What do you suggest that I plant as a privacy barrier that will thrive with little care?


I’d like to plant something native that might give some color by that is a privacy barrier and will thrive with little care. What do you suggest? Also while much of my yard can be quite soggy this area seems to drain fairly well.


Jonathan Foster, Home Horticulture Outreach Professional

So, the parameters we’re working with are native, partial shade, dense enough for some privacy, low maintenance, and color. And I’m focusing in the 6-10′ height range, to approximate the growth you had before. Please keep in mind that you’ll most likely be planting young specimens, so it will take several seasons before they reach maturity and fully replace the lost rhododendrons. Larger plants are available, but the price goes up and if they’re too large, it might be worth hiring a local landscaping crew to plant them for you.

First, I’ll direct you to our UMaine Cooperative Extension Bulletin #2500, Gardening to Conserve Maine’s Native Landscape, and our home page for Plants for the Maine Landscape. The first resource discusses the importance of native plants (confirming your decision) and then gives a nice list of natives, along with site requirements and notes about each. The second link has some more in-depth information on a selection of Maine natives and a series of curated lists for special site conditions.

Reviewing those lists against your requested parameters gives several good options:

Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)–6′, partial shade, white flowers, edible black berries (must be cooked), can be prone to suckering (shoot growth from the crown) so look for a low-suckering variety (e.g. Elata) or you might need to periodically cut back that unwanted growth

Mapleleaf Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)–up to 6′, partial shade, white flowers, good fall foliage color, also prone to suckering (see chokeberry above)

Wild raisin (Viburnum cassinoides)–10′, partial shade, white flowers, good fall foliage

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)–10′, partial shade, small white flowers (not really showy), but gorgeous red berries that persist into winter and feed wildlife, good for informal hedges

Northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanicum)–6-10′, prefers more shade than sun, non-showy flowers but dark green, fragrant foliage and pretty pale blue berries that are a favorite with birds

I’ve suggested deciduous shrubs to approximate the previous plantings, but if you are interested in evergreens, there are a number of them available in the lists provided above. All of the ones I highlighted will need attention to watering in their first season or two while they are establishing, but after that should be pretty low maintenance unless we get drought conditions.

I would also highly recommend, once you’ve decided what you’re interested in planting, that you have the soil tested through the UMaine Soil Analytical Lab (you can pick up test kits in any Extension office, or request that one be mailed to you). You can list the intended plantings and the lab will give you tailored suggestions for any soil amendments that might be necessary or beneficial–it will be easier to incorporate their recommendations before the new plants are put in.

Happy gardening!