7 Best Plants For Hedges (Pictures & Growing Information)

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by Max - last update on July 8, 2020, 8:35 am
Types of Hedges & Hedge Plants

You might want to create a hedge in your garden or around your property for a whole host of reasons. Hedges create a definitive boundary around your property, like a fence, but with the added bonus of attractive foliage, and maybe flowers. It creates privacy to prevent outsiders from being able to see into your garden or your home, and could also be used to deter intruders if you select a hedge with spikes or spines.

Hedging can also be a useful way to block out wind if you live in an especially windy area, such as along the coast, and it can also block out noise, such as if your home is close to a busy road or train track. Hedges will also create useful shade in your garden when positioned appropriately. There are many types of plants you can use to create hedging or screening, but this list focuses on types of trees that can be utilized as hedging. Read on to discover some of the best types of trees to grow into a hedge around your property, and learn about their care requirements, and what sort of conditions and climates they grow best in.

1. Holly

Holly

Scientific Name: Ilex sp.

Mature Size: Up to 30 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-10

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Well-draining soil, neutral to acidic

Other Cultivars and Varieties: Hedgehog Holly-Ilex aquifolium, Japanese Holly-Ilex crenata, Blue Holly-Ilex x meserveae

Holly trees are evergreen plants that can be grown as trees or shrubs, and their dense growth habits lend them perfectly for use in hedging. Most holly plants have the telltale spiked leaves that come to several stiff, sharp points, and therefore this makes holly an ideal plant to use for hedging if you are using it to discourage intruders from getting into the boundaries of your property. There are many different varieties of holly, some with deep green foliage, and others with paler green leaves, or cream variegation. Holly plants can vary in size, ranging from just a few feet tall right up to 30 feet in height.

All types of holly will grow well in full sun or partial shade, though the types of climate they are suitable for growing in can vary between variety and species. Hedgehog holly prefers warm temperatures and will need to be grown in a climate that is mild all year round; it is suitable for growth in USDA hardiness zones 6-10. Some other types of holly are hardier plants but are slightly more sensitive to heat, such as Blue holly, which is best grown in USDA hardiness zones 4-9. If you are keen to grow a holly hedge on your property, then there should be a type of holly you can find to suit your climate, as long as you are not in a climate with extreme heat or extreme cold. Holly does not fare well in extreme conditions.

Female holly plants are the only ones that produce attractive, glossy berries, which are often bright red. To produce these, the female plant will need to be pollinated by a male Blue holly plant, so if you are keen to have the appealing berries in your holly hedge, then you should select two types of holly to encourage this cross-pollination. Holly plants can thrive in a range of different soil types, including poor soils or heavy and clay soils, though they will perform best in well-draining soil. Aim to keep their soil consistently moist, avoiding soil that is too dry or too wet.


2. Juniper

Juniper

Scientific Name: Juniperus sp.

Mature Size: Up to 20 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-9

Light: Full sun

Water: Average water needs

Soil: Well-draining

Other Cultivars and Varieties: Chinese Juniper-Juniperus x pfitzeriana, Common Juniper-Juniperus communis, Savin Juniper-Juniperus sabina, Flaky Juniper-Juniperus squamata

These are a coniferous type of plant that can be grown as a tree or a shrub and belongs to the Cypress family. These trees are native to the Northern Hemisphere, and are widely distributed throughout it. Depending on the variety or species of Juniper, these plants can have needle-like foliage or scaly foliage. The plants produce distinctive cones that are quite attractive and decorative. Some species of Juniper make excellent choices for hedge plants, as they have dense growth habits that make solid-looking hedges, ideal if your hedges are intended for privacy. These are evergreen plants that retain their lush green foliage all year round so that your hedges will always look lively and attractive.

The type of Juniper tree you can use for your hedge will largely be based on your local climate and the position you intend your hedge to be. All types of Juniper plants need full sun, so if your hedge needs to occupy a shaded spot, then these plants won’t be suitable. The climates these trees can grow in vary enormously between species and varieties, so be sure to choose a type of Juniper that will thrive in your location. Common Juniper prefers cool weather and is suitable for growth in USDA hardiness zones 2-6, whereas Chinese Juniper likes slightly warmer temperatures, and can grow in USDA hardiness zones 4-9.

Most types of Common Juniper have a tall and slender growth habit, and they will naturally form a neat, cylindrical shape. These can be used to create a hedge by planting several of them in a row, and they will grow to meet each other and create a solid hedge. This is especially good for anyone wanting a low maintenance hedge, as Common Juniper retains its neat appearance without the need for pruning. Most types of Juniper will tolerate a wide variety of soils, though they prefer well-draining soil. Aim to provide them with consistent moisture to achieve a moist soil, though they will be tolerant of drought once established.


