Hedges are a traditional landscape feature which can serve as a windbreak, screen out unsightly structures, or provide a smooth green backdrop for annual and perennial flower plantings. Hedges are often used in lieu of a boundary fence to define the edge of a property. The best way to plant a hedge varies depending on the type of shrubs being used as well as the purpose for the hedge.
Thick Privacy Hedge
For a thick privacy hedge of either small-leaved deciduous shrubs or conifer shrubs, the Purdue University Cooperative Extension recommends planting in two staggered, evenly spaced rows. For most medium to tall shrub varieties, Purdue recommends a 12-inch spacing between the two rows, and between each plant within the row. Louisiana State University advises that all vegetation should be cleared from the planting area before installing the hedge. Till the soil 2 to 3 feet deep and add plenty of compost to feed your hedge shrubs through many years. Mulch heavily around the base of the hedge plants to keep out other vegetation that may compete with the newly planted hedge.
Narrow Boundary Hedge
To delineate a growing area or mark a boundary where space is limited, plant a single line of a dense, well-branched shrub variety at close intervals--as close as 6 to 8 inches apart. The Purdue University Extension suggests species such as European hornbeam, quince or Washington hawthorn for a compact hedge. For deciduous shrubs such as these, Purdue suggests cutting each plant back to within 6 to 8 inches of the ground immediately after planting, to ensure dense sprouting of multiple branches from the ground up.
Informal Flowering Hedge
The Iowa State Extension service recommends planting hedges in mid-spring and spacing medium-sized shrubs for an informal hedge about 2 to 4 feet apart. Although only one type of shrub is typically used to create a formal sheared hedge, the Louisiana State University Extension suggests that different types of shrubs can be combined effectively, especially for screening purposes. For an informal flowering hedge, selecting a variety of shrubs with different blooming times ensures a continual display of blossoms through the spring, summer and autumn. Holly, viburnum, lilacs, Cornelian cherry and gray dogwood can all be used in an informal flowering hedge. These shrubs can also be interplanted with species with textural and color interest, such as Harry Lauder's walking stick or red and yellow osier, to continue the hedge's visual interest through the winter.