The 6 best privacy trees for small gardens - block out your neighbours without overpowering your space

No space? No problem!

Bistro table in a concrete patio
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Many people add trees to their gardens for aesthetics and environmental benefits, but the best privacy trees for small gardens are also compact enough to make your outside space completely your own. 

Yes, while you might be proud of your small garden ideas, there’s a high chance that you don’t want your neighbours’ beady eyes looking down at you while you enjoy your outside space. And when you only have a small amount of space to work with, you can feel even more exposed. But if privacy screens aren’t quite your thing, you’ll be happy to know that trees can offer a great alternative. 

Of course, there are many fast-growing privacy trees out there, but when you have a small garden you should focus more on trees that offer great coverage without encroaching on your space. And if you’re unsure where to start, we’ve got you covered. 

The best privacy trees for small gardens 

Unfortunately, most of us live in close proximity to our neighbours - and this is especially true when you have a small garden. But if you don’t want to feel as though you're being watched every time you whip out your BBQ or tend to your herb garden, the best privacy trees for small gardens can help you out. 

1. Japanese privet trees

Japanese privet tree close up

(Image credit: Alamy)

Japanese privet trees are becoming more and more popular, and they’ve recently gone viral on TikTok for being the prettiest way to add privacy to a garden. 

Steve Chilton, garden expert at LeisureBench, explains, ‘These can be kept small, which makes them perfect for creating privacy without taking up too much space in the garden.’

Yes, while these trees can grow up to six metres in height, the shape of privet trees will work in your favour if you have a small garden. That’s because they have long, thin trunks and rounded growth on top. 

The thin trunks won’t take up the all-important space in your garden, but the rounded growth on top will keep your neighbours’ prying eyes at bay - especially when they’re fully grown. 

But even while you’re waiting for them to grow, you can still shape them in a way that works with your small garden rather than against it. 

Where to buy online:

  • Crocus: Pick up a 7-litre potted tree with a 25-30cm head
Headshot of gardening expert Steve Chilton
Steve Chilton

Steve is a passionate and knowledgeable garden expert with several years of experience within the field and has developed strong expertise for all things nature and plants. Steve is a keen educator and loves to share this knowledge with others. He strives to simplify complex garden practices and encourage eco-friendly gardening.

2. Tree fern

Bistro table in a concrete patio

(Image credit: Future PLC / Alasdair Mcintosh)

The name of the tree fern is somewhat misleading. Technically, it’s not actually a tree - but it’s still worth having on your radar if you have a small patio that often feels overlooked. 

That’s because tree ferns offer thick trunks and wide fronds that can block out your neighbours while also adding a tropical touch to your outside space. They’re also tall enough to tower over your floor space and allow you the room that you may desperately need for your garden furniture and accessories. 

Fully grown, a tree fern can reach up to 4 meters tall, but you don’t have to keep it that size if you’re worried it’ll overpower your small garden. Plus, you only need to buy one for it to work its privacy magic. 

And as tree ferns typically like to be in a sheltered area, they’re perfect for placing in the corner (and out of the way) of your small garden. However, it’s important to note that tree ferns struggle during the colder months, so it’s best to wrap the fronds with one of the best plant covers to keep the plant alive. 

Where to buy online: 

  • B&Q: Buy a 0.5ft tall tree fern ready for planting

3. Holly tree

Holly tree with berries

(Image credit: Getty Images)

You might associate holly trees with Christmas, but they’re ideal for those who want small but efficient privacy trees. Steve says, ‘Both compact and evergreen, holly trees provide thick foliage for privacy and are easy to maintain.’

What’s more, you can choose how you grow it. You can either choose to grow it as a bush, as smaller trees in containers, or even planted in-ground. Ultimately, you should choose what works best for your garden - but we particularly love growing holly trees as ornamentals in pots. 

This way, you can move them around your garden and keep them relatively small while still adding a sense of privacy. Plus, you can take advantage of their seasonal changes. 

During the winter months, the holly tree’s tell-tale red berries are visible. But during the spring and summer months, this tree should boast delicate white blooms. 

Where to buy online:

  • B&Q: Buy an 80cm holly tree in a pot for under £30

4. Leyland cypress

courtyard garden with laundry press and conifer trees

(Image credit: Future Plc)

If you’re looking to create a privacy hedge in your small garden, you could use a selection of Leyland cypress trees. These fast-growing conifers are perfect if you want to hide an ugly fence, and the dense foliage will block out your neighbours in no time. 

In fact, Steve is particularly fond of using conifers in small gardens. He says, ‘These come in many variations, with the main type of conifer being evergreen, which makes them ideal for creating privacy within your garden. Many will only grow to a certain height (around 5m), too, which makes them ideal for small spaces.’

However, it’s important to keep up with pruning if you want to incorporate a Leyland cypress into your small garden. 

It can quickly grow out of control and block out natural light, but if you prune two or three times a year, you can keep it below 2m tall and maintain a perfectly formed hedge that won’t overpower your outside space. 

The Leyland cypress can also grow extremely well in partial shade, which is good news if you have a north-facing garden.

Where to buy online:

  • B&Q: Buy five plants for just £16.99

5. Field Maple

Acer Campestre

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The field maple is the only maple tree native to the UK, and it’s one of the best privacy trees for small gardens. Offering 5-lobed leaves that change colour throughout the year, it’s not only beautiful to look at, but it’s also very easy to maintain size-wise. 

Although it’s incredibly fast-growing (which means you can block out your neighbours quicker), it thrives best when kept at a height between 1-5 metres. Just be warned that field maples don’t enjoy being in the shade and prefer partial sunlight. 

Tommy Wylde, owner of, is particularly fond of this tree. He says, ‘Field Maple is a native British tree that's very well-suited to small gardens (like most of us have!) Its dense foliage offers privacy, while its flowers provide nectar for pollinators, and its seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals.’

So, it’s perfect for those looking to encourage wildlife into their small garden.

Where to buy online: 

6. Photinia

Photinia red robin hedge in garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Often called ‘Red Robin,’ Photinia is an evergreen tree that offers beautiful red leaves that’ll make a real statement in your small garden. In the summer, you should also be able to spot stunning white flowers. But what we love most about Photinia is its flexibility. 

You either have the option to grow Photinia as a large shrub, or you can choose to buy Photinia as a lollipop or as a pleached tree on a supportive frame. The latter will be the best option for a smaller garden, as you can keep these trees flush to the fence without it encroaching on your garden space. 

But if you prefer the look of a shrub bush, Steve suggests pruning Photinia regularly to keep it in check. He says, ‘These are evergreen trees with bright red growth which can be pruned to form a dense and colourful privacy screen.’

Where to buy online:

  • Crocus: Choose from three different pot sizes


What is the fastest growing tree for privacy?

Many fast-growing trees can offer privacy, with many offering the same level of growth a year (this is normally between 30cm and 1 metre). The following privacy trees will grow incredibly quickly:

  • Silver birch
  • Bamboo
  • Photinia
  • Scots pine
  • Privet trees
  • Italian cypress

All of these trees have their own advantages and disadvantages, though, so it’s best to do your research to ensure that you’re choosing the right fast-growing privacy tree for your specific space. 

What is the best tree for blocking view?

If you’re looking to block out your neighbours, you should aim to buy taller, narrower trees rather than shorter shrubs. Ideally, you should also opt for evergreen trees so that you have constant coverage throughout the year. 

Fast-growing trees can also work in your favour if you want a quick fix, but it’s important to remember that privacy trees do require maintenance and pruning to ensure they don’t overtake your garden. 

You see, you don’t have to sacrifice your privacy just because you have a small garden.

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.