Putting the best backyard privacy ideas to good use is a no-brainer if you want to enjoy more of your outdoor space in all seasons. Because no one wants to be sat out on the patio, or daydreaming from their favorite hammock, wondering if they can be seen from a nearby side-walk or, the neighbors' couch...
Thankfully there are a ton of ways to add more privacy to a backyard – rented or not – and you don't have to spend big bucks either. From living screens to support garden plants, to dense shrubs and semi-open wooden screens, perfect for contemporary gardens, there's lots you can do to create a more intimate setting, all while you enhance your yard's design and planting scheme also.
Backyard privacy: first considerations
When it comes to protecting your yard from prying eyes, you have lots of different options, from fence ideas and canopies to strategic planting, natural garden screens, and more.
When choosing the best course of action for your space, the main thing you need to understand and work with is the sightline. By sightline, we mean what the overlooking person can see – whether from a window, their own garden, or from a nearby walkway. To understand this better, think about it this way: if you can see them when you're cooking up a storm on your best grill, they can see you.
We spoke with a garden expert in the UK, Chris Bonnett from Gardening Express who says: 'creating privacy outside is great for those who want some space to relax, out of the way of prying eyes. Even one single planter can be surprisingly effective when shielding a garden from the outside world. Go for something that is easy to care for.'
The following inexpensive backyard privacy ideas can (almost) all be achieved on a DIY basis and won't cost the earth.
1. Work with your yard's boundaries
Working with your backyard's natural boundaries is one of the first things to consider when looking for more privacy in your space. Depending on the size of your backyard, soil conditions and light levels, you could plant deciduous trees with light airy foliage such as Betula, Amelanchier, Cornus, Malus, Prunus, Acer and Sorbus.
This can provide gentle screening on a boundary area yet still let some sunlight through. And at this stage if you already know you want or need to add a boundary wall, you can start getting that project underway.
Top tip: Check any screening height regulations in your local area.
2. Balance evergreens and deciduous options
If you actually love the idea of full-on privacy (and trees!) for your yard's deck, then choose a mix of deciduous trees with strategically placed evergreens for a more balanced privacy solution that will give you gorgeous dappled light also.
Alternatively, a canopy of deciduous trees can often provide a sense of privacy quickly. Bamboo (see above) is a fantastic instant screen, too. It grows quickly and is green all year round.
3. Work with a sloping plot
If your backyard is sloped but overlooked, you can use this in your favor. A retaining wall may be enough in itself, but add more greenery to that first level for heaps more interest, height, and, therefore, privacy.
Bonnet says: 'Evergreen shrubs are good to achieve a reliable height and plentiful foliage for privacy all year round. But for a more colorful and bright look, add a few large plants such as hardy palms or phormiums – they are forgiving when they haven’t been watered, too.'
Add some tree ferns for additional screening – they look wonderful in tiered and sunken backyards. This screening option is an effective sloping garden idea that will work year-round.
4. Layer container plants for a dense and textured screen
Container gardening is the perfect tool for DIY garden screening. Choose pots of different sizes and plants of varying maturity – this will give you both height and density to play with. Japanese maples are especially effective for backyard screening, with their bushy, dense canopies. And they do very well in containers.
5. Or use raised beds as planters for your screening
6. Use a canopy or shade for overhead protection
For a little cover over a decking area where you tend to wine and dine, a fabric canopy can be a lovely and organic-looking choice. Deck shade ideas come in a variety of materials and styles, but a mobile fabric shade or sail is best because you can tilt it as the sun moves and position it where you need the most privacy.
7. DIY a freestanding screen
Building your own privacy screen is a great way to use up leftover wood or even old doors.
Bonnet says: 'Privacy screens are the ultimate easy garden DIY project to achieve a concealed area. Apart from nails and a hammer, the quirky yet functional partition can be made solely out of old doors or wooden pallets. To brighten up a dull garden, give the screen a lick of bright paint.'
8. Carefully consider the positioning of outbuildings
Whether you're intrigued as to how to build a garden room from scratch or looking to add another type of outbuilding to your backyard, think about its positioning to help the flow of your space as a whole but also to block out any spots you want to keep totally private.
