Douglas Fir [good balance of speed and density]
Fraser Fir [dense growth]

See our evergreen tree buyer’s guide for a chart of characteristics for each species, or click on any of the links at far left for even greater details about each species.

We don’t recommend Tamarack Larch for privacy simply because they are “deciduous” conifers, not “evergreen” conifers. The same is true for Bald Cypress unless planted in the south.  In northern states these species drop their needles every fall after a spectacular show of color, thus providing no privacy or wind break. Pines are also generally a poor choice for a privacy screen, since as they mature they tend to lose lower needles and branches in the darker shadows as they compete for height.

Evergreen Windbreaks: Proper Spacing

It is best to space each tree [and each row of trees] about 5-10 feet apart, with the trees of each row staggered like footprints on a beach. From a distance the two rows will function much like a single tight row planted much closer together, but with far less competition for water, sunshine and nutrients. For a more natural look, use multiple species and plant them more randomly, not in straight lines.

You may certainly plant the trees closer together, but over time each tree may develop a void in the foliage due to competition from the next tree over. And if one dies, the holes in the foliage of the trees on each side will be revealed. Depending on the species you plant, these foliar holes may or may not fill in over the years. You may wish to cut down every other tree after 5-10 years to allow the remaining trees to mature more naturally. In doing so, you could sell or give away the ones you cut down to friends and family as Christmas trees.