Evergreen trees are trees that do not lose leaves seasonally. They are sought after for shade, to help with sound pollution, to add privacy, and to have the same look year-round since deciduous trees change color in the Fall and drop their leaves afterward. Evergreen trees are great for privacy. You can plant an evergreen tree to block the neighbor’s view in your backyard. You can also plant one in the front yard to create a courtyard and make the front of your home more concealed from the public.
Selecting the right tree for your space is important as evergreen trees will cast a large shadow. Having your house shaded in the wintertime can increase your heating bill because the house will be colder. Deciduous trees will drop their leaves in the winter, allowing light to enter through the tree and warm your home. Read more about shade trees here:
So Where Do I Plant an Evergreen Tree?
To avoid shading out your home in the winter, do not plant the tree southern side of your house. For summer shade without making your home cool in the winter, plant an evergreen tree on the north, east or west side of your home.
Our Favorite Evergreen Trees
The Sweet Bay is one of our favorite shrubs/trees for its multiple uses! The leaves are fragrant and edible, which can be used in poultry dishes and soups. The foliage is very dense, creating a great hedge for privacy screens. It also does very well when grown as a container plant. Grows slowly to 15-40′ tall and wide.
Magnolia ‘Little Gem’
A dwarf cultivar of the species Magnolia grandiflora. Large, fragrant white flowers appear in Spring through Late Summer. ‘Little Gem’ grows 25′ tall by 15′ wide, creating a narrow form. Dark green foliage is rusty brown underneath. Leaves do fall year-round and can create a mess.
If you’re looking for a large, evergreen Christmas tree for the garden, this is it! The large arching branches grow all the way to the ground, creating a very dense privacy screen. Make sure to leave enough room for this tree as it grows 50’+ tall and 40′ wide. Sunset Western Garden Book recommends that you can prune the outer branches to keep the tree more narrow and create even denser foliage for privacy.
A very fast-growing tree, not native to California. Though they have naturalized all over the state, they are very drought-tolerant and can tolerate poor soils. Loved for its long leaflets, which droop downwards, and the pink berries in winter. Very fast growing, up to 40′ tall and wide. Be sure to plant far away from pavements, as the surface roots can be quite vigorous.
Prunus caroliniana (Cherry Laurel)
Not to be confused with the Sweet Bay, the Cherry Laurel is another dense evergreen tree/shrub that we love to recommend for privacy hedging. It looks best as a shrub with little pruning (don’t shear this one) but can also be trained into a tree. Fast-growing 30′ tall and wide. ‘Compacta’ grows up to 15′ tall and 10′ wide while Monrovia’s ‘Bright N Tight’ grows only 8- 10′ tall and 6′-8′ wide. Fragrant white flowers hum with bees in the spring followed by somewhat fleshy purple berries.
Podocarpus macrophyllus (Yew Pine)
Yew Pines are often used as a privacy hedge which grows very tall but can be pruned to maintain size. The dense foliage makes this tree great for sound pollution if you live somewhere noisy. Plant closely to achieve a hedge, or grow alone as a large lawn tree. It grows 50′ tall by 15′ wide at maturity, although it is very slow growing. Read more about other columnar trees here.
This cultivar of Yew Pine is even slower growing than Podocarpus macrophyllus. It is also much smaller, only growing 15′ tall by 4′ wide. It is an excellent choice for a corner that needs tall privacy near the house and can be planted in a container.
Cinnamomum camphora (Camphor Tree)
This large tree is most often used as a street tree, even though it is better used as a lawn tree. It grows up to 60′ tall and wide, with a large trunk and upright branches. The vigorous roots can tear up the sidewalk, so it is best to be planted where the roots will not disturb infrastructure. The fragrant leaves smell like Camphor when broken open.
Photinia x fraseri (Red Tip Photinia)
Another favorite privacy screen we like to recommend is Photinia. The new foliage is red, which stands out during the new growth period. The leaves eventually fade to a glossy dark green. You can prune the hedge before spring to see more red growth. Easily trained into a tree.
Tristania ‘Elegant’ (Elegant Water Gum)
Moderate grower, reaching 15′ tall by 10′ to 15′ wide. The attractive red bark makes this tree really stand out. The leathery green leaves, white bark that peels revealing purplish patches. Blooms with yellow flowers in summer that drop and shrivel to nothing. Seed pods stay on the tree.