Property Line Bushes: How Close To The Line Can They Be?


Your property, your rules. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to be. As a homeowner, you are entitled to independent decisions over your yard décor and landscaping. But are there limits?

Bush placements should range from 3 to 8 feet from property lines. For bushes with large foliage spread at full growth, the extent of its reach should be the length from the property line that it is placed. With house foundations or fences near, the extent of the root system should also be a guide.

Our focus today is on shrubs and where best to plant them. We will then take a look at the shrubs that are suitable for planting near your house. Finally, we discuss some basic property line rules before looking at what you can plant on this boundary.

How Far From Houses And Property Lines Should Shrubs Be?

There’s little like a healthy set of shrubs to accentuate your yard. Some people, in a bid to add some color or structure to their yard, even plant shrubs right next to the house foundation. Some place them along the edges of their yard to delineate and accentuate. How far away from them should these plants be placed?

Hedges should be from 3 to 8 feet away from property lines and house foundations. The distance depends on the root system of the plant at full growth and the extent of the foliage reach at its maximum potential. Root systems can ruin fences and foundations, foliage can ruin neighbor relations.

Though there are similarities for issues pertaining to shrubs near houses and property lines, the main focus for each is different. Let’s look at the placement of each to see what the important points might be.

How Far From A Property Line Should Should Shrubs Be?

If you are creating a hedge as a privacy fence, as colorful decoration, or to add structure to your yard, you will need to pay attention to laws and be considerate to your neighbors. How far is a good distance away from a property line to place shrubs?

Shrubs on a property line need to be far enough away that foliage doesn’t intrude on a neighbors use of their property. Roots are important near foundations and fence lines whereas above ground growth is a consideration on property lines and power lines.

Damage to fences and powerlines that commonly run along property lines can be a major concern. Many of the problems can be avoided simply by placing shrubs and trees in a way that will not endanger structures and lines.

If the proper distance is not maintained with placement, sometimes costly maintenance or relocation may be necessary in the future. This is over and above repairs to damage that may occur.

How Far From A House Foundation Should Shrubs Be?

While the reasoning behind such a move is sound, it is not a good idea to plant shrubs right next to your house…for several reasons.

As a general rule, the bigger the shrub, the further it should be from your home. Bigger shrubs have larger root networks, which means a greater risk of structural and foundational damage. Large shrubs also retain much more moisture than smaller ones and, therefore, the associated risks are greater.

Structural Issues Determine Shrub Distances From Houses

The first reason is to avoid structural damage to the foundation and sides of the house. As the plants grow, their root networks also grow and spread out. Some of these roots can eventually reach and apply pressure to the foundation. Depending on the size of the plant and its roots, this pressure may be enough to form cracks in the foundation.

Moisture Is A Major Concern With Shrub Placement

The second reason to avoid planting shrubs next to your home is concerned with the moisture content they retain. Moisture content in the plants can lead to the damage of external wall cladding. This leaves the wall vulnerable to mold.

Moisture doesn’t just pose a direct threat to your house; it has indirect problems too. One of these is termites, which is the last word any homeowner ever wants to hear.

Many people have the misconception that termites only attack dead and rotten wood, but that is not the case. Termites also eat live trees and (you guessed it) shrubs for moisture. Planting shrubs next to your house is essentially a “come hither” to termites that will soon turn their attention to your walls and beyond.

As you can see, shrubs should be as far away from your house as possible. 

Shrub Size Can Determine The Distance From A House Foundation

Also, please note that “large” and “small”, in this context, refer to the full potential sizes of each plant, not their current size. 

That said, here’s a general guideline:

  • Large shrubs (such as North Privet, Beautybush, Viburnum, and American Hazelnut, etc.) should be planted at least 8 feet from the house. These plants have tough roots and they grow at rates of 24 inches per year…at least!
  • Middle-sized shrubs (Rhododendrons, Hydrangeas, Azaleas, etc.) should be at least 5 feet from the walls.
  • Small shrubs can be kept at least 12 inches from the foundation, but always feel free to plant further whenever possible.

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What Are Good Property Line Plants?

Property lines are often a tricky area where landscaping is concerned. Everyone knows (or is) a neighbor who is extremely touchy with these boundaries. But what are your options?

Well, you can plant anything you want on the property line, as long as it won’t encroach on your neighbor’s property. Surveyors can help you pinpoint the exact property border if no other demarcation exists.

Before planting anything on a property line, you should find out if there is an easement on the property. An easement is a property right assigned to a person or entity who doesn’t own the property in question. This easement holder can use a section or the entirety of the land for a designated purpose.

Negative easements, in particular, prevent you, the landowner from making certain changes to your property. Boundary landscaping may count as such a change, especially if the plants are obstructive or if they block a view.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about what you can plant on the property line.

Trees are a popular choice, as they can serve multiple purposes. They are decorative, a source of shade, windbreakers, and some even provide fruit from time to time. Trees also spice up biodiversity and support other forms of life. 

However, you may want to avoid planting trees on or near the property line if your neighbor already has an existing fence there. The trees, or their roots, can cause serious damage to fences…and neighborly relations.

Trees can also obstruct traffic if planted near an intersection. Your local city council may even have an easement on the corners of properties next to intersections.

Shrubs and hedges are other popular choices. Your range of choice is as wide as that of trees. Medium to tall shrubs, whether deciduous or evergreen, are the best way to go. Feel free to add smaller bushes for extra style.

However, hedges in particular require a considerable amount of effort to maintain. Also, beware of encroaching and existing fences.

You also have plants that can complement existing fences. Vines and ornamental grasses, when incorporated properly, can add an extra layer of elegance to your property boundaries.

What Shrubs Are Best Near Houses On A Property Line?

As you’ve seen, it’s better to grow small shrubs near your house due to root systems. It is also important for above ground foliage reach to select the right plant for property lines. Let’s look at some of the best plants for that extra bit of luster.

You won’t go wrong with Magic Carpet Spirea, a beautiful golden plant that dazzles with a pinkish-red bloom in the summertime. The leaves also gracefully shade into scarlet in the late autumn. The best part? This gem only grows to a maximum height of 24 inches. We recommend you plant at least two feet from the foundation.

If evergreen shrubs are more your style, go for Franklin’s Gem Boxwood. Little maintenance, hardened against most diseases, and not on any deer’s menu. This short beauty peaks at 24-inches. Like the Spirea, Franklin’s Gem Boxwoods should be planted at least 2 feet from the house.

The French Hydrangea is another excellent shrub for the sides of your house. They rarely grow past 18-inches. The rosy pink foliage is warm and adds a soothing feel to your landscape. We recommend 1-2 feet.

Lastly, I also recommend the Dwarf Norway Spruce, another awesome evergreen choice. This mid-sized shrub can grow up to a little over 4 feet, so it is best planted 5-6 feet from your foundation.

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References

https://homeguides.sfgate.com/plants-used-property-boundaries-25709.html

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/easement

Mathew Booe

Mathew has worked in landscaping professionally for over 10 years. He is a grandpa and frequently interviews other experienced landscapers and lawn care experts who are also grandpas for these articles.

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