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 keep things a little more 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.
Of course, there are lots of other 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 for a sound barrier has the added benefit of making your yard look great! Noise reduction landscaping isn’t too difficult when you know where to start when looking for the right 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 if you like!)
What Plants Make Good Sound Barriers?
Plants act as sound barriers by absorbing and deflecting sound waves coming from cars on the road or from noisy neighbors.
Plants that have the following traits will make the best sound barriers:
- Thick, dense foliage (this means either big leaves that are packed close together or closely spaced needles)
- 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)
It’s hard to find plants that have all of these traits, so you’ll have to decide what is most important to you.
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.
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.
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, the water might 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 level. For added noise protection, you can add two layers of plants (one behind the other) if you have the space.
Using a variety of plants will block out different types of noise at various heights. According to the Oregon State University Extension, using multiple plants reduces the chance of disease spreading through your sound barrier.
Now we have an idea of the general setup – but what specific types of plants should you use to build a sound barrier?
What Can I Plant To Reduce Noise? (15 Best Plants For Noise Reduction)
There are lots of options for plants to create your sound barrier. Depending on the look you are going for in your yard, you can choose a combination of trees, shrubs, and creeping plants that works best with your existing landscaping.
Using multiple layers of plants (one behind the other) will also help to reduce noise further. According to the Cooperative Extension, using different layers of vegetation (planted close the source of the noise) will make a better sound barrier.
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. However, they will grow along the ground, creeping and crawling along to cover a large area.
That’s exactly what you want, since this will help 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).
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 quite as far as creeping plants.
Their taller height means they will 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.
Remember that buying established shrubs will be more expensive than buying young ones. However, mature shrubs are taller and will help to build your sound barrier much faster.
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.
More importantly, the branches and foliage of trees block noise at taller heights. However, they are hard to move once they get going, so make sure to plant them in the right place!
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.
- 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.
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?
- 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 a lot more.
- 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?
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.”https://extension.oregonstate.edu/ask-expert/featured/whats-fast-growing-tree-privacy-screen
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 can also add to the beauty of your yard, as long as you maintain it well. In fact, a sound barrier may even add value to your property, which offsets some of the cost to install it.
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 the following methods to provide 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 can serve as a temporary sound barrier. Your living wall can reduce noise for a few years until your shrubs and trees gain some height.
If you don’t have a fence, you can also 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 to find out the maximum height for a fence before you build one. If you cannot find the information online, call the Town Hall and ask.
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.
The sound of running water is relaxing and can take the edge off at the end of a long day. Combined with a living wall or sound barrier, it can make you forget that you live in a noisy area close to a street.
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 in the climate in your yard.
I hope you found this article helpful. If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.