9. Be strategic about positioning your seating
Sometimes you don't need to do anything at all to create your backyard screening – you need to find it in your existing planting. Any tall, mature trees are likely to provide you with enough screening, so place your seating directly underneath those. You may need to experiment a little and change the positioning of your seating several times before you find the best spot.
10. Choose climbers instead of traditional hedging
We're a bit over traditional hedging, which can look too solid and a bit severe. Consider screening off areas within the backyard using shrubs or climbing plants as opposed to blocking your whole boundary.
Perfect for areas where you’d like a more permanent privacy solution, climbers such as ivy, jasmine, clematis, and roses offer maximum screening power without creating an overly boxed-in look.
11. Get a contemporary divider
You can also create a little more privacy using a dedicated outdoor space divider. These are great for contemporary spaces and they create barriers but are light and still allow for some visibility. Perfect if you have an outdoor kitchen or cocktail space.
12. Set up an outdoor movie theater
Invest in an outdoor projector and put up the big screen in your garden for a cinematic experience that will not only look good but also feel super-exclusive.
Hang your screen in a spot where you want to block sightlines out, grab your favorite outdoor rug, lots of cushions, all the popcorn you can eat – and voila, you have the perfect setup that is only yours to enjoy.
13. Be bold with a parasol
For a temporary solution, a cantilever umbrella or another of the best parasols about can provide flexible privacy. Easy to install, one of the cheaper garden screening ideas going, and stylish if you look in the right places, a parasol will make a classy addition to your patio.
14. Plant fast-growing annuals for a near-instant screen
Want an inexpensive, DIY solution to an exposed garden quickly? There's an easy answer – fast-growing annual flowers. Consider easy-to-grow flowers such as zinnias, cosmos, and sunflowers to plug in any gaps in your existing screening. By late June-early July you will have a gorgeous display that will enhance your backyard's privacy.
15. Or plant tall bi-annuals for maximum screening potential
If you have a bit more patience and can wait a year, cottage garden plants such as foxgloves, hollyhocks, and lupins will grow over two meters tall – but they are biannuals and won't bloom in the first year.
16. Greenify a trellis
On a budget or don't want the hassle of installing new structures? You could increase your yard's privacy substantially with different trellis ideas.
Remember also that your backyard screening doesn't have to be solid, but just a distraction to onlooker eyes and enough to make you feel comfortable and secure in your surroundings. So, a trellis enhanced with climbers is ideal.
Choose vigorous climbing species such as honeysuckle, jasmine, and clematis, and you could have a luscious green wall by next summer! The beautiful scent these plants will bring to your garden is a bonus.
17. Or, max out on height with living walls
Growing a living wall isn't just a great garden screen idea, but it will also give you the chance to beautify any ugly-looking walls. The more expensive option would be pleached trees – trees trained on a rectangular frame on clear stems – that look great when extending the height of your boundary.
There are various sizes of pleached trees depending on the variety of trees you want, but often per linear meter this can run into hundreds of dollars even before the costs of planting, so be prepared to spend a bit more if you choose this option.
18. Prune screening trees for more light
Remember that if you're going for trees as your screening option, you'll need to keep them from growing bigger than they need to be.
Prune your trees regularly to prevent them from blocking your light. The aim is to create an open shape and to avoid stimulating lots of unruly growth which will happen if you cut across a branch, for example. So keep trees as low as they can be to still hit that sightline, and prune the rest for best effect.
Learning how to prune apple trees like a pro is easy and can be mastered even by a beginner.
19. Go for semi-open backyard screening for a softer look
Just as solid hedges make gardens look gloomy and dark, so do solid fences. A semi-open or slatted design will let your garden breathe. Moreover, if your garden is small and the view beyond is quite green, an open-structure fence gives you what's called a 'borrowed view' – a classic garden design trick to make your space feel bigger.
20. Use artificial screening to hide ugly boundaries
Now this is a clever privacy idea for smaller yards also. If you've already got an ugly wall or fence and you need a quick, green fix, particularly in a space that doesn't get much sunlight, or that has a solid surface with little room for large pots, artificial plant panels are the way to go.
Better still, you can weave real plants through them as climbers in narrow pots to create a more natural look. We like Fejka artificial panels from Ikea.
