How Landscaping Can Increase the Security of Your Home

a quaint blue house with trees, surrounded by a short white picket fence

You bought the home security system, installed the doorbell camera, and even purchased one of those fake dog speakers for when you’re out of town. But did you know your landscaping can help protect your home?

We’ve got tips and tricks to help you prevent crime before it happens. All you need is a green thumb and a little bit of elbow grease to get started.

Keep your vision clear

The end goal here is to have a clear line of sight to anywhere on your property and eliminate hiding spots.

Use open fencing 

Impenetrable rows of arborvitae may seem like a good tactic to keep unwanted visitors off your property. The problem is that tall shrubs block your line of sight. 

Use open fencing, such as chain link or iron, to delineate your property lines or to create distinct spaces within your lawn. 

Keep shrubs and trees trimmed back

It’s time to get out your pruning tools. If you have bushes, shrubbery, or trees in front of your windows, keep them short (between 2 to 3 feet tall) so they don’t obstruct your vision. The goal is for you to see clearly to the street and eliminate rows of tall shrubs, which are an easy hiding place for trespassers.

Be especially careful with shrubs around the garage. You don’t want to create places that people can easily hide around the garage entrance.

Make sure your trees don’t block the view around your property. If they do, consult with an arborist to see if trimming is an option.

Use convex mirrors to eliminate blind spots

Have you ever looked up at a convex mirror as you enter a blind intersection in a building or parking garage? These mirrors can be helpful for home use as well. 

Do you want to see around the corner before you step onto the back patio with your cup of joe? Want to see who’s on the side of the house as you pull into your garage? Use a convex mirror to eliminate these blind spots around your property.

Know the mature size before you plant

Before you buy that gorgeous flowering bush at the local nursery, read the tag. You’ll want to know its mature size before you buy. Any vegetation that is over 3 feet is too tall to plant in front of your window or as part of a row of hedges.

Keep the door well lit

We have another section on landscape lighting, but for front doors (a key access point), lighting is important. Use a motion sensor light to deter individuals who might approach your primary entryway. Install it at least 10 feet off the ground so no one will be able to damage it upon approach.

Limit access points 

The goal here is to make your home’s easy access points (windows and doors) as unattractive as possible.

Trim tree limbs

Trim the lower tree limbs up to at least 7 feet off the ground. This will prevent people from climbing and gaining access to your roof and second-story windows.

Make some noise with rocks

Windows are an easy entry point, so it’s up to you to make them unattractive for a potential burglar. One way to do this is to use stones or rocks in front of your windows. If your flower beds abut the windows, you may need to fill the bed with rocks as an inorganic mulch. Rocks will make this ground noisy and slippery, deterring potential intruders.

Prickly plantings

It’s an age-old trick, but it works. Plant something prickly in front of your first-floor windows. One caveat: Make sure these thorny bushes aren’t too tall so the plants don’t obstruct your vision.

‘Concorde’ Japanese barberry: This variety produces almost no viable seed and is therefore not deemed invasive. Since some varieties of barberry are invasive, this plant is banned in some states. Zones 4-8 (-30 to 20 degrees F).

Cacti: These plants need no introduction. There are too many varieties to mention, and many of them have spines to deter unwanted visitors. Even better, many stay relatively short and are great for planting under windows. 

If you don’t live in the American Southwest, don’t worry. There are still many cacti varieties to choose from. Opuntia fragilis is hardy to Zone 4a (-30 degrees F), and some varieties of Opuntia polyacantha are hardy down to Zone 3b (-35 degrees F). 

Opuntia plants are a popular species for living fences. According to one source, the Opuntia species was used by the Cuban army to form a living fence around Guantanamo Bay in the ‘60s.

Dwarf bougainvillea: Most dwarf varieties retain their thorns, though the thorns are smaller than those on full-size varieties. Dwarf bougainvillea can function as a great hedge. Zones Zones 9-11 (20 to 50 degrees F).

Knockout roses: The easy-to-maintain rose bushes have prominent thorns. Hardy to Zone 5 (-20 to -10 degrees F).

Let the light shine

Lighting is a key component of a safe, nighttime landscape. The goal is to reduce dark areas around the home. If you have to step outside at night, or if you like to host evening events, lighting is a key part of enjoying your landscape safely.

Install outdoor lighting around the property

Once the sun sets, your landscape will need a little help to stay bright and safe. Some homeowners want their entire landscape to be lit (walkways, stairs, columns, etc.). Others may only want motion-sensitive lights. It depends on your needs and budget.

Proper lighting is an art, so if you don’t have the time to read up on lighting best practices, professional installation may be worth the investment. For go-getter DIY types, lighting your landscape may be a challenge that’s right up your (well-lit) alley.

Maintain your space

It may seem like a waste of your time to mention this, but maintenance is an important concept that safety organizations mention in their keys to safety (see Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles below). 

Here’s a short list of ways to keep your landscaping in top condition:

  • Mow regularly
  • Clean up branches, leaves, and debris
  • Fencing and gates should be in proper working order

Maintaining your space does many things to keep your home safe:

  • It helps establish clear boundaries between public and private spaces.
  • It lets others know that the property is subject to constant traffic and use.
  • A well-maintained property means other deterrents will be immediately visible (home security signs, neighborhood watch signs, landscape lighting, motion detector lights, etc.).

Four principles to secure landscape design

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) lists four keys to keep in mind as you’re designing a home landscape:

  • Natural access control: Make it easy for welcomed guests to find your main entrance. This discourages people from wandering around the property and gives you control over your home’s main access point.
  • Natural surveillance: Use lighting on the front door, sidewalks, and other parts of the lawn. Landscaping should not obstruct views of doors or windows.
  • Territorial reinforcement: Make a clear transition between the street and your property. Define your property lines. Have a visible street number (minimum 6 inches tall).
  • Maintenance: Keep plants trimmed so they don’t obstruct your view. Keep the lawn and property neat, clean, and well kept.

If you need a helping hand to keep your property well maintained, contact one of our local landscaping pros today. They will set up a routine maintenance schedule to keep your property neat and clean, an easy first step toward a safer landscape.

Main Photo Credit: Aubrey Odom | Unsplash

Sarah Bahr

Sarah is a writer who has previously worked in the lawn care industry. In her spare time, she likes to garden, raise chickens, and mow the grass with her battery-powered lawn mower.