Carefully pruned hedges add an attractive and elegant finishing touch to yards and gardens. They also serve more practical purposes by defining lot lines and providing privacy. Not all hedging plants do well in shady areas. Care must be taken in choosing varieties that will thrive when overshadowed by buildings, trees or other obstructions.
The English laurel thrives in many locations where other species are doomed to failure. It adapts well to a wide range of soil types and maintains its bright green color in full or partial shade. Known botanically as Prunus laurocerasus, this evergreen grows quickly in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 9. English laurel can easily reach 8 to 10 feet in width and must therefore be pruned faithfully to keep it a manageable size.
The dense foliage of common boxwood is easily shaped, making this plant an choice for a formal hedge, ornamental shrub or topiary. Boxwood or Buxus sempervirens, is shade tolerant but will do equally well in full sun in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 8. As a hedging plant, it typically grows no more than 18 to 24 inches wide, ideal for tight spaces or smaller gardens. Hedges are easily maintained by shearing as new growth is usually just a few inches per year.
The common yew, or Taxus baccata, has very dense, tightly woven foliage that holds sharply defined geometric shapes and lines well. This yew tree is suitable for USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 7 and does well in virtually any location from full shade to full sun. The common yew grows slowly, which minimizes the amount of pruning required. However this also means that hedges will take a number of years to reach significant size.
The Japanese laurel, or Aucuba japonica, is a shade-loving plant that can be easily trained into a hedge. The dark green leaves are decorated with bright yellow spots, making this plant a colorful alternative to other hedging plants. Further color is added to female plants by the red berries that appear in the fall.