Between nosey neighbors, busy streets, and loud homes, how can you make your garden feel more private without building a giant wall around it?
Luckily, you don’t have to get that extreme. There are a lot more affordable ways to make a garden feel private!
I’ve broken down some of the most affordable garden privacy options into organic and inorganic options.
Organic options help you make your garden more private with specific types of plants or arrangements of plants.
Inorganic options focus on simple structural things and other non-plant options you have for improving garden privacy.
Let’s get into it.
1. Vertical Planters (Privacy Planters)
Ideal for: Small areas, patios, lush gardens
Vertical planters are tall containers with multiple areas for plants to grow. These can be stacked shelves for plant pots, slots for direct planting, a large bottom planter with a tall trellis area for vines, or some mix of these and other elements.
Most vertical planters are made from wood or another natural material, though there are also many vertical planters made from metal. These planters can be designed to lean against other surfaces or to stand alone.
Vertical planters are great for blocking lines of sight without taking away from the natural beauty of your garden. You can use them for decorative plants, fruits, and vegetables. They can be placed around seating areas or to create visual walls around your garden to break up spaces and create more privacy.
Ideal for: Entrances, small walls, tight spaces
Trellises can help to give a more private feel to your garden while giving you access to more vertical space for flowers, fruits, and vegetables. They only work with plants that grow as vines.
These are particularly helpful for closing off entrances and creating a visual distinction between 2 different areas. A trellis over a walking path acts as a natural divider, allowing you to define a private space with a distinct border.
Trellises can also be used along walls or as blocking structures in your garden. A row of trellises can act as an effective green wall, as long as your plants are in season and growing. Some flowering vines are perennial, meaning they’ll block the line of sight all year round.
3. Trees, Shrubs & Bushes
Ideal for: Natural walls, large gardens, permanent gardens
What’s better than a natural barrier? Trees and tall shrubs or bushes are great for breaking up spaces and building edges into your garden.
A line of trees around your yard keeps your space private without ruining the natural look of your garden. Unfortunately, it takes a while for trees to grow, so this isn’t a practical solution for everyone! It’s also impractical if you have limited access to water, or you’re in an area with harsh weather that doesn’t allow trees to grow well.
Shrubs and bushes are a little better with water, but they take more effort to make an attractive barrier since you need to regularly prune them to coax the right shape as they grow. On the plus side, you can use almost any type of bush as a hedge, so you can choose something native to where you live to reduce the maintenance load.
If you have the time and space for a more permanent privacy addition in your garden, trees, shrubs, and bushes are great.
4. Shelving (with multiple pots/planters)
Ideal for: Open spaces, balconies, small gardens, patios
Stacked shelves for plant pots work well for enclosing a space. Shelves can be stacked from the ground up in a standalone piece of furniture, separate shelves spaced around an area or anything in between.
One of the best things about shelves is that they allow you to display your plant pots and other garden décor without having to put them on the ground. Smaller pots are a good fit for shelves, so if you have a potted herb garden or a bunch of seedlings you’re planning to transplant later, a few good shelves can help with that while making your garden feel more private.
5. Tall Plant Pots & Pot Stands
Ideal for: Firepit areas, outdoor seating areas, entranceways, outdoor patios
If you’re someone with a lot of plant pots, a simple way to make your garden feel more private is to get taller plant pot stands for your existing pots. Tall stands block line of sight and might make it easier for you to fit more plants in a smaller area. You can also use them as standalone items around an entranceway, patio, or other outdoor space to frame it in a more natural way.
Tall plant pots work in much the same way, as long as they and the plants within them are tall enough. It’s a simple, somewhat elegant solution, but neither of these options will create a fully private space.
6. Layering Plants
Ideal for: Front yards, large backyards, wide open spaces, outdoor seating areas
If you have space to plant what you please, layering is a good technique to naturally create more private spaces within your garden. Layering plants means planting a lot of different plants together, with smaller plants in front and gradually larger plants behind them. The tall plants in the back block a higher line of sight, while the other plants fill in the gaps all the way to the ground.
This technique works very well in large open spaces, such as a fully exposed front or back yard. A dense collection of plants is a great way to make a natural barrier that breaks up a large space and makes your garden or yard feel more private.
If you have a lot of containers and plant pots of varying sizes, you can use this technique with those as well.
Related: Grow Bags vs Plant Pots
Ideal for: Walking paths, fences, driveways, outlining
Bamboo growth is a wonderful natural privacy screen. Though dried bamboo stalks are useful for building simple walls and barriers, live bamboo is like a gift that keeps on giving.
Live bamboo is good for screening off areas because it grows quickly and sprouts new stalks regularly, so it thickens by itself without you having to do a lot. Leaves grow all over the stalks, blocking off a larger area from top to bottom.
Bamboo can be grown directly in the ground or in pots. Since it can spread quickly in the right conditions, you should grow bamboo in a contained area. Make sure you choose a variety that grows well in your climate.
8. Ornamental Grasses
Ideal for: Separating large spaces, wide yards or gardens, lining a garden, creating a large centerpiece
Ornamental grasses can grow very tall, depending on the variety you choose. They make good centerpieces for long stretches of garden and edges around a yard line or fence line.
