Suitable Plants for Hedges

Written by barrett barlowe
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  • Introduction

    Suitable Plants for Hedges

    Hedges provide the garden with structure. Shrubby-type plants with a dense branching habit work best as hedges. The shrubs you choose will depend on what you want your hedge to do. Homeowners who want a security hedge should choose plants with spines. New homeowners might want a quick-growing screen to provide privacy from neighbours. There are many options to choose from when you select your hedge plants. Choose the plant that fits your needs and your taste.

    Shrubby hedges. (poinsettia hedge 3. image by mdb from

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    Security Hedges

    A thicket of spiny branches planted under a window is a good theft deterrent. A good choice for a security hedge is firethorn, or pyracantha. This shrub grows to 15 feet tall and about 6 feet wide. Shear in early spring to create dense hedges. Leaves are small and bright green. Clusters of red or orange berries appear in cooler months. Low-growing crown of thorns hedges look fierce with their large-spined branches, but, in fact, they are quite tame. Plant this hedge as a visual deterrent that won't injure playing children or pets. Berberis darwinii and Berberis stenophylla are both barberry plants that make excellent security hedges. They both have sharp thorns on their branches. In addition to orange flowers, the plants produce edible red fruits. Different barberries originate in Europe, North America and the Middle East, where the berries are used for jams and for flavouring stews.

    Pyracantha berries and thorns. (red berries image by sue from

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    Green Screens

    Hedges can be great backdrops for your colourful perennial or rose beds. Delicate flowers that otherwise might go unnoticed stand out against even, dense walls of green. Wax leaf privet is a classic dark green hedge. Its regular and glossy foliage might seem dull to some, but it is ideal for showing off colourful flowers and plants. This well-behaved shrub grows as high as 15 feet but can be pruned lower. Shear wax leaf privet into dense formal hedges or let it grow into a more relaxed, fountain shape. Yew plants grow slowly to form large, dense hedges. A mature yew can easily reach 30 feet. If the plant is sheared every spring, it will become very dense and even. These plants grow well in shade and look beautiful behind mountain laurels and rhododendrons.

    Mature yew hedges. (seat and garden decoration in front of yew hedge image by L. Shat from

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    Fast Growers

    Giant thuja plants make dense hedges and they can grow as much as 5 to 6 feet a year when young. They eventually reach 20 feet. Grow this dense, hardy plant across most of the continental United States except for extreme northern inland states. Leyland Cypress can grow 3 to 5 feet a year and either grow up to 30 feet or be kept lower with pruning. It features feathery, soft foliage, as well as drought and shade tolerance. Photinia grows fast when young, reaching 15 feet in a few seasons. This plant has glossy foliage that in some cultivars is red-tipped. Photinia needs good air circulation in humid environments as it is susceptible to fungal infections. This plant looks best when allowed to spread naturally. Attractive red berries appear in the fall.

    Thuja plant. (Thuja background image by Bartlomiej Nowak from

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    Narrow Spaces

    Homeowners sometimes end up fighting the hedge they planted when it encroaches on a walkway or driveway. Choosing a naturally narrow-growing plant will save you from yearly pruning chores. Eugenia bush is a fast-growing and naturally narrow plant. It is densely covered with small, medium green leaves and is a good choice to plant wherever space is a concern. Eugenia will accept shearing. Lilac-coloured berries decorate the plant in fall. Podocarpus reaches 15 feet in height, all while staying less than 5 feet wide. It has soft, attractive, greyish foliage and is shade tolerant. It is a good choice for warm winter areas. Be patient with this plant, though, as it is not a fast grower. Bamboo hedges are a wonderful hedge option for narrow spaces and warm climates. Plant clumping bamboo; running varieties are difficult to control and might end up taking over your garden.

    Bamboo hedge. (bamboo image by Richard J Thompson from

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