From fences to ornate garden screens, there are lots of ways to create more privacy for your outdoor space. But using shrubs has to be one of the prettiest solutions, especially if they provide something of interest across multiple seasons.
There are many shrubs that look particularly glorious in the fall garden, offering foliage in blazing hues and sometimes vibrant berries. And while some are deciduous, dropping their leaves once winter arrives, they would still look great in the foreground of a large evergreen hedge if privacy is the priority, says Ward Dilmore, a landscape designer.
Ward Dilmore is a landscape designer and Founder of Petrus Landscape, redefining outdoor spaces in the Bay Area, California. With an unconventional blend of horticulture expertise and international relations background, Ward brings youthful innovation and sustainable creativity to his designs. Ward’s commitment to merging beauty with eco-conscious practices marks him as a dynamic artist in the industry, carving a path of bold, fresh perspectives in the world of landscaping.
10 shrubs that will bring color and privacy to your yard this fall
Screen your outdoor living space from view this fall with these attractive privacy shrubs.
1. Burning bush
- Height: 4-8ft
- Spread: 4-8ft
- Hardiness: USDA 4-8
- Best for: Low maintenance
Burning bush (Euonymus alatus) is known for its brilliant red foliage in the fall, making it a stunning focal point, says Ward. ‘It also forms a dense hedge that provides good privacy.’
Lindsey Chastain, a homesteader and the Founder of The Waddle and Cluck blog, agrees with this recommendation. Burning bush grows quickly and does well in full sun to part shade, she says.
It’s ideal if you’re looking for a low-maintenance shrub. ‘It requires little care beyond watering occasionally in very dry periods,’ says Lindsey. ‘Prune in late winter to shape and thin as needed.’
‘Some areas consider this shrub invasive, though it is fairly easy to control,’ says Ward. You can buy burning bush from Fast Growing Trees.
Lindsey started gardening in 2005, when her first son was born, as a way to save money. It started with a small window herb garden, then expanded to potted vegetables, and now, she and her husband can regularly be spotted in the garden on their homestead.
2. Fragrant Sumac
Ward also recommends fragrant sumac, otherwise known as Rhus aromatica. It features attractive red, orange, or purple fall foliage and forms a low, spreading privacy hedge, he says. What’s more, it’s very easy to maintain and requires little pruning.
It’s adaptable to many soil types, produces spring flowers, and is good for attracting pollinators and other wildlife. And, as well as providing fabulous color, the leaves offer a pleasing aroma.
3. Oakleaf hydrangea
- Height: 4-6ft
- Spread: 4-6ft
- Hardiness: USDA 4-9
- Best for: Areas with dappled shade
‘Another superb option is the oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), my personal favorite,’ says Lindsey. ‘This native shrub has large, bold leaves that turn brilliant shades of red and purple in fall.’ And, once the leaves drop, the peeling cinnamon-colored bark also adds winter interest, she highlights.
‘Oakleaf hydrangeas grow 4-6 feet tall and wide, thriving in part shade with occasional watering and mulching,’ Lindsey continues. ‘Prune after blooming in early summer if needed.’
Try the ‘Alice’ oakleaf hydrangea from Nature Hills for giant, cone-shaped flowerheads and burgundy-crimson autumn foliage.
- Height: 3-20ft
- Spread: 3-12ft
- Hardiness: USDA 2-9
- Best for: Fall berries
Although well-loved as a spring-flowering shrub, viburnum earn their keep through other seasons, too.
‘Many varieties of viburnum offer colorful fall foliage, and some produce attractive berries,’ says Ward. ‘Examples include arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) and American cranberry bush viburnum (Viburnum trilobum).’ You can shop the American cranberry bush from Fast Growing Trees.
Many are easy to look after and inexpensive to buy, he adds. ‘Some spring pruning will help produce more vigor for the season’s growth.’
