Whether you're trying to build a beautiful boundary or divide up an existing garden, choosing the best hedging plants for any situation is essential.
In this guide, we’ll run through everything from traditional Box hedging to more unusual ways to use fruit trees, or maintain roses in formal settings.
Hedging is one of the most important parts of any garden. It’s a beginning and an end to a planting scheme, or a way to add seclusion, privacy, and intrigue to your space.
So read carefully, and hopefully, we can help you decide on the best hedging plants for your garden, regardless of soil type, position, or setting.
20 Best Hedging Plants for US Gardens
Far from the native trees and shrubs of historic hedges, today’s boundary shrubs are diverse and come from all over the world. Below, we’ve got a list of our favorite hedging plants, how to grow them, and what makes them stand out from the crowd.
1. Boxwood (Buxus)
Boxwood, or Buxus, is the world’s most popular hedge. Their tightly packed, waxy evergreen leaves make them ideal for hedges of any height. They can be pruned into a neatly shaped shape right through the year, and the more you cut them, the thicker they grow.
The only downside of Boxwood is box blight. A fungal disease that can kill off every hedge for miles around, leaving little chance of recovery. Find out how to manage box blights here.
Box blight and box caterpillar are spreading through the US at speed, but don’t worry, there are plenty of hedge alternatives that grow quickly, reliably, and can create an even lusher boundary.
2. Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata)
Japanese holly has to be one of my favorite hedging plants because it comes in so many forms. The miniature, rounded holly leaves create a simple structure, and look best when pruned into a downed rectangle, with a rounded top.
They are slower growing than Boxwood so need less pruning in summer but do need pruning twice a year (spring and autumn) to keep their shape in check as they don’t regenerate well from old growth.
3. Firethorns (Pyracantha)
Pyracantha, or Firethorns, are perfect for informal wildlife-friendly hedges. Their bushy habits clamber up supports, and will eventually support their own weight.
In fall and winter, they are covered in bright red or orange berries which are perfect for birds and small mammals. In summer they are swamped by hanging white flowers, giving them year-round interest.
Prune pyracantha in early spring when the berries have dropped (or been eaten) to encourage new growth while keeping the shape and size in check.
4. Beech (Fagus)
Beech is one of the best deciduous hedges you can grow, but copper beech in particular is a stunning border to any garden. The burgundy foliage starts as soft russet leaves in spring, and turns to a deep blood-red through summer and fall, fading back to burnt orange in late fall.
While Beech is deciduous, it can hold its crisp leaves until new growth pushes it off in spring, making it a useful alternative to maples or forsythia.
If you want an evergreen hedge that’s easy to prune and can cope in every corner of the garden, go for yew. Yew trees grow well in full sun and partial shade, and while they don’t like full shade, they can cope better than most.
The tight evergreen needles of yew hedges are perfect for topiary, and crisp corners, so are the most durable alternative to box hedges if you need to replace them.
6. Fruit trees
Fruit trees might not seem like a practical hedge, and they definitely take more work and practice than others, but you can create gorgeous pleached hedges by training young fruit trees into fans.
Training fruit trees this way takes up less space too, meaning your borders can be wider, and your hedge is a productive part of the vegetable garden too.
To create a fruit tree hedge, try cherry or apple as they are less disease prone than most. Buy young trees (3ft tall) and prune out any leading shoots. Plant them 3-4ft apart and train any side shoots horizontally.
Prune unwanted shoots in fall after fruiting, back to a group of leaves. This creates new growth next year, and the leaf cluster is where fruit will develop.
Fuchsia is an undersung hero of the hedging world. Most cultivars grow to a maximum of 2m tall, and they can be pruned hard in winter for a vigorous display of flowers the following year.
Alternatively, you can prune them into neat cubes after flowering in late summer to encourage shorter shoots that will flower the following year.
8. Shrub Roses / Dog Rose
Shrub roses, or even wild dog roses, can be trained into utterly beautiful scented hedges. Just make sure to cut them back carefully after flowering each year.
When flowers finish, cut back to a young bud on this year’s growth. Remove any woody growth or dead stems regularly.
9. Barberry (Berberis)
Berberis is a simple hedge, and particularly good if you want something striking without growing too tall. While berberis can reach 2m, they look best when kept to about 1m tall, and 0.5m wide, with a rounded top so their new growth (usually right pink or red) can shine through from all angles.
Prune berberis regularly to maintain a good shape, but leave it be through spring and early summer so you can enjoy the vivid new growth.
We changed about half of our hedges and topiary to pittosporum this year after suffering from box caterpillars. Box caterpillars aren't a permanently damaging pest for box, but once it’s in your garden it’s very difficult to manage. Thankfully pittosporum has virtually no significant pests and is virtually disease free.
What I really enjoy about pittosporum is that you can prune it really quite hard, so once a plant is reasonably established you can create any shape you like, and then just wait for the new growth to bush back around its new form.
Laurel has got a bad name recently, through no fault of their own. Because laurel is such a cheap hedging plant it is used widely by developers so immediately reminds most people of new build estates, with homes packed tightly together, and laurel bordering each and every garden.
