Cheap Ways To Block Neighbors’ View | Privacy Screening

They say good fences make good neighbors. That rings true no matter how well you get along with the people next door. After all, we all need a little bit of privacy sometimes!

The most obvious solution for a yard or patio in need of privacy is to construct a wall or fence. Of course, that’s not possible in all (or even most) cases. 

No matter what your specific scenario calls for, I can promise you that adding some much-needed privacy to your outdoor living space shouldn’t and doesn’t need to cost a small fortune. 

To make life simple and break down the options, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite cheap ways to block neighbors’ views, plus tips to get the most from your new privacy screen.

Cheap Ways To Block Neighbors’ Views

There are countless clever ways to add privacy to your backyard, deck, or patio without spending a fortune on labor and materials. However, not all solutions will fit your specific needs.

The ideal privacy screen for your home will depend on several factors, including:

The desired level of privacy: While there are many affordable screening ideas that will block 50% or more of your neighbors’ views, few offer the level of privacy you’d get from a solid wall or fence. 

Also, trees and shrubs (with the exception of most evergreen species) will offer different degrees of privacy throughout the year.

Community or HOA rules: Local laws or community rules may limit what structures can be built on your property. There may be limitations on how close plants or structures can be to your property line, along with how tall these screens can be.

Urgency: How soon you need additional privacy could play a big role in which solution will work for you. For example, my favorite way to add privacy to a backyard is with dense trees or shrubs. But it can take several years for these plants to fill out to the desired level.

Cost is obviously a very important factor when adding privacy to your property. Just be sure to keep these other factors in mind as well when comparing the ideas below.

Plant Fast Growing Privacy Trees

A row of dense trees can provide nearly as much privacy as a traditional fence. I’ve seen plenty of homes that utilize one or two strategically planted trees to obstruct the view into a ground-floor window.

There are plenty of wonderful yet cheap fast-growing privacy tree varieties that offer seclusion to your outdoor space. 

Be sure to take your local climate into consideration, as well as your overall landscape aesthetic and available space. Some trees will take up just as much horizontal space as they will vertical.

Regardless of size at maturity, it’s generally true that smaller trees cost less when purchased from a nursery. Buying particularly young trees can be a great way to save money if you’re willing to wait a few years for maximum privacy.

These are just some of the most popular tree varieties used for privacy screening.

Cheap Ways To Block Neighbors' View

Alternate Plant Arborvitae Trees

Appropriately spaced Arborvitae are easily some of the most popular trees for creating a privacy screen. While results won’t be instantaneous, you’ll have a secluded yard much faster than you might expect!

Since arborvitae trees are evergreen, there’s no need to worry about your privacy screen disappearing in wintertime. As far as privacy trees go, these evergreens are my top recommendation for anywhere that experiences colder winters.

There are many arborvitae varieties to choose from, some of which are better suited to privacy planting than others. One variety you really can’t go wrong with is Thuja Green Giant.

The growth rate of a Thuja Green Giant, for example, can achieve up to 5 feet in height per year. It’s easy to care for and takes up very little “outward” space. If you have some room to spare, however, staggering these trees in an alternate pattern is the best way to create a living privacy screen.

Check Prices for Thuja Green Arborvitae from Fastgrowingtrees.com

Plant Crape Myrtle Tree

Plant Crape Myrtle Tree

Crape myrtles are extremely popular ornamental trees and shrubs for warmer climates — these trees are particularly common throughout the American Southeast. They can grow more than 2 feet in a single year.

Knowing how and when to prune crape myrtle is key to establishing them as effective privacy screening and this can be done in a variety of ways. 

If you want to create a row of crape myrtles that offers privacy from top to bottom, then I recommend allowing multiple trunks to form. This will give your crape myrtles a dense, shrubby appearance.

Crape myrtles don’t just offer privacy. They’re also grown for their attractive spring flowers. This can add intrigue to your property (and give your neighbors something better to look at than your backyard!).

One thing to keep in mind is that crape myrtles are deciduous. This means they drop their leaves each winter. So, if you want year-round privacy, you’ll want to opt for evergreen trees instead.

Check Prices for Crepe Myrtle from Fastgrowingtrees.com

Plant Banana Trees

Plant Banana Trees 

Banana trees offer unique tropical foliage that can add shade and privacy to your backyard or patio. 

