What Plants Make A Good Sound Barrier? (15 Noise Cancelling Plants)

If you have loud neighbors or live near a busy street, you might be looking for ways to block some of the noise. Using plants as a sound barrier is a good way to get some peace and quiet.

So, what plants make a good sound barrier? A good sound barrier uses evergreen trees and shrubs (such as holly and juniper) to reduce noise in all seasons. Plants with broad leaves and thick branches work best as part of a sound barrier. Ground cover (such as ivy) can also help with noise cancellation.

Don’t limit yourselves to the suggestions in this article – there are lots of plants you can use in a sound barrier to help reduce noise. According to this article on ResearchGate, each plant has its own unique noise-reducing spectrum – so a combination of multiple plants is your best bet.

Using a variety of plants in a sound barrier also makes your yard look great! Noise reduction landscaping is easy when you know where to find the right plants.

The table below shows an example of ground covers, shrubs, and trees you can use to cancel noise and build an effective sound barrier:


Mix and match the plants from the table to create an effective sound barrier that has aesthetic appeal!

(If you want, you can skip ahead to the detailed list of 15 noise-canceling plants).

In this article, we’ll look at some of the best plants to use as sound barriers. We’ll also talk about how to arrange things to get more sound protection in your yard.

Let’s get started.

(You can also check out this video on YouTube about how to reduce traffic noise!)

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What Plants Make Good Sound Barriers?

Plants act as sound barriers by absorbing and deflecting sound waves (like the ones from cars on the road or from noisy neighbors).

According to the USDA, the best location for a sound barrier is near the noise (street, neighbors, etc.) The next best thing is to put the barrier near yourself.

The goal should be to eliminate all light from getting through the sound barrier (remember: if light can get through, so can sound!)

Hedges made with evergreen shrubs and trees play a big role in sound reduction.

The best sound barrier plants have the following traits:

  • Thick, dense foliage (this means either big leaves that are packed close together, like rhododendrons, or closely spaced needles, like pines)
  • Lots of branches (ideally found both high and low on the plant)
  • Rough bark (coarse surfaces are better at absorbing sound)
  • Tall (these will block more noise as they grow)
  • Wide (so you can block more noise with fewer plants)
  • Evergreen (these will block noise in all seasons, since they don’t lose their leaves in winter)
  • Fast-growing (so that your privacy hedge will grow to full size much sooner)
  • Native (so they can easily survive in your area without you having to baby them)

It’s hard to find plants that have all of these traits, so you’ll have to decide what is most important to you.

An ideal sound barrier plant will have thick, dense, evergreen foliage to provide year-round sound reduction.

However, before you get started with choosing plants, it is important to prepare the site for your sound barrier. A good first step in your plan is to add a berm.

A berm is just a mound of soil. In this case, you would build up a berm along the length of your yard wherever the sound barrier will go.

The berm itself will block incoming noise. It is also a place where the plants in your sound barrier will live.

Since you will plant on top of the berm, you want the soil to support plant health. Don’t use “dirt” or sand from a construction site.

Use healthy soil (not sand or dirt without nutrients) for a berm to plant trees and shrubs for a sound barrier.

Instead, use healthy topsoil from a garden center or from elsewhere in your yard. If you sift the debris out of the soil, the roots of your plants can grow without running into rocks, roots, and dirt clumps.

Just be sure to consider drainage when adding a berm to your yard. If you make it too tall, water will drain out of the berm too fast, leaving your plants high and dry.

You can plant any combination of noise-cancelling plants to create your sound barrier. I would focus on these three main components:

  • Ground Cover (plants that stay short and crawl along the ground)
  • Shrubs (plants that have thick foliage and grow to a medium height)
  • Trees (the tallest plants in your sound barrier, which block sound that goes over shrubs)

Each type of plant can block noise at a different height. For extra noise protection, you can add two layers of plants (one behind the other) if you have the space for a staggered hedge.

oak tree
Trees are just one part of a good sound barrier. Shrubs and ground cover will also help to block noise.

Using a variety of plants will block out different types of noise at all heights. According to the Oregon State University Extension, using multiple plants also reduces the chance of disease spreading through your sound barrier.

Now you have an idea of the general setup for a noise cancelling hedge. We still need to figure out what specific types of plants to use for a sound barrier.

What Can I Plant To Reduce Noise? (15 Best Plants For Noise Reduction)

There are plenty of choices for plants to create your sound barrier. Depending on the look you want, you can choose a combination of trees, shrubs, and creeping plants that works best in your existing landscape.

hedge by street for noise reduction
Planting a hedge near the street reduces noise. Multiple layers of dense plants with thick leaves and branches is best.

