Finding the Best Hedge Plants
Hedges are an excellent addition to any garden. Whether you want a privacy screen, a windbreak, soundproofing, a border or a security feature, hedging plants can offer you all you need and more.
As well as having many practical uses, a hedging plant can be an object of visual interest in your garden. Many hedge plants grow beautiful flowers and berries, which can attract and sustain wildlife whilst also serving a decorative purpose. If you want to get creative with topiary, you can prune your hedge plants into amazing shapes and designs, or you can keep it simple with a well-maintained formal hedge.
However, not all hedging plants can suit all of these different uses and purposes. Therefore, when selecting a hedge for your garden, you need to figure out what the right species would be according to your preferences and needs. To help you find the best hedge plants, here are the main factors you need to consider and the top hedge suggestions based on these points.
Factors to Consider When Selecting the Best Hedging Plants
Before you start looking at different hedge species, you need to think about why you’re getting a new hedge in the first place. Are you trying to shield your private garden from a nosy neighbour? Are you looking for some shelter or protection for your smaller plants? Do you just want to add some colour and variety to your outdoor space?
Equally, you need to think about what’s appropriate for your garden. Different hedges prefer different aspects and soil conditions, so you need to consider what plants would grow best in your garden. You should also consider how much work you’re willing to do in your garden, as some hedge plants may be higher-maintenance than others.
Here’s a helpful list of the main factors you need to consider before choosing a new hedge:
Type of Hedge
Hedging plants can be divided into several broad categories, such as evergreen, deciduous, flowering, formal and informal.
Evergreen hedging is best for those who want a consistent screen or boundary all-year round, whereas a deciduous hedge is less susceptible to damage in very windy locations and sometimes preferable if you want a lower-maintenance, more decorative hedge. Similarly, flowering hedge plants are fantastic decorative options.
Formal hedges give a much neater appearance to your garden but require a greater level of maintenance and trimming. On the other hand, an informal hedge is more relaxed and easier to maintain.
When selecting the best hedging plants for your garden, you need to consider what type of soil you have. Different plants will prefer different types of soil, such as dry, moist, chalky or heavy clay, but bear in mind that most plants will not thrive in waterlogged soils.
Temperature and Exposure
Each hedge plant will have different levels of tolerance for various weather conditions and amounts of exposure. For example, some hardy plants will tolerate cold winds and a lot of exposure to the elements, some will be fine with partial shade, and some need a lot of sun and protection from strong winds and freezing conditions.
Next, you can consider the potential height of your new hedge. Some species will grow very tall and will be excellent privacy screens, whereas others will stay small and can be used as shorter boundaries to add structure to your garden.
Some people prefer to plant a mix of native hedging species in their gardens as they are beneficial for the local wildlife. Planting native species can also help your garden look more natural and in sync with other outdoor areas.
Level of Maintenance
Some hedge plants only need regular watering and annual pruning, but others (particularly formal and fast-growing evergreen hedges) need more frequent pruning and maintenance. Consider how much time you have on your hands before you make a purchase!
Finally, you need to think about why you want a hedge. This will determine which hedge species are the best for you.
A new hedge could fulfil a wide variety of purposes, including:
- Privacy screening. Dense foliage will deter unwanted eyes.
- Security. Thorny hedges or those with prickly leaves can protect your garden from intruders.
- Decoration. Hedging plants can be a beautiful addition to your garden, especially if they grow flowers or come in unusual colours.
- Shelter. A tall hedge can be an excellent windbreak for your garden.
- Soundproofing. Tall, dense hedges are also perfect for soundproofing your garden to get some peace and quiet.
- Garden planning. Small shrubs can be used to divide areas of outdoor space to create a neater appearance.
Best Plants for Hedges
Once you’ve considered all of the above factors, you’ll be ready to start looking for your new hedging plant. To help you narrow down your search, here are some of the best plants for hedges and a quick description of their main strengths and weaknesses.
