Landscaping helps fences look purposeful rather than out of place.

How to Landscape Near a Wood Privacy Fence

by Rob Harris

Wooden privacy fences might keep prying eyes out of your yard and help define your property, but they don't always do much to dress up the space. Adding eye-catching landscaping uses your fence as a backdrop, making it an important element in your design rather than an eyesore. Layering heights, textures and colors helps you make the most of the fence line while drawing your eye from the stark, straight fence down to grass level naturally.

Design the shape of your flowerbed in front of your fence. Use a garden hose to mark a curvy line several feet away from the fence. Avoid straight lines, which tend to enhance the fence line; curvy lines add visual interest and soften the fence line.

Create your landscaping plan so that you have several heights of plants to work with. Layering the look with the tallest plants in the back and the shortest in the front helps your eye transition from the fence to the ground.

Plant tall plants near the fence line. Climbing vines such as clematis (Clematis spp.) add color and life from the fence base to the top and are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 11, depending on the variety. Dwarf trees or tall-growing shrubs such as boxwood (Buxus spp.), which grows in USDA zones 6 through 8, help disguise the fence while adding your first layer of landscaping.

Add medium-sized plants in front of the tall ones. Plant more than one row if space allows, or vary the location to follow the curve of the flowerbed, leaving at least 2 feet between the plants and the bed edge. Experiment with plants that provide color other than dark green so they contrast with the vines, trees or shrubs in the background, such as Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra "Aureola"), hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9, or purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum "Purpureum"), which is perennial in USDA zones 9 and 10. Purple fountain grass can be used as an annual in other zones. Be aware that fountain grass can be an aggressive grower and is considered an invasive in some areas.

Plant colorful blooming annuals along the front of the flowerbed to add color as suited to the weather and the season. Pansies (Viola wittrockiana) come in a variety of colors, allowing you to mix and match throughout your flowerbed. Other ideas include African daisies (Arctotis hybrida) and begonias (Begonia spp.).

Add mulch to the flowerbed to help define it and reduce weeds that try to gain a foothold among your plants.

Items you will need

  • Garden hose
  • Plants
  • Shovel or trowel
  • Mulch


  • If you need an outdoor sitting area, place benches or chairs on pea gravel in front of the tallest layer of landscaping, skipping the middle and short layers where you put the chairs.
  • For a dramatic look, place solar uplights along the base of or behind your tallest layer, lighting the area from the ground.
  • For small spaces, place containers of varying heights along the fence line and fill the containers with colorful annual flowers or small shrubs.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images