Using multiple layers of plants (staggered one behind the other) reduces noise even more. Using different layers of vegetation (planted close the source of the noise) will make a better sound barrier.

Spacing depends on the width of the plants at maturity. For example, if a shrub is 3 feet wide at maturity, you should space those shrubs at 3 feet (put them closer together to get a denser sound barrier that will fill in faster).

Let’s start off with the ground cover plants.

Ground Cover (Low Height) Plants For A Sound Barrier

These plants won’t grow very tall. Instead, they grow along the ground, creeping and crawling to cover a large area.

stone wall
Ivy will climb – but let it creep along at soil level to add ground cover to a sound barrier.

That’s exactly what you want, since this low, crawling growth helps to block noise that would otherwise travel under the branches of shrubs or trees.

Here are some good ground cover plants to help with noise reduction:

  • Creeping Fig – also called fig ivy or climbing fig, Ficus pumila has flowers and is a member of the mulberry family. You can allow it to climb up trees and walls, or just restrict it to crawling along the ground. As an added benefit, you can keep a creeping fig as a houseplant if you like.
  • Creeping Juniper – this cone-bearing plant is native to North America, and it grows only 4 to 12 inches tall. However, it can spread out to 15 feet wide or more! That means you don’t need too many to provide good ground cover for noise cancellation.
  • Hosta – also called plantain lilies, these plants will tolerate shade. This makes them ideal companions to shrubs or trees in your sound barrier that may block their sunlight. They are easy to propagate (multiply) by splitting and replanting, so you can have the ground covered with hostas in no time.
  • Ivy – Hedera is the scientific name for this well-known vining plant. They are evergreen, and only grow 2 to 8 inches tall.  However, ivy can climb up walls, fences, or trees to reach incredible heights. Their flowers will attract bees, which can help your vegetable garden or fruit trees if you have them. Ivy can help to quickly build ground cover for your sound barrier. Just be sure to keep the ivy trimmed, or it will grow out of control.
  • Siberian Cypress – this cone-bearing plant only grows 8 to 20 inches tall, but can spread up to 16 feet wide! It tolerates both drought and cold, making it ideal ground cover in colder northern regions.

You can use two different types of ground cover if you like: one for the front (street-facing side) of the sound barrier, and one for the back (house-facing side). That way, you can present one look to the street, and get a different view for yourself.

creeping fig
You can let creeping fig crawl along the ground, or encourage it to climb a fence to create a living wall for a sound barrier.

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Shrubs (Medium Height, Less than 20 Feet) For A Sound Barrier

These plants grow a bit taller than ground cover. However, they won’t spread out over the ground as much as creeping plants do.

Holly is a shrub you can use in a sound barrier.

Shrubs block some of the sound at a medium height. You can match shrubs with ground cover and trees to get a landscape that provides both noise reduction and aesthetic appeal.

Here are some good shrubs to help with noise reduction:

  • Camellia – this flowering shrub is native to Asia, with hundreds of species and thousands of hybrids. The plant can grow quickly, gaining 1 foot of height per year. Its flowers can be white, pink, or red. It does best in acid soil, and it needs lots of water.
  • Holly – this slow-growing, flowering plant is best known for its red berries, which bring to mind Christmas decorations. Holly can be evergreen or deciduous (loses leaves) depending on the variety. Evergreen is always the best choice for a sound barrier so that you can get noise cancellation year-round.
  • Laurel – English laurel or cherry laurel is an evergreen species of cherry which can grow quite tall over time. The dark green leaves have a shiny appearance and a leathery texture. They can survive dry or shady conditions, and can be pruned to whatever shape you like. This makes them an ideal addition to a sound barrier.
  • Photinia – this plant is in the rose family and is related to apples. Most species are evergreen with shiny leaves.  They produce fruit which may attract birds.
  • Viburnum – this plant produces flowers and fruit. There are deciduous species that do better in cold climates and evergreen species that do better in warm climates.
Viburnum is a shrub that has some evergreen species to provide for year-round noise protection.

Remember: buying established shrubs is more expensive than buying young ones. The tradeoff: mature shrubs are taller and will help to build your sound barrier much sooner.

Trees (Tall Height, Over 20 Feet) For A Sound Barrier

These plants will be the tallest ones in your sound barrier. Their trunks help shrubs to block noise at a medium height (since wood is an effective noise buffer).

Bamboo is one option for a tall plant for your sound barrier that will help to reduce noise.

More importantly, the branches and foliage of trees block noise at taller heights. However, they are hard to move once they get going, so you have to plant them in the right spot!