A row of tall ornamental grasses is an excellent privacy barrier, especially late in the season when the grasses are seeding. Even when they’re shorter, grasses do a great job of breaking up spaces and working as dividers to limit access to areas of your garden.
9. Canopies & Sunshades
Ideal for: Sunny climates, patios, seating areas
While canopies and sunshades usually hang overtop an area, they can still help you create the feel of a separate, private space in your garden. The other benefit is that sunshades of all types can make your garden more usable by blocking harsh sunlight.
Canopies and sunshades can work well on their own, but they also give you the opportunity to make a space even more private. Since they need to be held up by something, there might be a few pillars where you can attach extra side screens, hanging plants, curtains, or other stuff to make the area more private.
10. Garden Sloping
Ideal for: Uneven ground, large gardens, front yards, pathways, public walkways
If you’ve got some room in your yard and your budget, you can do some simple landscaping tricks to separate your garden into broad sections that feel more private. Especially if you live in an area that’s not flat, sloping your garden to highlight the elevation changes breaks your yard up into distinct spaces that can be made as open or private as you please.
Retaining walls are a prominent feature in a sloped garden. Having a few level spaces framed by retaining walls with planters creates a beautifully secluded space.
Ideal for: Tight neighborhoods, balconies, wide open spaces, firepits, backyards
Dividers are the simplest way to create a distinct, private space in your garden. A divider is essentially just a false wall made from any mostly-opaque material, such as wood, fabric, metal, glass, stone, or plastic. A few dividers put in strategic places around your garden break up a large space into smaller, more intimate sections.
Privacy screens are dividers made from a stretched fabric material that you can set up easily around your garden to instantly create a private space. Especially if you have a deck, balcony, or seating area that’s in view of your neighbors, a few privacy screens will set your space apart and give you some much-needed privacy.
12. Furnishing Outdoor Areas
Ideal for: Backyards, patios, outdoor eating areas, empty corners
The right outdoor furniture can make a section of your garden feel more private by giving it a point of access and directing focus. Outdoor sofas, tables, arbors, benches, and grills give some part of your garden a specific purpose that helps it feel more private, especially if they’re arranged in a closed circle.
Outdoor furnishings also work really well underneath a canopy, surrounded by dividers, framed with a trellis, mixed with plants, and generally enclosed.
If you don’t want loose furniture pieces, you can also make built-in benches, seating, or grills. Benches can be especially nice for a private corner of the garden.
13. Simple Water Features
Ideal for: Small backyards, businesses, courtyards, segmented gardens, seating areas
Water features give you the opportunity to make a space in your garden more crowded, without it looking out of place. A tall water feature can be useful for privacy on its own, but even a short water feature surrounded by tall plants works as well. Without the water feature, the plants might seem out of place.
Small ponds, fountains, birdbaths, and waterfall elements are a great addition to a garden. They create an interesting focal point to build other privacy elements around. If you want to conserve resources, many small water features can reuse water and can be powered by water pressure or solar power.
14. Outdoor Curtains & Bug Screens
Ideal for: Covered outdoor areas, porches, balconies
For a little added privacy in a defined space, add outdoor curtains or screens. Screens give the extra advantage of keeping bugs away as well, while curtains can diffuse direct sunlight.
Outdoor curtains need to be made from a sturdy material that can withstand the elements. If your garden area is windy, you may want to add something to secure the curtain in place when it’s closed.
If you don’t already have a place sectioned off where you can add screens or curtains, you can install a few simple poles to hang curtains from. Bug screens need a more complete area, but other divider screens can be used anywhere outside, usually between poles or pillars of some kind.
Tips for Success
Planning and re-doing any area of your garden can be a heavy time and monetary investment. How can you make sure you do it right the first time?
Here are a few tips to make it a smoother process for you:
- Focus on 1 area at a time
If you try to work on a lot of your garden at once, your efforts may not go as far. Try to work on limited spaces and get them at least close to completion before moving on to another area.
- Create cohesive sections
For each private section of your garden you’re creating (even if it’s your whole garden or balcony area), make sure the different elements work in harmony. A mix of a few different things can work better than just one element alone and can make your space feel both private and comfortable.
- Use native plants
If your plan involves growing anything, try to use native plants as much as possible. Native plants don’t take as much maintenance and are likely to grow more consistently than non-native plants.
- Think long-term
Some garden privacy options might work for the short term but could cause more trouble than they’re worth in the long term. Think of ways to make your garden more private permanently, which may include a short-term solution while you wait for a longer-term fix. For example, putting up a few simple dividers while you wait for trees to grow in, or hanging sturdy curtains to use at night when your patio is more visible.
- Evergreens are year-round
If you’re using trees or hedges to create privacy, see if you have an evergreen option. Trees or bushes that lose many of their leaves throughout the year may not always block the line of sight. Evergreens don’t lose their “leaves”, making them a better yearlong option.
- Function first, then form
When you’re planning a private garden area, think about the function of the space and how your privacy measures fit into that function. If the space doesn’t serve the function it’s meant to, you may not even enjoy using it, no matter how good it looks.
At the end of the day, your garden is your own. Make it into a space you want to spend time in. What’s the point of a private garden you don’t even like?
Use these ideas for inspiration and transform your garden into a relaxing, comfortable space to eat, read, converse, entertain, or just chill.