By Nancy Penrose


Looking for the ideal Northwest privacy tree? Whether you’re shielding your backyard from prying eyes, reducing noise or looking to create a serene green space, this article covers the most suitable trees for privacy in the Seattle area. Learn about low-maintenance evergreens, like the Emerald Green Arborvitae, and fast-growing options for quick coverage, like the Leyland Cypress, all while taking the local climate into consideration. Discover planting tips, care advice, and how to choose the best species for your specific needs – a comprehensive guide for your tranquil, secluded garden.

Key Takeaways

  • The Emerald Green Arborvitae and Green Giant cedar are the top choices in Seattle for creating a low-maintenance, elegant privacy screen that’s aesthetically pleasing and functional.
  • Excelsa Cedar and Leyland Cypress are magnificent natural privacy screens that may require regular maintenance

Emerald Green Arborvitae: Top Choice for Seattle Privacy Trees

The Emerald Green Arborvitae is the go-to choice in Seattle for developing a living barrier that endures. This evergreen tree is renowned not only as a steadfast partition but also embodies effortless grace with its perennial vibrant green color and majestic upright shape.
This species of arborvitae offers versatility whether you aim to establish a secluded outdoor space or yearn for some private tranquility. It fulfills various requirements, blending beauty with functionality seamlessly.

Growth Habit and Maintenance

The Emerald Green Arborvitae is ideally suited as a Seattle privacy tree for smaller gardens or narrow planting beds, possessing several attractive traits.

  • At maturity, these plants can reach heights between 15-20 feet.
  • They have a narrow enough width to comfortably fit into areas where space is limited.
  • Once they become established, their growth rate accelerates.
  • These arborvitaes naturally form a dense and lush privacy screen.

The Green Giant cedar is a hybrid of the Thuja plicata and Thuja standashii and  is ideally suited as a Seattle privacy tree for yards with narrow planting beds, but require more height than the Emerald Green Arborvitae offer.  The Green Giant can get 8 feet wide, but 30-40 feet tall and can be hedged to maintain the necessary height and width.

  • At maturity, these plants can reach heights between 30-40 feet.
  • They are narrower than the Excelsa Cedar or Leyland Cypress
  • These arborvitaes naturally form a dense and lush privacy screen.

To make sure your new trees flourish, you should adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Plant it in an area that receives ample sunlight and has soil that allows for good drainage.  Emerald Greens will not do well in shady areas.
  • It’s important to maintain consistent watering, particularly during the first 3 years after planting.  Drip lines or loops of soaker hose are most effective and efficient.

Planting Tips for Instant Privacy

Desiring instant privacy? Place your Emerald Green Arborvitae trees approximately 2 to 3 feet apart, or the Green Giants 6-8 feet apart for a natural barrier that provides seclusion comparable to conventional fencing.

Excelsa Cedar (Hybrid of the Western Red): A Natural Choice for Privacy Screening

Constructed from the robust Standard Western Red Cedar, this privacy tree epitomizes the natural splendor of the Northwest. Its dense evergreen foliage provides a vibrant green backdrop throughout every season, not merely serving as a privacy barrier but also symbolizing the verdant grandeur typical of Pacific Northwest scenery.

Growth Habit and Maintenance

The Excelsa Cedar is ideally suited for yards that allow space for them to reach their mature height and is characterized by:

  • A towering and cone-shaped outline reaching 25-30’ at maturity
  • Perfectly suited for creating privacy screens
  • Prefers damp, nutrient-rich soil conditions
  • Grows to establish a dense and secluded overhead coverage

Even though the Excelsa Cedar can attain heights close to 30 feet, it maintains a full-bodied appearance. This makes it an ideal selection for garden privacy screens that require bushiness and manageability while offering an alternative look compared to the traditional varieties with their less dense formations.

Ideal Conditions for Growth

Thriving in the rich, adequately drained soils of Seattle, the Excelsa Cedar prospers with steady moisture and a generous layer of organic matter. This resilient cedar revels equally in the brilliance of full sun as well as speckled shade, yet shuns deep shade areas that hinder its robust growth.

Long-Term Care and Control

To foster a dense and healthy growth of your Excelsa Cedar for use as a living screen, consider the following guidance:

  • During spring, enhance its vitality with slow-release fertilizer to feed it essential nutrients.
  • Keep the cedar shapely by cutting away any branches that are dead or damaged. This encourages fresh sprouting and helps keep its appearance orderly.
  • In fall, apply a protective mulch layer around the base to safeguard root systems and preserve soil moisture.

Adhering to these practices will aid in prolonging the life span of your natural barrier.

Fast-Growing Seattle Privacy Trees for Quick Cover

When you need privacy quickly, trees like the Leyland Cypress, Green Giant Cedar and Excelsa Cedar are invaluable due to their swift growth rates. These fast-growing evergreens will soon provide you with a tall and dense screen that not only secures your privacy but also acts as a reliable barrier against wind and noise.

