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How to Plant Hornbeam Hedges

By April Sanders ; Updated September 21, 2017

European hornbeams (Carpinus betulus) are classified as medium-sized trees, according to Ohio State University, but they are often cultivated as shrubs. This is due to the fact that these plants tolerate heavy pruning very well, and because they have dense, attractive, evergreen foliage. Hornbeams are also very hardy plants. They are rarely attacked by insects and are adaptable to a wide range of soil and environmental conditions, including poor soils and periods of drought. Planting a hornbeam hedge is as easy as planting several hornbeam plants in a row.

Plant in the spring. Early March is the best time of the year for planting hedges, according to Iowa State University.

Choose a planting site that has at least a half-day of sun exposure. Hornbeams grow best in full or partial sunlight, according to Ohio State University.

Select soil that is well-draining. To test the soil, dig a hole about the size of your shrub's root ball and fill it with water. If it doesn't drain by the next day, the University of Vermont recommends choosing a new location for your hedge.

Decide how close together you want to plant your shrubs. If you are going for the formal, sheared look, you need to plant the shrubs about 1 to 2 feet apart. Less formal, natural-looking hedges should have plants spaced between 2 and 4 feet apart.

Dig a hole for each shrub that is twice as wide but only as deep as the root ball is tall. Cut any roots that are encircling the root ball, then place the plant in the hole.

Backfill the hole about two-thirds of the way with the removed soil, then water it to settle the soil. Continue to fill the hole until it is full.

Build a ring of soil around the shrub. It should be about 2 inches high and about 6 inches from the edge of the original hole. Fill this basin with water. Continue to water for the next few days using this basin until the soil wall melts away.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Watering tool
  • Organic mulch (optional)


  • If your soil is poor or heavy (such as clay soil), you will need to amend the entire planting site with 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch, according to Virginia Tech University. Work it as deeply into the soil as possible before planting your shrubs.