How to Choose the Right Shrubs for a Hedge

By: Julie Day
Holly hedge backed by fence and with brick columns

A formal holly hedge provides privacy for your yard

Hedges are wonderful pieces of living architecture that provide security, privacy, and shelter from winds. They also add dimension to your garden design by creating separate outdoor spaces or “rooms.”

A healthy, well groomed hedge does take some work, but the key to creating a low-maintenance hedge is choosing the right plants. Here are some tips for choosing shrubs to use for hedges in your yard.

Privet hedge bordering sidewalk

A tall privet hedge bordering a yard

What to Look for in a Hedge Shrub

A hedge range from a free form mixed border to a sharply clipped living fence. A formal hedge will clearly define a boundary, while an informal one will blend subtly into the surroundings.

When choosing a hedge, look for shrubs that meet the following criteria:

  • Shrub Foliage: For maximum privacy and winter protection, choose shrubs that stay green all winter.
  • Boxwood hedge

    Newly planted boxwoods

  • Shrub Size: Decide how high you want your hedge to be, and choose shrubs that grow to that height. If you plant 40-foot hollies and plan to keep them trimmed to 6 feet, you’re in for a world of work, not to mention awkward looking plants!
  • Shrub Shape: Choose shrubs that naturally have low, dense branches and a mounded, round, or pyramidal shape. These types of shrubs will take very little shaping to create a nice hedge.
  • Shearable Shrubs: If you’re going to use hedge clippers, choose plants that adapt well to shearing. Some plants become thin and bare if you repeatedly clip the tips of the branches.
  • Adaptable Shrubs: Choose tough shrubs that are adaptable to the varying conditions in your yard and climate. If your hedge will have a mix of sun and shade, or a mix of dry and wet soil, choose shrubs that can handle both. Also, go for plants that don’t require a lot of irrigation for your climate.
  • Hemlock hedge

    Hemlock hedge

  • Disease Resistant Shrubs: A hedge can easily have 10 or more shrubs, which can be difficult to treat and to maintain if the plants become diseased or infested. Choose plants that are resistant to the common diseases and pests in your area.
  • Affordable Shrubs: To grow a proper hedge, you’ll need to space the shrubs so that they can grow to their natural width with only a small amount of overlap. This can mean buying a lot of shrubs! Most people regard a hedge as a backdrop, rather than a featured part of the landscape, and choose more economical plants. However, it’s up to you to decide the purpose and overall effect of your hedge.

Common Hedge Shrubs

Popular evergreen hedge shrubs include:

    Holly hedge

    Low growing holly hedge

  • Abelia
  • Arborvitae
  • Azalea
  • Barberry
  • Boxwood
  • Chamaecyparis (False Cypress)
  • Euonymus
  • Holly
  • Juniper
  • Hemlock
  • Privet
  • Yew

Further Information

Print


Comments

Please Leave a Comment

We want to hear from you! In addition to posting comments on articles and videos, you can also send your comments and questions to us on our contact page or at (800) 946-4420. While we can't answer them all, we may use your question on our Today's Homeowner radio or TV show, or online at todayshomeowner.com.