Instant Hedging Plants
For those who don’t want to wait months or even years for their hedge to grow enough to be a decent screen or boundary, instant hedging plants are the way to go. These handy plants are pre-grown as a hedge on our nursery, which means that the plants and roots are already knitted together in the desired shape.
Once you receive your instant hedge, the installation process is extremely simple as you can already gauge the size and requirements of the plant. Planting these hedges will have an immediate impact on your garden, but be aware that these pre-grown hedges will need care and attention in the first two years to help them establish.
Box hedges are extremely popular native plants. Their small, glossy, dark green leaves create a very dense screen for privacy purposes, especially since this plant is also evergreen.
In addition, Box hedges are commonly used as decorative low hedges to add visual interest to outdoor spaces. Thanks to their dense foliage, Box hedges can easily be trimmed into various shapes for topiary and formal hedging.
Overall, the Box hedging plant is hardy and low-maintenance, but one issue is that it’s susceptible to a fungal disease known as box blight. This disease causes brown spots to appear on the leaves, eventually leading to leaf loss and plant death. Box blight spreads in warm and humid conditions, so to prevent it from infecting your hedge, you should only plant it in well-drained soil and avoid pruning while the leaves are wet
Common Laurel or Cherry Laurel is a popular evergreen hedge that’s very fast-growing. This hedge is also quick to establish and tolerant of shade and dry soils, making it ideal for those who want a quick and easy hedging solution.
In addition, Laurel hedging is very visually appealing. In the spring, white flowers bloom among the large, glossy, bright green leaves, which then give way to gorgeous red berries in the autumn.
If you’d prefer a slower-growing variety, then Portuguese Laurel may be perfect for you. This hedge is smaller and darker in colour, and it’s often considered easier to maintain since it won’t grow so quickly.
However, if you’re looking for some of the most fast-growing hedging plants available, Green Leylandii could be the right choice for you. These evergreen trees make the perfect privacy screens and windbreaks due to their height and density. They’re also suitable for most soil types and weather conditions.
However, since they’re so tall and fast-growing, Leylandii hedging plants can sometimes get out of control and cause neighbour disputes. Make sure you trim your Leylandii hedge when necessary, or perhaps opt for the slightly slower-growing Golden Leylandii.
Similar to Leylandii, Thuja hedge plants are fast-growing evergreen conifers that are extremely tall and easy to grow. However, unlike Leylandii, Thuja plants are a bit bushier and slightly slower-growing, making them easier to control and shape. This plant will tolerate most conditions and has a fruity aroma on its foliage, which sets it apart from other hedging varieties.
Yew is another popular native hedge. These evergreen shrubs with needle-like leaves are slow-growing and therefore easier to maintain. Since they can tolerate most conditions except waterlogged soils, they’re a great hedge variety for those who aren’t as confident with gardening. On the other hand, since Yew is a dense hedge that can tolerate close clipping, it’s also one of the best hedge plants for those who love gardening and shaping formal hedges.
These beautiful semi evergreen trees are a fantastic choice for decorative hedging. Rather than completely losing their dark green leaves in the winter months, Green Beech hedges turn a gorgeous golden-brown colour in the autumn, adding a lot of seasonal interest to your garden. Beech hedges thrive in chalky, well-drained soils.
If you want even more decorative impact in your garden across the seasons, then you may prefer the Purple Beech (also known as Copper Beech) variety. These shrubs boast stunning purple foliage in the summer, which transforms into a lovely copper in the autumn. For the best results, plant your Purple Beech in full sun as this enhances the colour saturation.
Hornbeam shrubs are very similar to Beech hedges but can tolerate heavy clay and wet soils, so the variety you choose will depend on the soil type in your garden. Like Beech, Hornbeam is a deciduous tree that doesn’t fully lose its leaves in the winter months. Instead, the dark green foliage turns into gorgeous yellow and orange hues. Hornbeam hedges will tolerate shade and hard pruning, which means they can be used as formal hedging in any garden.