5. Red Twig Dogwood
- Height: 6-8ft
- Spread: 6-8ft
- Hardiness: USDA 2-8
- Best for: Colorful stems
Dogwood, or Cornus sericea, is known for its colorful stems, which provide winter interest, says Ward. ‘It also offers attractive fall foliage and can be used as part of privacy planting.’
Plant this hardy, drought-tolerant shrub in full sun for the best foliage color. You can shop red twig dogwoods from Fast Growing Trees.
- Height: 3-10ft
- Spread: 4-6ft
- Hardiness: USDA 2-8
- Best for: Compact cultivars
Physocarpus opulifolius, or ninebark, comes in various cultivars, some of which offer colorful fall foliage in shades of red and purple, Ward says. ‘It can be used to create a multi-seasonal privacy screen.’
Lindsey agrees, adding that it’s unfussy, tolerating sun or shade and many soil types. ‘Prune in spring to shape and promote new growth,’ she says.
Try Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Seward’ from Nature Hills, which has wine-hued autumn leaves and pretty springtime blooms.
7. Northern Bayberry
- Height: 5-7ft
- Spread: 5-7ft
- Hardiness: USDA 3-7
- Best for: Deer resistance
Myrica pensylvanica features gray-green aromatic leaves and waxy berries that persist into winter, says Ward. ‘It forms a dense hedge that offers privacy.’
It’s a tough shrub, putting up with coastal and urban environments. In warmer climes, its fragrant leaves are semi-evergreen. It’s also good for wildlife.
Northern bayberry can be bought from Nature Hills.
8. Japanese barberry
- Height: 2-5ft
- Spread: 2-5ft
- Hardiness: USDA 4-8
- Best for: Spiky branches
Some cultivars of Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) display vibrant red, orange, or purple foliage in the fall, says Ward. It can be used to create an effective privacy hedge – not least because of the large barbs on its branches.
Compact varieties suit smaller spaces, while others, such as ‘Rose Glow’ from Fast Growing Trees, can grow up to 5ft tall. They thrive in full sun and well-drained soil.
‘These plants are easy to maintain once planted,’ Ward adds. However, do be aware that in some regions they are considered invasive.
- Height: 2-10ft
- Spread: 2-10ft
- Hardiness: USDA 4-8
- Best for: Fast growth
Many varieties of spirea offer fall color, as well as their spring blooms.
Autumn Hilliard-Knapp of Perfect Plants Nursery particularly recommends the bridal wreath spirea – ‘a charming shrub with cascading branches filled with clusters of beautiful white flowers. In the fall, its foliage transforms into vibrant hues of red and orange, providing a stunning display.
‘Plant it in well-drained soil and a location that receives full sun to partial shade. Light pruning after flowering will help maintain its shape and promote more blooms in the following year.’
Autumn is a horticulture specialist and marketing professional at Perfect Plants Nursery. With four years of experience in the horticulture industry, she has developed a passion for helping people create beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces to enjoy. Her expertise in horticulture encompasses a broad range of activities, including plant care and selection, landscape design, and maintenance.
10. Japanese holly
- Height: 4-10ft
- Spread: 4-10ft
- Hardiness: USDA 5-9
- Best for: Low-maintenance evergreen
An easy-care alternative to box, this evergreen shrub with dark berries in the fall can be used for topiary or for a year-round, compact privacy screen.
If you are looking for a narrow, upright shrub, go for the ‘Sky Pencil’ variety, as Autumn recommends. ‘For successful growth, ensure well-drained soil and partial to full sun exposure. Regular pruning will help maintain its shape, and adding mulch around the base can help conserve moisture.’
What are the best fall shrubs for shade?
For shadier spots in your yard, try planting oakleaf hydrangea, viburnum, evergreen camellias, or beautyberry, which has unusual clusters of bright purple berries.
What are some fast-growing fall shrubs?
If you want to fill a space quickly, burning bush and spirea are known for being fast growers, as is ninebark.
As well as shrubs, don’t forget there are plenty of trees and other plants that can be used to create privacy for your fall patio. Combine a variety of different heights for a sumptuous botanical tapestry – perhaps alongside a vibrant fall planter or two.