Top 9 plants for screening
BLACK BAMBOO. New culms (stems) are green, turning black in the second year. Leaves are greenish yellow. To restrain its spread (black bamboo produces underground runners), sink an 18- to 24-inch-wide aluminum barrier around the planting area and limit water after the first year. Thin culms when they get crowded. Black bamboo can also grow in pots but needs regular watering. 10-15 feet tall. Full sun to part shade. Water during growth periods. Sunset climate zones 4-9, 14-24.
BRUSH CHERRY (Syzygium paniculatum). Young foliage is reddish bronze; mature leaves are 1 1/2 to 3 inches long and glossy green. 30 feet or taller but can easily be trimmed to stay at 10 feet. Full sun to light shade. Water regularly. Zones 16-17, 19-24 (foliage or stems may freeze at 25° but usually resprout).
FLOWERING MAPLE (Abutilon hybridum). Flowering maple isn't a dense shrub and is even rangy if not pruned. Pinch back new growth to encourage branching and fullness. When the plant is full grown (about 10 feet tall), cut back by at least 3 feet every winter to keep lower foliage full. The pink-, red-, white-, and yellow-flowered varieties grow tallest (others may not screen). Full sun on the coast, partial shade inland. Water regularly. Zones 8-9, 12-24.
LUMA APICULATA. Reminiscent of brush cherry, it has dense, dark green leaves 1/2 to 1 inch long and cinnamon-colored bark. 8-20 feet tall. Full sun. Little to regular watering. Zones 14-24.
PHOTINIA FRASERI. In the ground it's a tall, wide shrub, but in pots it stays more compact. New leaves are bronzy red, turning glossy green as they age. About 8 feet tall in pots, 10 to 15 feet tall in the ground. Plant standards to save space and to allow room for underplanting with flowers. Full sun. Water regularly. Zones 4-24.
RHAPHIOLEPIS 'MAJESTIC BEAUTY'. Glossy, leathery leaves to 4 inches long. Pink flowers in spring. Slow-growing to 15 feet tall. Plant standards for screening. Stake at planting time. Full sun or light shade. Little to regular watering. Zones 8-10, 12-24 (often survives in 4-7).
STRAWBERRY TREE (Arbutus unedo). Oblong, dark green leaves are 2 to 3 inches long with red stems. Clusters of urn-shaped white flowers and yellow-and-red strawberry-like fruits appear at the same time in fall and winter. 8-35 feet tall. Plant standards to save space. Full sun to light shade. Little to regular watering. Zones 4-24.
SWEET OLIVE (Osmanthus fragrans). Dense, compact plant 10 feet or taller with glossy green, oval leaves. Inconspicuous flowers that appear in spring and summer are very fragrant. Full sun to part shade. Little water once established (more in hot areas). Zones 8-9, 12-24.
TRISTANIA LAURINA 'ELEGANT'. Narrow, 4-inch-long, glossy leaves open red and turn green with age. Bark is mahogany-colored. Yellow flowers appear in late spring or early summer. 10 feet or taller. Plant standards. Full sun. Little watering. Zones 15-17, 19-24.