Elaeagnus hedge plants, also known as Oleaster plants, are fast-growing evergreen shrubs that are well-suited to coastal locations due to their tolerance of salt-laden winds. If you live by the coast, Elaeagnus could be the perfect hedge species for a privacy screen or windbreak in your garden.
Elaeagnus hedges also add a lot of visual and seasonal interest. Their green leaves have silver speckles on the top and silver undersides, which is particularly striking when the foliage is ruffled in the breeze. These plants produce orange fruits in the spring and fragrant white flowers in the autumn.
Green Privet is one of the best hedging plants for boundary hedging. This is because of its dense, uniform foliage and tolerance of hard pruning, which makes it easy to shape and maintain. These plants are also fast-growing, hardy, reliable and easy to grow.
Privet hedges are semi-evergreen and produce lovely white flowers in the summer and black berries in the winter, which feed the local wildlife. The classic Green Privet hedge has oval, rich green leaves, whereas the Golden Privet variety boasts a beautiful golden hue that’s at its most vibrant when planted in full sun.
Griselinia, also known as New Zealand Privet or New Zealand Broadleaf, is a low-maintenance evergreen shrub with rounded, leathery, bright green leaves. Like Elaeagnus, Griselinia is suitable for coastal locations as it can tolerate salt-laden winds from the sea. It also thrives in sunny conditions and well-drained soil – wet soils are best avoided.
Holly bushes are an iconic part of the British landscape, especially during the festive season. Holly is a slow-growing, low-maintenance evergreen hedge with very prickly leaves, making it the best hedging plant for deterring intruders.
In addition to being used as security hedging, Holly is an ideal decorative hedge. These hedges produce bright red berries in the winter that add visual interest whilst also providing food for local wildlife.
Although Holly is sometimes regarded as difficult to establish, it can be hardy and withstand exposed sites once it’s mature. Since it’s also easy to maintain, Holly is a great option for those who are new to gardening, but you’ll definitely need thick gardening gloves when pruning!
Photinia Red Robin
One of the best hedging plants for decorative hedging is definitely Photinia Red Robin. This stunning hedge plant boasts a multitude of leaf hues according to maturity, as young leaves start off red and then slowly turn green as they mature.
This broad-leaved evergreen shrub is particularly appealing in the spring and summer, which is when the young leaves appear and transform. White flowers appear in late spring, and the hedge will sometimes produce berries too.
Photinia Red Robin can add a splash of much-needed colour to any garden. However, it may become sparse if left alone, so you’ll need to trim it twice a year in the spring and summer if you want to preserve its density.
If you’re looking for a fast-growing evergreen security hedge, Pyracantha is a great choice due to its dense, thorny structure. In fact, its thorns can grow up to 3cm long, making this hedge a brilliant intruder deterrent. Make sure you wear thick gardening gloves when pruning, which should be around twice a year.
Pyracantha will tolerate most soil types and shady conditions, but if you want its flowers and fruits to grow to their full potential, it’s better to plant this hedge in a sunny spot. Its white flowers bloom in late spring and early summer, and its fruit will emerge in late summer/early autumn and persist into late winter as a valuable food source for birds.
Best Hedge Plants for Different Purposes
With all of this information on popular hedges, you can make the right decision when choosing a new hedging plant. To recap, here are some suggestions for the best plants for hedges in different scenarios.
- Cherry Laurel
- Instant hedging plants
Decorative and Formal Hedges
- Portuguese Laurel
- Photinia Red Robin
- Portuguese Laurel
- Instant hedging plants
Looking After Your Newly Planted Hedges
Whether you want a privacy screen, windbreak, security feature or decorative shrub, finding the best hedge plants for your needs is essential. By considering the conditions of your garden too (e.g., soil type, temperature, exposure), you can ensure that your newly planted hedge thrives.
For more information on how to care for your new hedge, have a look at some of our guides on the Hedging UK website. We have plenty of helpful advice on how to maintain your hedging, including how to plant a hedge, pruning tips and hedge plant spacing guidance. You can also browse our site to discover a wide range of available hedging plants, including container-grown plants, instant hedging and rootballed hedging plants.