Here are some good trees to help with noise reduction:

  • Arborvitae – also called Thuja, this is technically a type of cedar. These coniferous trees are evergreen, making them a good choice for a year-round sound barrier. The leaves are thin and flat, almost like needles (but not as thin as pine needles). These are very common in landscaping for their use as privacy hedges, but they can also provide noise reduction. You can choose from various types of Arborvitae, including the classic Emerald Green Arborvitae.
  • Bamboo – this plant is native to Asia, and is technically a member of the grass family. The stems are hollow, and the plant grows fast. In fact, bamboo can gain 3 feet of height in 24 hours, making them one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. Just be careful about planting them where you might not want them. Clumping bamboo is fine, but running bamboo is considered invasive.
  • Fir – a type of evergreen coniferous tree, which is related to cedar. (Note that Douglas firs are not true firs). Firs can grow to heights of over 250 feet, and the trunks can be 1 to 13 feet wide. White firs and other first may have problems with caterpillars, which feed on the foliage.
  • Pine – these trees are conifers whose leaves are thin, green needles. The wood of this tree is often used as lumber, but it can also serve a role in your sound barrier. Like firs, pine trees can grow to 250 feet tall, and they can live for many years.
  • Spruce – another evergreen coniferous tree with needles, found in temperate and taiga regions. They can grow up to 200 feet tall at maturity.
pine trees in winter
Pine trees have dense, thin clusters of needles, which provide sound protection year-round.

What Else To Consider For Sound Barrier Plants

When choosing which plants to use for a sound barrier, you will also need to consider the following:

  • Zone Hardiness – Can the plant survive and thrive in your climate? More specifically, can the plant survive in your yard? Native plants will always be best, so see if you can find some of each type (ground cover, shrubs, and trees) for your area. You can find native plants for your area here.
  • Location – Think about soil type, drainage, and sunlight. Some plants do better in sandy soil, while others prefer clay. Some can tolerate drought, while others need constant moisture. Some tolerate shade, and some need full sunlight. This resource from the state of Maine has some information on different types of plants and where they grow best.
  • Cost – How much is the cost per plant? Can you get a discount if you buy in bulk?
  • Effort – How much work will it take to build the sound barrier? Remember that if you hire help, it will cost more, but save you time.
  • Time – How long will it take to build the sound barrier? Once it’s built, how long will it take to grow to full height and width?
rocky soil
Think about how much cost, effort, and time it will take before embarking on a project to build a sound barrier.

Just remember that installing a sound barrier today might not mean complete peace and quiet tomorrow. According to the Oregon State University Extension:

“With proper planning and care, it takes approximately 4 to 8 years to establish an effective hedge.”


However, as the old saying goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the 2nd best time is today.”

If you want more peace and quiet in your yard, don’t wait to put in a sound barrier! It will give you comfort and improve your life – even if the payoff is a few years away.

The addition of a sound barrier also adds to the beauty of your yard, as long as you maintain it. A sound barrier can add value to your property, since it makes the outdoor space more enjoyable. This might offset some or all of the cost to install the barrier.

hedges Marblehead Massachusetts
A sound barrier can improve property value, due to the decreased noise and increased aesthetic appeal.

Other Ways To Reduce Or Block Noise

I understand that you might not want to wait around for years to get some relief from the noise around you. In that case, you can try some of these methods to get peace a little sooner.

Living Wall On A Fence

Plant some ivy, creeping fig, or other crawling vines along a fence. Then, let them grow all the way up the fence and down the other side.

The result is a “living wall” that serves as a temporary sound barrier. Your living wall will reduce noise for a few years until your shrubs and trees gain some height.

chain link fence
A chain link fence gives crawling vines (like ivy) a place to climb, and creates a living wall to block noise.

If you don’t have a fence, you can put a long trellis against a stone wall or solid wooden fence to encourage the vines to climb.

Just be sure to check local bylaws before you start. Find out the maximum height for a fence before you build one. If you cannot find the information online, call up City Hall and ask.

Water Features

Water features may not block noise, but they can make it more bearable. Some examples of water features are fountains or ponds with running water.

water fountain
Water fountains block out noise and make your yard look nice.

The sound of running water is relaxing and takes the edge off at the end of a long day. Combined with a living wall or sound barrier, it just might make you forget that you live in a noisy area close to a street.

Check out my article for more information on ways to reduce traffic noise in your garden.


A brick wall is another effective way to block noise from a nearby street. In addition to noise cancellation, a brick wall also offers aesthetic appeal.

You can incorporate the brick wall into your garden. For example, you could lean a trellis against a brick wall for extra support and let vining plants climb the trellis.

brick raised garden bed flowers
A brick wall is another way to add extra noise protection to your yard.


Now you have some ideas about what types of plants and combinations you can use to create a sound barrier. You also know how to find plants that will survive and thrive with the conditions in your yard.

You can find out more about aspects of biophilic design here.

I hope you found this article helpful. If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

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Jon M

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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