3. Common Boxwood

Common Boxwood

Scientific Name: Buxus sempervirens

Mature Size: Up to 30 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9

Light: Full sun, partial shade, full shade

Water: Average water needs

Soil: Well-draining

Flower Color: Green-yellow

Other Cultivars and Varieties: Buxus sempervirens ‘Dee Runk’, Buxus sempervirens ‘Graham Blandy’, Buxus sempervirens ‘Green Velvet’

This type of boxwood is also sometimes known as the European boxwood, or simply boxwood. It is native to a wide region that covers south and west Europe, and parts of Africa and Asia. It is an evergreen plant that can be grown as a small tree, but in cultivation, it is more commonly grown as a shrub. The plant has a central trunk that is rarely seen, as it is tightly surrounded by a dense shroud of foliage. The leaves of this plant are small but plentiful, and they take an oval shape that typically measures no more than an inch in length. The color of the foliage can range from yellow-green to deep blue-green, and they have a strong scent. This fragrance makes the boxwood popular for use in hedging and topiary at the entrance of properties, where the scent can be enjoyed as people approach.

Another reason these plants make good hedges is that they grow relatively slowly, which means they will continue to look neat for quite some time after being pruned, making them fairly low maintenance. They respond well to pruning, and so they can be shaped quite dramatically if you would like to achieve a specific look for your hedge. Common boxwood can be found in a number of varieties that have various growth habits. Some are dwarf varieties that make excellent low hedges, while others can reach heights of up to 30 feet. As a plant that is evergreen with a dense growth habit, they are ideal if you want a hedge for privacy reasons, which will remain functional and attractive all year round.

These plants are also popular because of their ability to grow in a wide range of conditions. They will tolerate any lighting position, though they perform best when they get a good few hours of sunlight in the morning and shade in the afternoon. Common boxwood can survive in full shade, but in these conditions, it may get leggy, and its foliage will become sparse, which can drastically affect the look of the plant, and render its privacy qualities useless. Boxwood is also tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions and will grow in most soils so long as they are not too sandy or too heavy. They will grow in soils with some clay, as long as the quantity of clay is not too extreme. These plants thrive in a well-draining soil that is kept consistently moist, though they are drought tolerance once mature.


4. English Hawthorn

English Hawthorn

Scientific Name: Crataegus laevigata

Mature Size: Up to 20 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-8

Light: Full sun

Water: Average water needs

Soil: Well-draining

Flower Color: White, red, pink

Other Cultivars and Varieties: Crataegus laevigata ‘Punicea’, Crataegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’, Crataegus laevigata ‘Rosea Flore Pleno’

This plant takes the form of a small tree or large shrub, which is native to parts of Europe and Africa. It has an open growth habit, with branches that are randomly held out in every direction to give it a natural and casual feel. Because of this, it can make an excellent informal hedge if allowed to grow to its natural shape, or it also tolerates pruning well, so it can be used to create a more structured type of hedge. In the UK, this plant is commonly used for hedging and is often seen in cottage style gardens or quaint towns. It can reach up to 20 feet in height and spreads to a similar size, making it suitable for situations that call for tall and wide hedging.

The plant is deciduous, so if you want a hedge for privacy reasons, then English Hawthorn may not offer the best solution, as it will become bare-branched during winter. That being said, the branches are quite densely packed, so it will offer some level of privacy, but not as much as those plants that are evergreen. The branches of this plant are covered with spikes that typically measure around one inch long, so an English Hawthorn hedge may be a good deterrent to prevent intruders or wild animals from trying to enter the boundary of your property. In spite of losing its leaves during winter, this plant does remain looking attractive through this period, with its dense zig-zagged branches.

The foliage of the English Hawthorn is glossy and deep green. It looks especially spectacular during spring when clusters of flowers bloom along the lengths of the branches. The flowers appear in abundance, creating quite a dramatic floral display. In most types of English Hawthorn, the flowers are white, but there are some varieties that grow striking red blooms, or pale pink double flowers.

The blooms are followed by fruits that resemble berries. Most commonly, the fruits are a bright red color, though, in some varieties of English Hawthorn, the fruits are yellow. These are not edible and can cause stomach discomfort if ingested. English Hawthorn thrives in full sun and is easy to grow. It thrives in well-draining soils and should be watered regularly to achieve a consistently moist, but not wet, soil.


5. American Arborvitae

American Arborvitae

Scientific Name: Thuja occidentalis

Mature Size: Up to 40 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-8

Light: Full sun

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Well-draining

Other Cultivars and Varieties: Thuja occidentalis ‘Filip’s Magic Moment’, Thuja occidentalis ‘Janed Gold’, Thuja occidentalis ‘Mr Bowling Ball’

This is an evergreen tree that is native to most of the United States and eastern Canada. It is also commonly called the eastern white cedar, or false white cedar, and belongs to the Cypress family. It is a coniferous tree that is small to medium in stature, growing to a maximum of 40 feet tall, though typically these trees top out at much shorter heights, and many varieties exist that will not grow beyond eight feet tall. The trees have central trunks that can grow to a diameter of three feet. These are adorned with red-brown bark that has a warm and attractive look.

