Edible Privacy Hedges

Privacy hedges are extremely popular: who hasn't had that neighbor with the balcony overlooking your yard, a "scenic" view of a storm drain, dumpster, or alleyway, or a desire to go into your yard without the whole world looking?

But what if your privacy hedge could be edible? Just think about it!

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Let's look at some common privacy needs and how we can solve them using edible plants:

The hedge fence

The simplest way to add privacy is to add plants to an existing fence:

  • fill in a chain link or other open fence with edible vines or shrubs (lilac is gorgeous on a tall chain link fence),
  • espalier pretty much any fruit or nut tree onto the fence, and/or
  • add to the height of a fence using tall edible hedge shrubs or hedge trees, pruning the branches off until you get to the top of the fence. Most fruit trees can be used for this; evergreen ones such as citrus, firethorn or one of the many Eugenia species will give a consistent look year round.

A natural privacy fence

Some other alternatives, if you need a narrow privacy hedge, is to plant a row of clumping bamboo (only use clumping bamboo unless you want it to take over your yard!) or other very narrow shrubs or trees such as Irish juniper.

Thuja "green giant" arborvitae is an extremely popular plant used for this purpose -- and yes, it's edible! The leaves are very high in Vitamin C and can be used for an herbal tea, although for some it's an acquired taste -- try it out before buying, if you really want a hedge you can eat.

But there are many other tall evergreen bushes that can be sheared into a more narrow shape. If you don't need privacy year round (for example, you don't use your backyard in winter), there are many more deciduous edible plants such as elderberry, blackhaw, and magenta cherry that form a dense mat of leaves during the summer and can be pruned to a relatively narrow form.

Row of apple trees forming a privacy hedge

Other hedges for privacy

Just need a bit of privacy? Many edible hedge shrubs grow to the 6 to 10 foot range, good for keeping people who walk by from seeing into the yard but are still easy to trim and harvest.

If you like the more informal type of hedge, large flowering bushes like hibiscus, American cranberry, and banana plants can make wonderful thick hedges.

Banana plants are especially nice for patio privacy and around swimming pools in subtropical and the drier tropical areas as they don't shed leaves all over the place like many other fruit trees do. (I say this because in very wet areas they tend to collect water in their leaves, which could breed mosquitoes)

Here are more good edible hedge plants for privacy screens:

  • Acmena smithii
  • Arbutus unedo
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Blue spruce
  • Brush cherry
  • Desert hackberry (Celtis pallida)
  • English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus, also called cherry laurel and chokecherry) -- Fruit only: leaves, seeds, flowers, and branches are toxic. This is not a true laurel but is related to other cyanide-containing plants such as apricots and apples.
  • Hawthorn
  • Hazelbert
  • Natal Plum (Carissa grandiflora)
  • Pineapple guava

I'll be adding to the list later as I find more.

Have you found some great edible privacy hedges? Share them!

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What would you like to read about next? Some related pages:

Edible garden hedges - Types of trees to use for edible landscaping

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Edible screen with partial shade in tropical zone 10?

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