In the back of my lot I have about 20 feet thick of woods/brush. This provides some very nice privacy from the house that is on the other side of that brush. However, I have had problems with poison ivy and in general just have had a hard time preventing the woods from creeping into my back yard.

I am considering clearing out the woods, leaving the big trees, and trying to replace it with something that can be maintained a little easier. So, that leads me to my question, what type of plant(s) can provide the type of privacy that you get from the woods without the painful (literally painful with poison ivy) upkeep of brush.

Some details: My lot dips down into a drainage ditch. These woods/brush is currently located on the slope. It is probably about a 10 foot drop over 20 feet. The house on the other side is about the same elevation as me, so the privacy would need to come up about 20 feet (10 for the slope, 10 from my ground level). I am in zone 6B.

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  • I'm confused by the question. Brush is a generic term for shrubs. Poison Ivy is a specific plant. As for what to plant that would would be low(ish) upkeep, you could consider a variety of evergreen shrubs.
    – DA.
    Commented Jun 2, 2012 at 17:41
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    @DA. By Brush I mean a mixture of plants that have naturally grown up, like a small forest area. Poison Ivy being one of the many items in this small forest like area. Brush is the term commonly used around here, maybe "woods" is a better term. I have attached pictures that will hopefully explain better.
    – Kellenjb
    Commented Jun 2, 2012 at 18:05
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    The pictures help! Not much will beat thick undergrowth for privacy, though. Perhaps clearing out the undergrowth will leave room in between the existing trees for some evergreens. That could be one option.
    – DA.
    Commented Jun 2, 2012 at 19:03

3 Answers 3


As @DA mentioned in a comment, many kinds of evergreen trees will provide good privacy. In particular, white pine grows fast and can be spaced fairly close together to provide privacy.

As another option, I'm working on using beech trees as a sort of privacy hedge based on some articles I had seen about their willingness to be pruned into a hedge shape. The nice thing about beech is that even though they're deciduous, they retain their leaves through the winter.


I'd leave some of that undergrowth and poison ivy. Great protection from humans...find an area with a level surface or make one, remove the ivy (you'll never get rid of it all anyway) in the area you want to use. Make a great comfy bench, lay down landscape fabric and cover with 4" crushed gravel. Understory plants to frame the area would be Taxus baccata reptans, Spreading Yew...a conifer that does well in shade. If there is partial shade, some sun, use Salix purpurea 'nana', Blue Arctic Willow...a beautiful shrub that looks best with 2X/year shearing into an umbrella shape. The yew needs no pruning.

Try to carve a 'secret space' out of those woods instead of trying to change what nature has taken decades or longer to do. Keep the privacy, protection, no maintenance in exchange for a small area you will use and be surrounded by a functioning ecosystem. This is great stuff...learn to see...watch the changes...insects...tracks of animals...poison ivy will keep other humans out. Why would you accept all the work of maintenance, replanting when you can't possibly make much use out of a steep slope?

Oh, also Amelanchier alnifolia, Serviceberry. Gorgeous understory tree...plant at least 3 of them...sort of a natural gazebo especially if you get multi-stemmed trees. The gravel will preserve a floor space for you, the trees a roof, yews and willow the walls. You could even drag a big concrete pot, potting soil down to set beside the bench (hammock) filled with shade-loving flowers...fuschias, impatiens, ligularia, a bird feeder, bird bath...cleaning out the 'green belt' means you are forever in-charge. This way you can visit and enjoy.



Privet hedge row

It is a perfect hedge row plant that is very hard for medium to large animals to pass through (yes, even humans)

...OR Thuja.

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Both provide excellent screening and can be maintained, or not, depending on your desired hedge row appearance.

Remove the PI regardless... and remember it's the OIL not the plant... so wash the oil off of everything. A shovel with the oil residue on it can give you Poison Ivy years later. If the urushiol oil isn't removed it is still an active "toxin". AND NEVER BURN POISON IVY.. you can inhale the urushiol vapors and get a serious poison ivy infection in your lungs.

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