Your home is your sanctuary. It’s where you relax, unwind, entertain, and enjoy time with your family. A home should also offer security, and while there are endless options for electronic home security both inside your house and on your property, there is a natural option that can work as a first line of defense in protecting your home--shrubbery. In fact, shrubs and bushes have been used as a security feature to keep invaders out for thousands of years. Here are a few things to keep in mind when making changes to your landscaping in the name of security.

Location, Location, Location

Chainsaw cutting through a roof height tree branch

Look around your property and think like a criminal for a moment. Where are the vulnerable spots? Are there easy access points? Identify those locations. Formulate a plan to place sharp, spiky, and unwise nasty-to-touch plants beneath windows. Also block access to the upper level of your home if you have one. For example, you could plant climbing vines up your pergola, drainpipe, or even the side of the house. By blocking access to windows, doors, and hiding spots, you help protect your home, but be sure that you’re not inadvertently allowing access in other ways. For example, make sure that you don’t have any large tree branches near the upper level of the home. Not only does this leave the potential for home damage when the branch scrapes the paint or breaks off during a storm, but an agile villain can also use a sturdy branch as an access point to an open window upstairs.

Type of Plants

When evaluating what types of plants to use as protection around your home, first consider what type of plants grow well in your area. Plants that are native to your area will perform better, grow faster, remain stronger, and endure the elements better than plants that are not recommended for your planting zone. If you’re unsure, you can use the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to identify the zone for your growing region.

In addition to considering what plants will grow well, think about what purpose it will serve. Most choices offer protection because they have thorns, spiky leaves, or rough texture. Imagine walking through blackberry vines to get to the house on the other side and you’ll see how the right foliage can be a deterrent to criminals. Also think about what you don’t want, such as any plant that could work as a stepstool to crawl into a window or get to a second level.

Common options to consider include anything in the rose family that will grow in your zone. The thorny branches of rose bushes grab at clothing and cut through the skin. Be aware that some varietals are more thorny than others. Roses have the added bonus of beautiful flowers for much of the spring and into summer. Deciduous trees and shrubs are another good option. These include plants from the berberis genus, juniper, and similar options.

Size matters

Trimming Hedge Top

Once you’ve identified a variety of plant options for your planting region, investigate the size of the plant. Although it may start small, you don’t want something that will require you to constantly be cutting it back. Do not plant large bushes, hedges, or trees near the front or back door. This can create cover for an intruder to hide and also shields the view of anyone who might be able to see your distress and offer help. On the other hand, a bathroom window might be a great place to have a larger bush so that it can offer privacy.

Protect the Property

Honey Locust Thorns

In addition to adding security for the house itself, consider planting an uninviting border along fence and property lines. For example, a row of English rambling rose climbing the fence is sure to deter most criminals from leaping over. For larger pieces of land, you could allow blackberry to grow wild around the outskirts.

Other Suggestions

Spiky Cactus

There are many plants that present more than a pretty flower, which is a nice dual purpoe. Under windows and anywhere else you’d like to deter traffic, plant some barberry, yucca, cacti, Bougainvillea, honey locust, oregon grape, rhubarb, firethorn, or holly (note that while the plant is safe, the berries are toxic to humans and pets)

Safeguard Your Plantings

A persistent criminal will find a way to get in if they are determined enough. Fortunately most of them are looking for the easy jobs and will continue on their search if things look complicated, hazardous, or painful. To this end, be sure that you don’t make it easy for thieves. Lock up your hedge trimmers, clippers, and other cutting tools so they can’t cut down your thorny protection. Also make sure that you never leave ladders accessible outside the house. Intruders can use them to access the second level.


Most of the plant suggestions here might take awhile to reach maturity, but once they do they will offer year-round added security. Of course they will still require feeding, pruning, deadheading, watering, and other care, but little more than other plants in your yard. A note of caution: Use care when tending to these plants, always wear the proper gloves. Exposure to the oils of some plants can cause a reaction. You will also want to protect against pokes and scrapes from sharp leaves and vines.