Wondering how to plant a hedge? Hedging plants can turn an ordinary garden into a special paradise. A hedge is a living wall that gives the visitor a sense of being inside a living painting.

Hedging plants can set a border, create privacy, and block sound. They can also protect us from the wind and elements, or provide a backdrop for special plants and colorful flowers. We use hedges to define spaces and create boundaries. Hedges are among the basic elements of landscapes and garden design. 

The best types of shrubs for hedges have small, evergreen leaves closely spaced along the branches. Evergreen and deciduous plants grow slowly, are long lived, and look good after shearing. The evergreen shrubs will stay emerald green year round to provide your landscape with plenty of colors. Some deciduous hedges may have a burst of fall color as the leaves near the end of their yearly life cycle.

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Hedges can be formal when maintained by frequent shearing and pruning, or they can be informal, when allowed to display their natural forms, with only annual clipping needed. You can also choose flowering shrubs for pops of color in your landscape!

Here we describe how to get your new hedge off and running.

Planning How to Plant Your Hedges:

First, decide where your hedge is to be planted and if it will be smooth edged and formal, or a more natural, informal row of evergreen hedge shrubs. Match your shrub selections with the site characteristics.

How shady is it where the low maintenance hedge plants will be? How sandy is the soil? Is it infertile or excessively drained?

Since shrubs in a linear hedge are set close together (ultimately touching and overlapping) they will not get much sunlight or air circulation on two of their sides. Therefore, you should ensure that the plants are not close to a wall, foundation, or building, where access to sunlight and air circulation would be reduced.
Fragment of a rural fence hedge from evergreen plants ( the Thuja) landscape. Sunny summer day
Next, select which species of shrubs to use. Determine your landscape style. Perfect Plants can conveniently ship them directly to your home and you never have to leave the house or transport them from your local nursery.

Formal hedge plants are usually composed of a single shrub species. On the other hand, informal hedges are often made up of several species varying in characteristics.

Note whether they are spring flowering plants or if they bloom in another season like winter-blooming plants. You may want to grow your shrubs into small trees. There are special pruning techniques for this.

Mark the route for the newly planted hedge and dig a trench about 18-24 inches wide and 12-18 inches deep. Based on the eventual size of the shrub species you will use, determine how many plants are needed. We want formal hedging plants to give the impression of a single elongate plant, so the individual shrubs are planted quite close together.

As a rule of thumb, shrubs in a formal hedge should be spaced at about one-half their ultimate height. Shrubs that get 3-4 feet tall should be spaced about 18-24 inches apart; those that get 4-6 feet tall can be 2-3 feet apart. For a tall hedge, place the shrubs a little further apart.

Shrubs in an informal hedge are typically spaced further apart so that their natural shapes, textures, and colors can be appreciated. 

How to Plant Shrubs as Hedges:

You can plant out containerized shrubs anytime, but springtime is best so they have the whole growing season to establish a root system. Note: these trees and shrubs do not ship bare root. They are rooted in a container with soil.

Measure and mark the location within the trench for each shrub. Dig the planting hole accordingly. Carefully remove a plant from its nursery pot and uncoil any roots that may be wound around the root mass.

Trim back roots that are too long. Dig a hole that is twice the size of the root ball and place your plant in the center. Water thoroughly while backfilling and give the little shrub a shaking to eliminate any air pockets. Be sure that the shrubs are planted no deeper than they were in their nursery pots

It’s a good idea to water every day or two for the first 2-3 months until the plants are well established. After that, they should get one inch of water every week or ten days either from the rain or irrigation if necessary.

If the leaves start to wilt or turn yellow, the roots probably aren’t getting enough water and they may be going through a dry spell. Keep the shrubs mulched to retain moisture and discourage weeds.

Three to four weeks after planting, cut each shrub back by about a third to a half of their height to encourage bushy branching. Each dormant season thereafter, cut back new annual growth by about a third to half until the shrubs reach the desired height and width. This will encourage even more branching.

Every year in early spring and again in early summer, apply a balanced, all purpose, slow release fertilizer. Follow label directions.

The fertilizer will help protect against diseases and pests. Many shrubs and hedging plants are susceptible to pests like spider mites.

How to Care for Shrubs and Hedges

Informal hedges require little pruning. Remove dead stems, misshapen, and crossed branches as they appear, and use thinning cuts in winter to maintain an attractive shape and size. Keep the shrubs in a more or less pyramid shape: Narrower at the tops so that the bases are not shaded.

Formal hedges may need to be pruned 2-4 times or more a year depending on how fast they grow. Prune shrubs in winter and again as necessary throughout the growing season. Don’t wait too long between pruning schedules as this will result in some branches growing too tall and shading out lower foliage.

Oak Leaf Holly
When the shrubs are at the desired height, use a thick hedge trimmer to create the straight edges or contoured surfaces you desire. For box type hedges, you can use string between wooden stakes to mark where the trimmer should shear. Channel your inner artist to control the trimmer for contoured hedges.

Always shape the hedge so that it tapers from top to bottom. The best hedge plant should be narrowest at its top, to allow sunlight to reach the bottom. If the hedge is wider at the top sunlight will be blocked from the lower parts, leaving unsightly barren branches.

It’s easy to beautify your garden with evergreen hedges!

Best Shrubs for Hedges with Examples Offered from Perfect Plants:

glossy abelia (Abelia X grandiflora), examples, ‘Edward Goucher’ and ‘Rose Creek
Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)
Japanese boxwood (Buxus microphylla var. japonica)
Korean boxwood (Buxus microphylla var. koreana) example, ‘Wintergreen boxwood
gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides), example,  ‘Frostproof
Chinese holly (Ilex cornuta), example, ‘Bufordi nana
Japanese holly (Ilex crenata), example, ‘Helleri
yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria), example, ‘Schilling’s Dwarf
Ocala anise (Illicium parviflorum)
Japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum) example Waxleaf Ligustrum
box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida)
Loropetalum (Loropetalum chinense), example, ‘Loropetalum Ruby
wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera)
tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans)
Nellie Stevens (Ilex “Nellie R Stevens”)
Dwarf Nandina Gulf Stream (Nandina domestica ‘Gulf Stream’)
Dwarf Nandina Fire Power ( Nandina domestica ‘Firepower’)
Carolina Sapphire Cypress (Cupressus glabra ‘Carolina Sapphire’)
Indian hawthorn (Raphiolepis indica), example, ‘Nana’
plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia)
arborvitae (Thuja spp),  example, Thuja ‘Green Giant’ 
Walter viburnum (Viburnum obovatum), example, ‘Mrs. Schiller’s Delight

Woodward Globe ArborvitaeThuja occidentalis ‘Woodwardi’