Defensive Landscaping: Using Plants For Protection

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Aliza Vigderman
Gabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated Aug 6, 2021
By Aliza Vigderman & Gabe Turner on Aug 6, 2021

When people think of outdoor security, they often think of things like lights, CCTV cameras, fence placement, and dogs. They often don’t think of one of the simplest things of all: plants. Unless you want your yard to look like a barren survivalist wasteland, you need to have plants. They’re green. They’re attractive. And when dealt with in the right ways, they can also deter burglars and thieves.

Defensive Landscaping: How To Get Started

The first part of defensive landscaping is simple: make sure you get rid of all the hiding places. That means that you don’t have hedges running against solid-fence lines, which provide lovely play tunnels for children but are also sneaky avenues for those with ill intent towards you and your property. And as pretty as it may look to have tall bushes smack against the house, mow those suckers down. Burglars can hide behind them, use them as cover to open windows, and break into your house. Note that there is an exception to this, but we’ll get to it.

Defensive Landscaping Tips

After you’ve ridden your yard of its hiding places, we have a few more suggestions to use plants to your advantage.

Get Rid of Trees Near Second Story Windows

You also don’t want any trees near your home that could provide access to an unguarded second-story window. And be generous with your imagination: burglars can shimmy easily, or maybe use that ladder you have propped within reach against the shed. It’s probably best to keep all trees at a safe distance from your home, or all limbs trimmed back and away from the house. This is also a good tip to avoid home damage from high winds, to boot.

Don’t Put Trellises Against Walls

The same goes for trellises. Trellises are pretty. Trellises are nice. But trellises can let someone climb from the ground into a second-story window. We should know: we did it once as teenagers when we forgot our house key. Keep trellises away from your house, or at least don’t place them against walls.

Use Plants To Repel Intruders

So there are obviously a lot of ways you keep your plants from being a security liability. But how do you make them a security advantage? Well, according to Gardening Know How,1 “placing plants with possibly harmful attributes in weak areas of the yard intimidate, repel and prevent intruders.” Let’s get into more detail.

  • Hedges: Think of your hedge as a moat. You want a tight hedge that people don’t want to get through. And while a hedge won’t stop the most determined thief, it will give many of them pause — especially if the only entrances through the hedge are set with motion-lights and CCTV cameras, or any type of outdoor security camera, for that matter.
  • Holly: Holly grows into dense bushes and hurts like hell, which is why so many people keep it under their front windows. Blackberries in particular will grow into a tight hedge fairly quickly, with small thorns that cling and rip; plus, you get some berries, which never hurts. You will want to prune your holly, however, as it grows fast, and bird consumption and excretion of those berries will have satellite hedges popping up all over the property. In other words, holly can be too much of a good thing, if you aren’t careful.
  • Bougainvillea: Bougainvillea, according to Popular Mechanics,2 can grow to be 40 feet long and sports dangerous sap as well as thorns and pretty flowers. There are many other plants you can use depending on your climate and needs; if you’re interested, consult a local nursery.
  • Roses: Then there is, as always, the humble rose. You can certainly grow a hedge of them; we recommend a climbing variety woven through some airy fencing, something that requires little maintenance. We have a lovely little climber that protects the side of our driveway. Anyone attempting to get over that fence is going to get some nasty, nasty thorns. But you can also use roses as spot-treatment to keep the nasties away; one plant under a vulnerable window, especially a varietal with giant thorns, makes that window vulnerable no more.
  • Cacti and agave: If you live in the desert, of course, you have a whole host of defenses available to you that the rest of us don’t: cacti and agave. Sure, they grow slowly. But plant some agave under your windows and see how easily crooks can penetrate them.

How Else Can I Protect My Home?

Obviously, your plants are not going to be the only thing that keeps would-be intruders away. But when combined with other home security, they’ll definitely help. Here are some components we recommend for outdoor home security specifically.

Outdoor Cameras

It’s important to install outdoor cameras with either color or infrared night vision so you can see clearly even in total darkness. WiFi-connected cameras will let you view the live feed at any time, and some will even notify you when they spot a person.

Kami Outdoor Camera
Kami Outdoor Camera

Entry Sensors

Put entry sensors on all of your ground floor doors and windows, and, if you have trees near your home, your second and third floor windows, as well.

Alder - Door/Window Sensor
Alder – Door/Window Sensor

Glass Break Sensors

Rather than opening your windows and doors, some intruders prefer to break through glass windows so as to not disturb entry sensors. Fortunately, glass break sensors cover this gap, alerting you if they detect the sound of glass breaking.

SimpliSafe Glass Break Sensor
SimpliSafe Glass Break Sensor

Video Doorbell

Finally, a video doorbell lets you see and speak to whoever’s at your front door, day and night. These are also super helpful to protect you from package theft, an increasingly common problem for homeowners and renters alike.

Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus
Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus

In Conclusion

While there are some ways you can use plants to up your home’s security, ultimately it isn’t protected without a smart home security system. But, as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and making your home into a fortress with plants is the first step.

  1. Gardening Know How. (2020). Defensive Shrubs For Landscaping: Tips For Using Shrubs With Thorns.

  2. Popular Mechanics. (2020). The 11 Prickliest Plants on the Planet.