Living in a Town Home or Single Family Home often allows for some outdoor living space, but in the DC area, the outdoor space is exposed to the surrounding neighborhood. It might not be the visibility, maybe the prevailing breeze is freezing you while you try to relax on your deck, maybe the kids need a barrier to stop the errant drones, toy balls, and other flying projectiles.

Evergreen trees provide year round coverage from nosy neighbors, flying objects and the environment so that you will want to be outside again. Here’s a list of the best evergreen trees for your situation.

Tall and Slim Evergreens

Emerald Green Arborvitae

Town Home backyards are left with little landscape space if you have a patio or deck, let alone a lawn. Your best option is the Emerald Green Arborvitae. It grows to about 25 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide over 8-12 years, it does grow pretty quickly as evergreens go, but don’t expect a bamboo like “watch it grow” pace. These are best suited for areas that need a tall, slim screen. You should not use these in un-fenced areas that deer visit often, as the foliage is a target during the winter months.

Fosters Holly

The Fosters Holly is an excellent option for those looking for a corner of the house evergreen to amplify the home’s landscape presence. The Fosters Holly grows to about 20-25 feet tall and 8-10 feet wide. It has a lighter foliage coverage, not totally obscuring the view. It is deer resistant due to the prickly leaves and unpleasant taste.

American Holly

The American Holly has a heavier, thicker foliage with a more clumping, irregular profile than the Fosters Holly. It has a more three dimensional foliage, with more prominent leaf spines. It would be better suited to a creating a barrier along a property line or common area for this reason. It grows to 20-25 feet tall and about 10 feet wide, it is common to see these growing in the wooded areas all over Northern Virginia. It is one of the most shade hardy Holly trees.


Bamboo was used heavily during the 80s and 90s, especially the spreading kind, while it is a fantastic barrier and visual screem. However, it is extremely invasive. We do not recommend planting it except in containers where it cannot spread to undesirable areas. There are some non-spreading varieties out there, but do your own research before purchasing.

Big and Tall Evergreens

Leyland Cypress

The classic Leyland Cypress is one of the fastest growing evergreen trees, though the Japanese Cedar is a close second. The Leyland Cypress grows up to 3 feet per year if healthy. It has a feathery evergreen foliage resembling a traditional spruce, but grows much faster than a spruce. It can be planted closely to create a hedge, or spaced out to define a border or boundary. It grows to 40-50 feet tall and 20 feet wide in our area if healthy and not damaged by heavy snow or wind event.

Japanese Cedar

The Japanese Cedar, specifically the Yoshiko Cryptomeria is an under used evergreen tree. It has many of the positive attributes of the very similar but unrelated Leyland Cypress, while having a longer lifespan and greater resistance to snow and wind damage. It has a more plume like foliage that exhibits a bronzing color change during the winter. It grows to 40-50 feet tall and 10 feet wide if maintained. It can also tolerate more shade than the Leyland Cypress, though deep shade is not recommended.

Nellie R. Stevens Holly

The Nellie R. Stevens Holly is one of the toughest Hollies, yet one of the softest with its almost spineless leaves. This holly grows in soggy soil, clay soil, shady areas, deer infested areas, and more. It is more stout than the other hollies listed, growing to about 10-12 feet wide and 25 feet tall, so you need fewer to cover a given area compared to say, an Arborvitae.

Green Giant Arborvitae

The MVP goes to the Green Giant Arborvitae if we were to award one to a tree in this list. The Green Giant is unstoppable. It combines fast growth with wind and snow tolerance. It combines the soft foliage with deer resistance, so you can use it wherever you need to. It grows in shadier areas than traditional evergreens as well. Finally, it grows to about 6-8 feet wide and 30-40 feet tall, with graceful spire shaped tops.

If you are trying to create some screening for privacy, or just want to define your property line, we offer free estimates for tree planting and all other types of planting!

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