Banana trees grow in the ground and can be used to form a privacy hedge. Some people like to use these trees to block their neighbors’ view from a second-story window. The tree’s large leaves act like makeshift umbrellas, blocking both the sun and peering eyeballs!

In colder climates, you can keep banana trees in large containers. Planting the trees in containers makes it possible to move them indoors when the temperatures drop. This strategy also works great as a portable privacy screen for a deck or porch. You can plant several banana trees or mix and match with other potted tropicals.

If your interest is piqued by the thought of owning a fruit-bearing privacy screen, I suggest looking into a variety like Grand Naine. This variety grows quickly, reaching up to 8 feet total, and is self-fertile (so you only need one tree to produce fruit).

Check Prices for Grand Naine Banana Trees from Fastgrowingtrees.com

Buy Fast Growing Cheap Hedges

Perhaps you want to create a natural fence for privacy but don’t want to completely block the view outside of your yard. In that case, consider planting a hedge!

One of the best plants for hedgerows is the Thuja Green Giant arborvitae. For the tidiest hedge, plant arborvitae trees in a straight row rather than alternating. 

Thuja Green Giant spacing

Instead of letting the trees grow to their maximum height, you’ll need to regularly trim your hedge to the desired size. I recommend starting a pruning routine right away to achieve the perfect height and overall shape.

Plant Tall Grasses in Borders

Some communities place restrictions on tall privacy trees or hedgerows. These solutions can also be hard to pull off if you have a particularly small yard. It’s also possible that you just don’t like the look of the required upkeep.

Meanwhile, tall ornamental grasses offer seasonal privacy without taking up much space at all. They won’t grow taller than a few feet but are easy to maintain and reach mature height the same year they’re planted.

Another great thing about using ornamental grasses as privacy screens is that you can leave the dried seed heads intact throughout the winter. This ensures passersby are unable to see into your yard throughout most of the year.

Karl Foerster Grass

Karl Foerster Grass 

Karl Foerster grass is a beautiful ornamental variety that stays upright and tidy-looking throughout the year. It’s quite cold-hardy — in the United States, it can be planted in zones 4 through 9 — and tolerates damp soil.

Mature Karl Foerster grass usually grows between 3 and 5 feet tall. With excellent care, however, you can get this grass’ seed heads to grow even taller! This grass is very dense, so multiple clumps grown close together are nearly impossible to see through.

While many ornamental grass varieties do not flower until later in the year, Karl Foerster grass flowers in early spring. So, there will be very little time when this grass is not at its maximum size.

Pampas Grass

Pampas Grass 

If you live in a warmer climate, then pampas grass might be the best option for creating a living privacy screen. This ornamental grass can be grown in USDA zones 7 through 10.

Like Karl Foerster grass, this species has tall seed heads. It can reach an impressive height of up to 10 feet and spreads just as wide.

Pampas grass does not flower until the end of summer. Also, the shape of the inflorescences means that pampas grass is not as dense as other varieties. Keep this in mind if blocking the complete line of sight onto your property is a top priority!

Best Plants for Privacy from Neighbors

Planting trees for added privacy is a big commitment and can quickly get expensive if you need to cover a large area. Fortunately, there are many other ways to use plants to block your neighbors’ view of your property.

Another great thing about these ideas is that they can be utilized in in-ground beds or in containers. So you can take advantage of them whether you rent or own, as well as in finished areas like a deck or patio! 

Plant a Bamboo Screen

Plant a Bamboo Screen 

Bamboo is incredibly popular as a living privacy screen. It grows quickly and aggressively and looks great in a variety of landscapes.

When selecting bamboo for your property, be sure to select a clumping variety rather than a running variety. Running bamboo grows via rhizomes and can become invasive in many areas. Once planted, running bamboo is nearly impossible to eradicate!

Alternatively, you can plant your bamboo privacy screen in a set of containers rather than in the ground. This can make either type of bamboo easier to manage.

Grow Climbers Over an Arbor and Pergola

Grow Climbers Over an Arbor and Pergola 

A structure like an arbor or pergola offers a little bit of privacy all on its own. However, adding a climbing plant to that structure can boost the level of privacy significantly.

Short arbors can be covered with flowering clematis or honeysuckle. For taller structures, consider growing climbing roses or a non-invasive type of ivy.