21. Install a water feature to create background noise
To further increase privacy in your yard, consider a garden water feature. Although a fountain or water bowl won't make a difference to the visual privacy of your surroundings, it will create an ambient noise that will help make conversations feel more private.
22. Add a pergola
A pergola may well provide enough privacy in a smaller backyard. Even better, if you enjoy DIY, you can build a pergola yourself. Add some hanging baskets full of petunias, ivy, and lobelias to create even more privacy.
23. Go au naturel with bamboo
Bamboo is easily the best plant to grow for backyard screening. It's beautiful, mostly evergreen, and it comes up very tall, quickly. You can achieve this natural tall screen in a matter of a couple of years. Do be careful as the wrong variety can take over, growing up to 10 meters tall if you let them... The only thing bamboo needs to thrive is plenty of water, so don't forget to water it during periods of drought.
24. Add curtains to an outdoor room
For the perfect outdoor living area where you want privacy from all angles, adding billowing curtains to a covered spot will not only look gorgeous and very chic but it will also mean that when you want more privacy. Be that from neighbors or the kids, you can hide away easily.
25. Don't forget your front yard
Want a completely natural scheme that creates privacy without the use of screening materials as such? Pick your plants wisely. Bushy trees with dense foliage, such as acacia, yew, and junipers can easily provide enough screening to not need anything else and can be grown as part of your front yard landscaping ideas.
You can also use bamboo, but bear in mind that some varieties can grow very tall very quickly, so you'll need to keep it under control by regular trimming.
26. Plug gaps in fencing with blooming shrubs
If you've installed a low fence and are finding that it's not doing much for your backyard privacy, you can easily enhance what you've got with dense, blooming shrubs. Hydrangeas are perfect for this – their blooms are so abundant and large throughout the summer and fall that you likely won't need anything else. Or try lilacs.
27. Don't be afraid of an overgrown area
Sometimes the best strategy is to just let nature do its thing. Let your plants grow more naturally, resisting the urge to prune everything. You will be rewarded with a luscious, secluded yard where you may not need any manmade screening at all.
28. Use tables and plant stands to add height
The most common problem gardeners have with natural screening is that it's uneven, with visible gaps at awkward heights. This is especially common if all your plants are around the same age, which will mean that you're lacking density in the middle of your natural screening scheme. If this is the case – plant stands and garden tables to the rescue! Use patio furniture to adjust the height and balance out the look of your living screen.
What is the best backyard screening?
There are so many elements that come into play with backyard screening. Not only will you want to create privacy, hide eyesores and minimize noise by use of good screening, but you'll also want to protect light levels and your outdoor aesthetic. So, choosing options that aren't overbearing is key.
Planting conifers and laurel may be effective, but the downside here is that these trees grow very large and they will then cast a lot of shade on your backyard space over time, which isn’t necessarily what you want.
Instead, choose one of the lighter, softer approaches we've outlined. Climbers, bamboo, and trees that don't grow too tall are always better for screening.
How much does yard screening cost?
In terms of cost, this depends very much on the type of screening you go for. Shop-bought screens, trellis and the like cost anything from $20 upwards and if you're choosing natural boundaries it depends on the type and size of plants or trees you want to put in place. Reed fences on Amazon are pretty neat budget-friendly options ideal for rented spaces also.
There are many nurseries where you can buy larger-sized deciduous trees to mix with a semi-mature evergreen specimen such as Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaradg’ or Taxus bacatta fastigiata (columnar yew). Many nurseries will deliver and plant trees and hedging for you also which in itself can be expensive.
The DIY route and working with nature is of course the cheapest solution and often the most effective (and satisfying) way too if you ask us!
Choosing simple ways to increase privacy like planting and DIY can make this job really budget-friendly and effective. The experts at Gardening Express say that aside from DIY solutions, 'another alternative is wire garden fencing, as it is quick to install and unbelievably cheap. Growing climbing plants like a colorful clematis or ivy up the wire will create a private space and a great place to nature spot.'
So it can be done. Always start by assessing where you really need privacy and consider both temporary and permanent options to suit your needs and garden’s orientation. This will make it a lot easier to find a happy medium.
And remember that unless you want to section off your entire backyard – for which you will need to check what's allowed beforehand – you will be able to get more privacy in other less dramatic and very clever ways.