Windbreaks are more than just a way to keep that whipping wind from rushing down the plains at breakneck speeds. Windbreaks offer a host of valuable shelters: windbreaks by a field or garden can reduce erosion, and windbreaks next to a home can save on heating and cooling costs, providing shade. They can even reduce noise pollution that wind can cause, resulting in a quieter home. Whether you want to plant a large windbreak around your entire property or a small one next to your home, consider these plants.
If you have a large yard or land parcel in an extremely windy area, a majestic stand of Arborvitae might be a good path for you. They have a classic pyramid shape and thrive in zones 5, 6, and 7. They have a very bushy, dense foliage that effectively stops the wind, and they can grow up to 40-60 feet tall, making them some of the largest trees we focus on here. They do take a long time to grow, but as with many of the trees we will suggest, you'll find that you need to invest the time to grow a good windbreak rather than wanting to rush and have an instant forest.
These beautiful, hefty conifers can grow 25-50 feet tall and have great longevity: plant these as windbreaks on family land where you'll be able to reap the benefits for a long time. They grow in a wide variety of zones, from zone 2 up through zone 9, making them a versatile and hardy choice. Give them a wide berth - 15 to 25 feet between trees is a good plan in order to ensure that your windbreak trees don't crowd each other as they grow.
This evergreen grows really quickly in zones 3-7; it isn't picky about soil and looks beautiful. Be careful not to crowd out your Norway Spruce; more plants isn't necessarily better for the long-term success of your windbreak. Rather, give the trees the space they need to grow over time. It is true that a windbreak is an investment, starting with a small benefit and growing into a larger one unless you manage to plant very large trees from the beginning. Norway spruce can reach 80 feet tall, but as a fast-growing evergreen, it can be shaped if you need to prune it or shape it into the right kind of windbreak for your needs.
These pines grow wide and tall, up to 35 feet or even higher in their natural habitat. They grow branches close to the ground that many might remove for aesthetic reasons, but as a windbreak tree, they are a perfect candidate for retaining their lowest limbs. They are less dense than some of the earlier evergreens, but they make up for it with width and depth. These may also be a good option if you want to be able to see through to the other side of your windbreak in patches here and there. At hardiness zones 3 to 7 the Ponderosa pine will do fine, making it a better option than many for the colder climates of the United States.
A small deciduous tree that grows up to 15 feet, this bright flowering tree might be the perfect ornamental windbreak for your garden. The bright flowers coat the branches and make for a very lovely look in the Springtime. Choose this one for a nice full-sun spot, and recognize that, like all the other windbreaks, it will take a bit of time to grow. While conifers tend to be a popular intense-wind windbreak, redbuds provide a bushy enough cloud of branches and flowers that you can quite easily slow down a brisk breeze with a stand of them.
This deciduous tree grows in the 30-foot range, slowly becoming a pecan-like tree that looks attractive but the nuts they produce are mostly shell. However, if you want to create a windbreak that will draw in squirrels and other woodland life, you should pick this tree; it's heat tolerant and drought tolerant, for one thing, and despite also being called the "Texas Walnut," it can thrive in hardiness zones 5-9, though the Southwest tends to be its happiest home.
As with other trees, follow any instructions you can gather about how to give them adequate water, light, and space to thrive. Space is particularly important as planting trees too close together is a recipe for a failed windbreak, as they compete for root space and cannot adequately thrive. Windbreaks are important to protecting land, homes, and gardens, but in order for them to do that important work, you also have to make sure they get enough water while they are acclimatizing and that they are not overrun with weeds that steal nutrients and make their growth progress even slower.