Assessing Your Space

Before introducing fast-growing privacy trees into your landscape, pause to evaluate the unique layout of your property. Consider every aspect of your yard including any existing overhead utility lines and how close elements like your house and driveway are situated, confirming that there is ample space for these privacy-providing trees to thrive without leading to issues down the line.

Bear in mind that when selecting trees to plant, their mature size and foliage characteristics should enhance rather than overpower the overall aesthetic of your garden’s design.

Planning Your Privacy Screen

Crafting a privacy screen with trees is akin to orchestrating a musical masterpiece, where each tree contributes its unique qualities to the collective. It requires strategic planning for utility and aesthetic appeal by taking into account the full-grown size of your selected trees, ensuring minimal trimming in future years. The magic lies in proper spacing balancing the desire for instant privacy and future growth.

For aficionados of Leyland Cypress, ensure these particular trees soak up at least six hours of sunlight daily. In return for this solar indulgence, they’ll flourish with rapid growth rates ideal for establishing your natural privacy barrier.

Achieving Balance Between Speed and Aesthetics

Rapid growth can be impressive, but without regular upkeep, it may lead to untamed chaos. Prune your Leyland Cypress diligently, crafting its form according to your visual preferences and promoting its robustness and well-being.
Incorporate a variety of deciduous trees among the mix for a visually appealing screen that swiftly provides privacy. This addition enhances the garden’s ambiance with speckled sunlight and vibrant hues that shift with the seasons.

Tailoring Your Privacy Trees to Match Your Landscape

Establishing a secluded haven involves more than just the act of planting trees and shrubs. It’s about sculpting an environment that mirrors your personal taste and necessities. Carefully choosing plants and embracing current design trends guarantees that your Seattle privacy trees will fulfill their intended function while also augmenting and elevating the aesthetic appeal of your space.

Considering Form and Foliage

By blending various shapes and textures of plants, you can compose a living mosaic in your garden that delights the senses throughout all seasons. Opt for trees and shrubs whose forms align with the design and dimension of your space, thus crafting an environment that is both aesthetically pleasing and practical. This approach allows you to create a vibrant tableau filled with diverse foliage, making your garden an attractive haven.

Customizing for Seasonal Interest

As the seasons shift, your landscape’s appearance transforms as well. Incorporate a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees in your landscaping plan to create an evolving tapestry of seasonal splendor. Remember, texture and hue are essential elements that maintain a vibrant and captivating look for your garden throughout every season.

Working with Landscape Professionals

The expertise of a landscape designer can elevate an average garden to one that is truly exceptional. They provide tailored recommendations on selecting and positioning plants while tackling your garden’s unique hurdles.

Enlisting the help of professionals allows you to gain insight into what your completed project could look like, as well as offering advice on financial planning to guarantee that your gardening project flourishes successfully.


As our journey through Northwest privacy trees concludes, remember that the perfect garden sanctuary is within reach. Whether you opt for the steadfast elegance of the Emerald Green Arborvitae, the towering grace of the Excelsa or Green Giant Cedar, or the rapid growth of Leyland Cypress, your choices are as diverse as they are beautiful. Combine these with the art of hedge planting, and you have a palette to paint your very own secluded paradise. Embrace these green guardians, and let them transform your space into a private haven, tailored to your landscape and lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions

How quickly can I expect privacy from my newly planted Emerald Green Arborvitae?  If you position your Emerald Green Arborvitae with a spacing of 2 to 3 feet between each plant, within several years they will form into a thick and secluded hedge. Year by year, as these plants mature, the level of privacy they afford will progressively increase.

Can Excelsa Cedar and Leyland Cypress be shaped to fit my garden’s aesthetic?  Yes, you can shape the Excelsa Cedar and Leyland Cypress to fit your garden’s aesthetic by pruning it in early spring or late winter for a lush, bushy growth.

What are some fast-growing tree options for a Seattle privacy tree? For rapid privacy, Leyland Cypress, Green Giant and Excelsa Cedar are top choices. The Leyland Cypress can shoot up to a remarkable four feet annually if conditions favor it.  All of these varieties offer impressive speedy growth, making them superb for quick coverage in the Seattle area.

See our slide show of privacy trees.
See our Tree Finder, where you can select the option to view just privacy trees.

Nancy Penrose is the owner of Big Trees Inc., located in Snohomish, WA in the Seattle area. The company is one of the largest tree nurseries in the Seattle area with over 120,000 trees available in over 300 varieties. They not only deliver young trees, but also mature trees in a wide range of sizes. Some types of trees available include spring flowering, deciduous, evergreen, and privacy trees. The company also does tree transplanting including large trees. Their blog can be seen at or They can be reached at 360-563-2700.

Big Trees Inc.
10928 Springhetti Rd
Snohomish, WA 98296



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