The most common cedar variety used to create hedges is Thuja occidentalis, or white cedar, because it’s inexpensive, widely available and easy to grow. Growing cedar hedges takes some planning. You’ll need to select a spot where you want a privacy barrier and that is about 3 feet away from roads or walkways where salt may be used during wintertime. Choose a planting site that receives the appropriate amount of sunlight for the specific variety of cedar shrub that you’re planting, usually full sun to partial shade.
Planting Your Cedar Hedges
Plan out your cedar hedge by measuring the desired hedge length. You’ll need to space your cedar shrubs about 1 ½ feet apart, so calculate how many shrubs needed to create the hedge by dividing the required spacing footage by the number of feet measured for your hedge length. For example, if you want an 8-foot-long hedge, you’ll need about five or six cedar shrubs (8 feet / 1.5 feet = 5.33 shrubs).
Dig a trench that is as long as the desired hedge, the same depth as the cedar shrubs’ planting containers and twice the width of the planting containers. Stand the cedar shrubs up in the trench, spacing them about 18 inches apart.
Mix into the displaced soil from the trench some aged manure, peat moss or organic compost. Fill in the trench around the cedar shrubs’ root balls, firming down the soil with your hands and ensuring that the cedars stay standing up straight.
Water the cedar shrubs to soak the soil thoroughly down to the root balls. Apply a transplanting fertilizer, such as a 5-15-5 NPK (Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium) formula.
Spread a 2-inch layer of organic mulch over the trench, leaving a 2-inch gap between the mulch and shrub trunks.
Caring for Your Cedar Hedges
Feed your cedar shrubs a 30-10-10 NPK fertilizer in May, in June and again in July. Fertilize your hedges once in the fall with a slow-release nitrogen and phosphorous feed.
Water your cedar hedges deeply once or twice per week to supplement rainfall. Soak the soil to at least the depth of the cedar shrubs’ roots from spring through fall.
Prune your cedar hedges in the second year, when the shrubs are more than 3 feet tall. Prune your hedges in early spring, trimming 2 to 3 inches off the tops and sides of the hedges using sharp hedge cutters and making clean, even cuts. Make the tops of the shrubs slightly narrower than the bottoms.
Prune your cedar hedges again in mid-summer if heavier pruning is needed. June and early July are the best times to do more vigorous pruning and reduce the height of the hedges if desired.
Remove the snow from the tops of the cedar hedges in wintertime, if you receive more than 3 inches of snow at one time. Removing the snow will prevent the cedar shrubs’ branches from breaking.
Things You Will Need
- Measuring tape
- Cedar shrubs
- Aged manure, peat moss or organic compost
- Garden hose
- 5-15-5 NPK transplanting fertilizer
- Organic mulch
- 30-10-10 NPK fertilizer
- Slow-release nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizer
- Hedge cutters
- Rich topsoil
- If you have sandy soil, mix into the displaced soil generous amounts of aged manure or topsoil. Amend the soil so that it is one-third displaced soil and two-thirds topsoil or manure.
- Spread a 2-inch layer of aged manure, organic compost or rich topsoil around the base of the cedars every spring or fall. Do this during the first three or four years to help the cedar hedges become established.
- Avoid fertilizing your cedar hedges in late summer, because this will impede the shrubs' ability to properly prepare for the winter dormant period.
- Never prune away more than one-third of the entire cedar shrub in a single year, because this can damage the shrub severely and even kill it.