Attractive hedges and borders can be made by planting inexpensive and fast-growing shrubs. For success, find a variety of shrub that is adaptable to your region. Other considerations when choosing shrubs are the eventual size, if they are evergreen or deciduous and how often they may need pruning.
The evergreen Japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum) grows to 15 feet tall or more and has an eventual spread of 6 to 8 feet wide. It is adaptable to most soils in USDA horticultural Zones 8 to 10 and can be grown in full sun or shade. The Japanese privet can be tightly clipped and used as a formal hedge or allowed to grow into an attractive small tree. It produces white blooms in the spring followed by dark purple or black berries that are devoured by birds. Because of the wide spreading growth habit, Japanese privet should be planted 5 feet apart to form a dense hedge. It spreads rapidly from seed and can become an invasive and weedy pest in some locations.
The Fraser Photinia (Photinia x 'Fraseri') is heat tolerant and appropriate for growing in USDA horticultural Zones 7 to 8. It is adaptable to most soils. South of Zone 8 the plant can develop fungal problems on older growth. It is also known as a "Red Tip" Photinia in the plant nursery trade. It does best in full sun or part shade and can become rangy when grown in full shade. The desirable feature of the Fraser Photinia, in addition to its fast growth, is the bright red color of the new growth. The evergreen Fraser Photinia produces white blooms in spring that produce a scent that some find objectionable. However, it can be kept sheared into an attractive and long lasting. Although it can grow into a small tree up to 20 feet tall to create a tall border, it usually becomes unattractive and prone to wind damage even when pruned correctly. The Fraser Photinia is most attractive when grown in full sun and sheared in spring and summer to form a dense hedge. Plant Frazier Photinia 3 feet apart to create a full hedge.
Thorny Elaeagnus (Elaeagnus pungens) is also known as silverthorn and is appropriate for growing in USDA horticultural Zones 7 through 9. It is a fast growing shrub to 15 feet and spreads 10 feet or more. Because of the rapid growth rate, the thorny Elaeagnus requires pruning often. The long branches can take over a small area quickly, so the shrub is most attractive in a larger landscape with more room to grow. It produces sweet-smelling white blooms in the spring followed by small red berries that are attractive to wildlife. Plant 5 feet apart to create a dense evergreen hedge. It is adaptable to most soils and grows best in full sun to part shade.
The butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) is a fast growing blooming perennial shrub appropriate for USDA horticultural Zones 5 through 10. The plants are widely available in the nursery trade and are available in a wide variety of blooming colors, from pink to dark purple. Butterfly bush prefers well-drained soil but is highly adaptable to most planting situations. For best bloom production, plant in a full sun location. The eventual height of a butterfly bush can be 15 feet with a spread of 4 to 6 feet. Because the best bloom production is on new wood, deadheading to remove old blooms helps increase the number of blooms produced. It can be cut down to within 6 inches of the ground in winter to create vigorous spring growth.