The foliage of the tree takes the shape of flat, feathered sprays, which have small scales. The color of these leaves can vary from yellow-green to deep green, depending on the variety of the tree. As these plants have very dense growth habits, and they are evergreen, they make excellent hedging or privacy screens. They retain their fresh appeal all year round, and some varieties have leaves that are attractively scented. To make the most of this fragrance, create your hedge along a walkway where it can be fully appreciated.

These trees are hardy and thrive in full sun, though in hot summers, they will benefit from some afternoon shade. Be careful not to give the plants too much shade, as this can affect foliage density and cause the branches and foliage to become sparse. American Arborvitae will thrive in humid conditions and appreciates plenty of moisture at its roots. It will thrive in areas that experience regular rainfall or will need to be consistently watered to have its moisture needs wet. As a moisture lover, this plant does very well when grown close to ponds, streams, or swamps.

It will grow in a wide variety of soils, including wet and clay soils, but it will not tolerate dry soils. When young, the plant should be kept protected from winds that can dry it out. Ideally, choose a well-draining soil for your American Arborvitae and aim to keep it constantly moist.


6. Japanese Barberry

Japanese Barberry

Scientific Name: Berberis thunbergii

Mature Size: Up to 5 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Low moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining

Flower Color: Yellow

Other Cultivars and Varieties: Berberis thunbergii ‘Crimson Pygmy’, Berberis thunbergii ‘Golden Rocket’, Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket’

These deciduous plants can be grown as shrubs or dwarf trees, and are native to Asia, though they have become naturalized across much of North America. In fact, in some areas, they are now listed as an invasive species and are banned for sale in Massachusetts. They are also considered a dangerous threat in Michigan and New York. However, there are many regions where this plant is widely cultivated for its stunning foliage and the berries it produces that are an important food source for birds and other wildlife.

Japanese Barberry produces leaves in a wide range of colors, depending on the variety. Some plants have bright purple foliage, while others are red, orange, yellow, or variegated. The ovate leaves will also transform into other warmer shades in the fall, giving the plant several seasons of interest. Small yellow flowers are produced on Japanese Barberries in the spring. These have a waxy texture and a mild fragrance, but they are considered unimportant compared to the spectacular foliage of the plant. These flowers give way to vibrant red berries in the fall, which draw birds to the garden. Any berries that are not eaten by birds will remain on the trees otherwise bare branches right through winter.

This is a very densely branched plant with masses of colorful foliage, which makes it an excellent choice for hedging. Dwarf varieties make a statement as low hedging, while taller varieties can be used for privacy hedging. As a deciduous plant, the hedge will become somewhat bare during winter, but the skeleton of the plant is still attractive, especially if the bright red berries persist on the branches.

Japanese Barberry grows very easily, with little maintenance required. It will thrive in a wide range of lighting conditions, though it prefers full sun or partial shade. It is drought-tolerant and performs best in dry or average soils. Ideally, plant this in well-draining soil to avoid the possibility of rain build-up at the roots, but in general, this plant will tolerate any soil that is not wet.


7. European Beech

European Beech

Scientific Name: Fagus sylvatica

Mature Size: Up to 60 feet tall

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-7

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining

Flower Color: Yellow-green

Other Cultivars and Varieties: Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck Purple’, Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’, Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea Tricolor’

This European native is also known as the Common Beech. It is a large tree with a pyramid-shaped canopy that can reach heights of up to 60 feet. However, as this tree has a low branching habit, it can also make an ideal hedge. Due to its large size, it is especially good for creating a dramatic hedge in wide, open spaces, where it will have the room to reach its potential. It tolerates heavy pruning, and so can be shaped into any type of hedge you like, though it will need annual maintenance to remain neat.

This tree is deciduous, with pale green leaves when young, which develop into a deeper green when mature. Foliage is elliptical, with a subtle sheen on the surface. As fall approaches, the leaves take on a warmer hue, in shades of red and bronze, before dropping to the ground. The European Beech produces small flowers in spring, which are a yellow-green, almost lime color. The female flowers of this tree will give way to beechnuts, which are small, triangular, edible nuts.

The European Beech is now widely cultivated across Europe and North America, as both a specimen tree and in hedging. It has a long life expectancy of around 200 years, though some can live as long as three centuries. They should be planted in well-draining soil, as they will not tolerate wet or soggy soil, but aside from this one requirement, they tend to grow well in almost any soil type. They thrive in humid climates where regular rainfall is typical and love a position of full sun to partial shade.


7 Best Plants For Hedges (Pictures & Growing Information)

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