Living Fence Ideas: 15 Amazing Options For Your Yard
Living fences are amazing! Just think: a fence that grows itself, lasts for decades or centuries, and looks amazing! If you’re seeking more privacy in your backyard (or even for your front yard), living fences are a great option.
What is a Living Fence?
A living fence is a type of fence made of living plants, trees, or shrubs. Believe it or not, a living fence has the potential to provide more privacy than a regular fence!
You can make a living fence out of many different types of trees and shrubs, from the Osage Orange tree of Midwestern US states, to certain cactus varieties.
Not only are living fences great for privacy; they’re also an underrated hack for improving your front yard landscaping on a budget!
Let’s look at the benefits, advantages and disadvantages of living fences when contrasted to manufactured fences.
Living Fence Pros
Living fences offer a lot of benefits and advantages over manufactured fencing. Here are just a few of them:
- Brings nature right into your yard
- No post holes to dig
- No fence posts to set
- No unsightly chain link
- No staining, painting, or other fence maintenance
- Can potentially last for hundreds of years
- Can increase the value of your property
- Makes a terrific windbreak for those windy areas
- Can attract birds and other wildlife
- Can provide shade on those hot summer days if you choose a tall variety of tree or shrub
- Complements your landscaping in a way that manufactured fencing never could
- Can help improve the soil of your property
Living Fence Cons
Naturally, a living fence is not without its drawbacks. We’d be amiss if we didn’t mention those as well.
- May require pruning, depending on the variety of tree you select
- Requires patience while you wait for the “fence” to grow
- Requires initial planting (though this is less work than building or installing a regular fence)
- May add to your leaf-raking in the fall, depending on the foliage type
- May be eaten by deer, depending on the species of tree or shrub you choose
We think the benefits of living fences outweigh the disadvantages; how about you?
Living Fence Varieties
The following are our top 15 choices for living fence tree and shrub varieties.
1. Evergreen Living Fence
Evergreen trees are one of the best trees for a living fence. For starters, the fullness of the trees provides great privacy. And evergreens block a lot of those harsh winter winds. These plants grow up to three feet per year, so it doesn’t take long to achieve the privacy you want!
You have a lot of choices when it comes to an evergreen living fence, from small trees such as Techny Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) to larger ones like “Green Giant” Arborvitae (Thuja standishii x plicata).
2. Cactus Living Fence
For problems with pests and critters, a cactus fence may be perfect. Cactus is like a natural form of barbed wire. Cactus plants are the preferred method of fencing in the Caribbean.
Whether you opt for the multi-branched Austrocylindropuntia subulata, or the straight up-and-down structure of Pachycereus marginatus (“fence post cactus”), nosy neighbors will think twice before peering too deeply into your domain. Youch!
3. Lilac Living Fence
Not only does Lilac smell terrific, but it is a great plant to fence with. There are several colors available, and it grows quickly. And as an added bonus, these plants thrive through the winter!
4. Boxwood Living Fence
Although boxwood does grow very slowly, once it matures, it forms a great natural barrier in your front or back yard. Its branches grow into a dense thicket that none shall penetrate.
Because of how densely the foliage grows, you can prune boxwood into intricate shapes!
So, if you’re into fancy hedges or plant statuary (and are OK with slow growth), a boxwood hedge / fence could be just the thing!
5. Weeping Willow Living Fence
Weeping willow trees grow quickly and handle cold weather well. These trees are also extremely supple, so you can shape their branches to form the living fence of your dreams!
6. Burning Bush Living Fence
Winged Spindle Tree, also known as Burning Bush, is known for its gorgeous red color in the fall and makes a nice addition to any yard or garden. This shrub has small fruits that attract birds, so it’s ideal for bird watchers.
Winged Spindle comes in different varieties, from “Rudy Haag” dwarf trees at 3-4 feet tall, to “Monstrous” trees that reaches 20 feet or more.
For the ideal Burning Bush living fence, we recommend “Apterus,” which reaches about six feet tall. You can sculpt it into a nice hedge shape by consistently pruning its branches. Or, you can let it go for a more natural look.
7. Bamboo Living Fence
Believe it or not, bamboo makes a beautiful living fence. It is one of the fastest growing plants out there, and is super low maintenance. Just be careful to choose your bamboo species carefully. Also, have a plan for keeping it contained, as bamboo’s awesome growth means it can quickly overtake other plants.
8. Juniper Living Fence
Junipers have ideal foliage for fences. Plus, they grow fruit (small berries which are said to have medicinal value, FYI) and have a delicious scent.
Junipers can attract birds and other animals to its berries and its dense foliage, so if you’re a wildlife lover, this could be the right species for your yard or garden.
Unfortunately, Juniper develops dead spots if it is over-pruned, so take it easy with the pruning. Here is a tutorial to help you avoid dead spots in your Juniper fence.
9. Forsythia Living Fence
Yellow forsythia blooms are part of an eleven-species family, all of which have flexible branches and gorgeous green leaves. It is important to consider the height you want, because forsythia shrubs can grow up to nine feet tall.
10. Holly Living Fence
Holly isn’t just for Christmas! This is another plant species belonging to the evergreen family. Holly bushes produce pretty berries and thrive in all climate zones, including the tropics.
Holly’s dense branches and spiky leaves make a natural privacy fence all year long!
As an added bonus, deer don’t eat holly. So, if you’re in a region where you’re worried about your hedge or fence becoming deer fodder, consider this plant species.
11. Laurel Living Fence
Laurel is great for more than just a house plant; it also makes a great natural barrier. One of the most durable plants out there, this plant thrives in areas with air pollution.
12. Privet Living Fence
Privet is a flowering plant that includes 50 or so species of evergreen shrubs and small trees. Privets are popular for privacy hedges and fences due to their dense foliage growth.
Like juniper and boxwood, privet trees lend to sculptured pruning for statuary or fancy hedge shapes.
13. Hicksii Yew Fence
Hicksii Yew is another plant similar to juniper. This shrub is famous for its green needles. It is important to remember that the needles may turn brown with a lot of exposure to cold winter winds.
Hicksii Yew makes a good hedge with the right trimming.
14. Italian Cypress Living Fence
Italian Cypress, while not dense, does grow in tall columns up to 70 feet high! If you get your Italian Cypress trees spaced correctly, you can create a very impressive living fence that offers privacy, shade, and a windbreak to boot!
15. Nigra Arbovitae
The Nigra Arbovitae is a lush tree that grows in the shape of a pyramid. It reaches up to 30 feet tall, so this is a great species to consider for a live fence.
Next up: read about how to protect your plants from frost!