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Advice on Garden Plants and Hedges

By Erika Sanders ; Updated September 21, 2017
Hedges can serve as fences and pathway borders in a garden.

Planting a hedge in your garden creates a sense of privacy, defines a particular outdoor space such as a path or sitting area and can be used as shade for other garden plants. Hedges require regular maintenance to keep them from becoming overgrown. If you are considering a hedge, you want to select the right plants for the hedge's purpose, as well as consider the amount of time and effort you want to put into maintenance.

Decidious Hedges

Deciduous trees and shrubs are those that lose their foliage in the winter. There can be several advantages to planting a hedge of deciduous plants. Many of them flower, providing extra beauty to your garden. When they lose their foliage in the fall, additional light can then get into a garden area, which may be beneficial for other garden plants. Plants that make good deciduous hedges include privet, barberry, lilac and spirea. Deciduous plants may require more regularly watering as they are not all drought tolerant.

Everegreen Hedges

Evergreen plants retain their foliage all year. They make excellent hedges if you want to screen your property from your neighbors or create some other permanent barrier. Evergreen plants can vary widely in size, and include plants as small as boxwoods that grow 3 to 4 feet as well as trees such as cypress and hemlock. Most evergreen plants are drought tolerant and need soil that drains well.


Hedges can also dress up already existing fences. Vines such as clematis and honeysuckle will grow up fences creating a hedge that appears more natural than fencing. Vines on fences also add extra beauty to your garden, particularly during blooming periods. Many vines have specific times of year when they can be pruned. Ask your local nursery for pruning and care instructions.


Hedges need to be pruned at least annually to keep them under control and looking good. After planting, do not let your hedge get too tall before pruning for the first time. It is easier to shape plants when they are smaller and as they grow, then it is to try and force an overgrown hedge back into shape. When pruning, make sure that the top of the hedge is never wider than the bottom. Wide tops will shield lower branches, inhibiting growth. Ideally, you want foliage on your hedges to be full from the base of the plant to the top.


Hedge plants need to be planted densely. If you buy young plants do not plant them so far apart that there will be gaps between them even when they mature. You can purchase more mature plants for an instantaneous hedge. In that case you will have a better sense of how close to place plants. Depending on where you place your hedge, consider other garden plants in the area. If the hedge will create too much shade, you may need to move some plants. Or replace plants that require more sun with plants that prefer shade.


About the Author


Erika Sanders has been writing since 1997. She teaches writing at the Washington State Reformatory and edits the monthly newsletter for the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, a national nonprofit organization. She received her Master of Fine Arts in fiction from the Solstice Program at Pine Manor College in Boston.