By Gary L. Wade
Georgia Extension Service
Plants used for screening are usually evergreen and 15 to 20 feet tall or taller. They should be tough plants that thrive on neglect once established.
Here are some choices:
Leyland Cypress. It's widely available but grows to 120 feet and is susceptible to canker diseases and bagworms in stressful weather. Ice storms can be a problem, too. With its size and disease problems, it's slowly falling from grace. There are better choices.
Burford Holly. A durable plant, it grows to 30 feet with an equal spread.
Dwarf Burford Holly. Somewhat smaller, it's still not really a dwarf, growing to 15-20 feet with an equal spread.
Little Gem Magnolia. A dwarf magnolia, it reaches about 20 feet tall and 12 feet wide. It's a great evergreen screen that tolerates drought.
Osmanthus Fragrans. A tough plant for tough sites, it grows 30 feet tall with an equal spread, so it needs lots of room. It has fragrant blooms in November.
Yoshino Cryptomeria. A fast-growing evergreen with soft foliage texture, it grows to 40 feet with a spread of 15-20 feet. There have been reports of bot canker and other problems in stressful sites.
Foster Holly. This upright, evergreen holly has narrow leaves and brilliant winter berries. It grows up to 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide.
Nellie R. Stevens Holly. A tough holly, it grows to 25 feet and 15 feet wide.
Loropetalum (white and pink forms). Most cultivars reach 15 to 20 feet at maturity and make a great background plant with showy spring blooms.
Small Anise Tree (Illicium parviflorum) . This tree grows in sun or shade, but tends to be more compact in the sun. It reaches 15 to 20 feet tall, but requires irrigation during dry periods. It's a tough, pest-free plant when it's well-established.
Wax Myrtle. This is a great plant in south Georgia, particularly in a moist site. It may have occasional cold damage in north Georgia. It grows 15 to 20 feet tall and wide.
Canadian Hemlock. University of Georgia horticulturist Mike Dirr calls it "one of the best evergreens" in his book. It's a great screen for moist, shady sites, lending a soft texture to the landscape.
Thorny Elaeagnus (Elaeagnus pungens). This plant prefers to be used as a background screen plant, since it grows a foot a week in summer. It's one of the toughest plants going and grows 15 feet high and wide. It's best left alone, since pruning to maintain a size or shape is futile.
Many other evergreens can serve as screens. Pines, for instance, make a fast-growing screen when young, but their lower branches will thin out with age. Pines can be kept as an evergreen hedge with pruning.
Bamboo makes a great screen if you select the clumping forms and avoid the more invasive running types.
Native red cedar makes a tough screen plant, too. But with a female tree that fruits heavily, seedlings can be a nightmare.