While your climbing plants will lose their leaves come wintertime, their vines and stems will offer some lasting privacy throughout the year. If you live somewhere with mild winters, then you may be able to grow an evergreen vine on your pergola or arbor year-round!

Grow A Vertical Vegetable Garden

Grow A Vertical Vegetable Garden

Why not take your need for extra privacy and combine it with your desire for an herb and vegetable garden? There are plenty of easy-to-grow vegetables that can be trained up a trellis or similar support.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that your vegetables likely won’t grow year-round (exceptions can be made for certain warm-climate crops). It is important, therefore, to select a trellis that offers some privacy even when bare. 

If you’re worried about offending your neighbors with an obvious privacy screen, this setup can be a clever solution. And who doesn’t love fresh, home-grown produce?

Grow Giant Sunflowers

Grow Giant Sunflowers 

Giant sunflowers can exceed 10 feet in height. This makes them an excellent solution if you’re looking for an attractive yet temporary privacy screen in summer. 

As an example, why not consider planting giant sunflowers to block the neighbors’ view of a backyard pool. You could even use them to increase the amount of shade on your deck or patio during the hottest months.

Instant Privacy Screening Ideas

While I personally love the idea of using plants as living privacy screens, this solution isn’t practical for all scenarios. Not only do plants take time to grow to their full size but you also need to worry about their health and longevity.

Plus, most plants don’t offer optimal privacy year-round. This can be a problem if you want to always guarantee privacy.

Here are some affordable privacy screen ideas that you can set up instantly — no waiting required!

sun sail for privacy

Use A Large Pool Shade 

A shade sail is a great addition to any outdoor space. While the main purpose of this structure is to protect you and your loved ones from the sun’s UV rays, it also doubles as a privacy screen.

I love shade sails because they are super portable and (with the help of another person) can be taken down or set up in a matter of minutes. You don’t need to commit to always blocking the view into your property. Instead, you can pick and choose when you want a break from your neighbors’ prying eyes.

Pool shades, such as this option from Shade & Beyond, come in many sizes and colors. So you can coordinate your privacy screen to suit your backyard decor rather than the other way around! 

Lattice Trellis Screens

Lattice Trellis Screens 

A trellis can be a temporary or permanent solution for a lack of privacy in your yard. You can use a trellis alone as a fence or, plant climbing vines along the bottom for even more privacy.

If installing trellis panels in the ground isn’t an option, you can always install supports so that the trellises can be moved and rearranged as needed. Alternatively, mount trellis panels to your existing pergola or porch for a boost of privacy.

Wooden trellises are beautiful but can require a lot of upkeep over the years. For a lower-maintenance option, I recommend investing in vinyl trellis panels like these ones.

Privacy Fence Panels

Privacy Fence Panels 

Installing a privacy fence is far from the most affordable option. But you can save time and money by opting for prefabricated fence panels.

Before installing fence panels, think about where you really need them. If you don’t need your fence to keep kids or pets inside your yard, then there might not be any reason to encircle the entire property. Instead, you can pay to install fence panels only where neighbors and passersby can see into your garden.

While I love the look of a solid wood fence, installation and maintenance can be a nightmare (and the price of lumber is nothing to scoff at!). Vinyl is a great alternative that doesn’t sacrifice looks for function.

Outdoor Curtains

Outdoor Curtains

Installing a privacy fence is far from the most affordable option. But you can save time and money by opting for prefabricated fence panels.

Before installing fence panels, think about where you really need them. If you don’t need your fence to keep kids or pets inside your yard, then there might not be any reason to encircle the entire property. Instead, you can pay to install fence panels only where neighbors and passersby can see into your garden.

While I love the look of a solid wood fence, installation and maintenance can be a nightmare (and the price of lumber is nothing to scoff at!). Vinyl is a great alternative that doesn’t sacrifice looks for function.

Verdict: Cheap Ways To Block Neighbors’ View

Very, very few of us have access to an endless home design budget. Even if constructing a permanent privacy wall is in the cards, there’s a good chance you’d rather spend that money elsewhere.

Affordable privacy screens also tend to be more accessible to renters or anyone in need of a temporary solution. You might even consider using one of these privacy screen ideas while you save up for a more permanent fence or wall.