Gardeners prize certain plants for their ability to naturally repel unwanted intruders like deer, rabbits and Japanese beetles. As it turns out, intruders of the human variety may be far more worrisome. The FBI reports that a burglary occurs every 14.6 seconds in the United States.

While barbed wire and steel gates make for secure surroundings, strategic plantings can act as a natural deterrent to would-be thieves, and they might just boost your curb appeal too. Read on for our tips on how to choose and use them wisely.

Related: How To Secure Your Home Against Burglars

Plant for privacy

Most burglars scout out a house before attempting a break-in. Your job is to make that as difficult and unwelcoming as possible. A row of privacy hedges planted near the street or sidewalk can block the sight line into your house. That makes it tougher for burglars to tell if someone is home or to identify possible entry points into the house, like open windows. Privacy hedges will also force would-be hoodlums to linger in sight as they try to peer past them, increasing the risk they’ll be caught.

When choosing hedges for privacy, look for varieties with dense foliage like Portuguese laurel or hornbeam. But before you start digging, plan carefully. It may be tempting to wall yourself off from nosy neighbors, but it’s a good idea to leave some visibility between your house and the ones surrounding it. A burglar who realizes he can seen by someone in an adjacent house is less likely to strike.

Related: When You Should – and Shouldn’t – Call 911

Make your garden grow year-round

Burglars know that homeowners who invest in the upkeep of their yards and gardens are equally likely to invest in keeping their homes safe. That means installing windows that lock, deadbolts on doors and security systems.

So while your yard may be bursting with blossoms each spring, choosing plantings with different bloom cycles will help make your property look tended to throughout the year. Start with a cluster of spring and summer bloomers like foxglove and echinacea (also known as coneflower). For fall cover, opt for plants like hollyhock, yarrow and bear’s breeches, which retain their foliage in colder weather.

Juniper and arborvitae are pretty evergreens that provide year-round cover. Just remember to prune and tend to them, since an overgrown yard is akin to an “open for business” sign for thieves.

Opt for nature’s barbed wire

Anyone who’s been stuck by a thorny plant learned to steer clear of it, which is why such plants can be a great line of defense around entry points. Consider planting window boxes with roses, which retain their thorns year-round and may make burglars think twice about entering through a first floor window.

Forsythia is a great choice when you’ve got to cover lots of ground, since it spreads easily and grows in clusters. Just don’t go overboard or you’ll kick yourself the next time you need to put on a suit of armor to access the crawl space beneath your deck.

Be thoughtful about tree placement

If the threat of a heavy branch falling on your house in a storm isn’t enough, here’s another good reason not to plant trees near your home: Those that are sturdy enough to climb can give a burglar a leg up to an open upper story window or roof. If you already have trees growing close to your house, prune any limbs that might provide an intruder easy access.

Light it up

Lighting is a great way to accentuate pretty plantings at night. It also adds another layer of security. Spot and path lighting make your yard easier to see at night and less inviting to anyone attempting to get in unnoticed.

Look for maintenance-free solar-powered fixtures, which turn on automatically at dusk. They’ll give the impression that somebody’s home, even when you’re away.

Related: Why Your Home Might Be Dangerously Underinsured

Paul Hope, a trained chef and DIY enthusiast, has restored two houses and writes about food and homes.