But rather than decry its use, it’s worth remembering that laurel is an incredibly resilient plant, laden with wildlife-friendly berries in late summer, and covered in neat spires of white flowers in spring.
For a more formal hedge, try Portuguese laurel, which responds very well to regular trimming. Learn more about the types of hedges and how to trim them in our ultimate hedge trimming guide.
12. Golden Bells (Forsythia)
Forsythia isn’t for everyone, because for most gardeners hedges are primarily for screening and privacy, but once forsythia has grown up and matured even its bare stems will obscure your yard for nosey neighbors.
In spring, their bare stems are covered in vivid, custard-yellow flowers with a gorgeous honey or violet scent (you can get white forsythia too, for a more delicate approach).
That is followed by about eight months of bushy green hedging, which can either be pruned into a neat form or left to grow ragged and wild for birds to nest.
13. Hawthorn (Crataegus)
I adore hawthorn hedge. Right through summer, they are filled with wildlife, and native birds love to hide in the safety of their spiny branches feeding on fresh young berries.
There are many different forms of hawthorn, and they can all be pruned any way you see fit, into any shape, and at any time.
Something a little different, which will no doubt become more popular, is the low maintenance, evergreen, long flowering Abelia, which thrives in any soil condition, and in most lights.
Abelia is a shrub but can be grown quite tightly together to create an instant hedge from semi-mature plants. Their white and pink flowers are held right through summer, into fall, and leaves colorful sepals and seed pods behind to add interest all year round.
Abelia is best left to grow bushy and informally, but like most flowering hedges will still perform well if pruned into a stricter rectangular l form.
15. Spindletree (Euonymus)
The thick waxy leaves of Euonymus are versatile and come in shades of white, green and yellow, with gorgeous variegations on many cultivars.
Be sure to check the variety when you’re planning your hedge though as you can buy prostrate (trailing) or fastigiate (upright) euonymus and it’s the fastigiate plants that make the best hedges.
16. Juniper (Juniperus)
Juniper is a type of conifer but, unlike most conifers, grown best with regular pruning. Pruning juniper helps them generate the energy needed to produce vast amounts of berries, and also keeps them to a neat and manageable size.
Simply cut them with shears or a hedge trimmer whenever they look untidy. Ideally, prune juniper in spring, and again once berries are finished in fall.
17. Privet (Ligustrum)
Privet can be kept as a formal hedge, or informal border shrub, and is much less susceptible to disease than its most common rival, box.
The larger leaves create an airier plant, but also make it slightly more vigorous through late spring and summer when new stems protrude and need trimming to keep formal hedges looking their best.
18. Flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa)
As well as producing masses of hard-fleshed fruit, which makes a delicious jam, flowering quince is covered in bright pink or red blooms in spring. If left to grow bushy, the effects of flowering quince on larger gardens is just glorious.
Like most fruit trees, quince likes plenty of light and lots of water, so find a good bright spot, on fertile soil where it can thrive with little to no care or attention for years.
19. Holly (Ilex aquifolium)
Holly, the traditional Christmas wreath plant, is a perfect addition to any garden, whether it’s as a hedge, a tree, or a shrub. Holly can be pruned into any shape or form.
However, when they establish, they grow quickly after pruning so once they reach around 2m tall, it’s advisable to prune them regularly throughout the year to prevent them from becoming unmanageable.
20. Lilac (Syringa)
Lilac, another deciduous hedge, is renowned for its scent. The overpowering fragrance fills the garden in early spring, before the rest of the garden kicks into gear, and can be cut into a neat form as soon as flowering finishes.
Then, allow the plant to regenerate new growth for flowering the following year.
Hedging Plants Frequently Asked Questions
What is the fastest growing hedging plant?
Fuschias, photinia, or leylandii are the fastest growing hedging plants, proving quick growth with very little care. Like all hedging, it’s worth limiting their growth in the first few years with gentle pruning to encourage bushier forms overall, but if left to their own devices they can reach several meters tall in their first few years.
What is the easiest hedging plant to maintain?
Traditionally, box was the easiest hedging plant to maintain, thanks to its predictable growth, and relatively straightforward pruning requirements, but in recent years, there have been health problems spreading around the globe, affecting box plants in particular.
Privet hedges are easy-to-grow alternatives, but for truly low-maintenance hedges, try Portuguese Laurel, which grows slowly, and keeps its form, even when cut back hard.
What is the best evergreen hedge?
Most hedging plants are evergreen, but there are a few exceptions. For reliable evergreen hedging consider Japanese holly, yew, or laurel.
While they replace their leaves in spring and summer, they are never left bare, and all have periods of interest all year round, whether through berries, or autumn color.
What is the cheapest hedging plant?
Laurel is the cheapest common hedging plant you can buy as it grows well from cuttings and layering, making it easy to reproduce in nurseries. 20ft of laurel hedging can cost as little as $100 from some suppliers, depending on its age, size, and health.
For an even cheaper alternative try a non-spreading bamboo, which retains year-round structure, and provides a budget-friendly alternative to traditional hedges.
Is it better to buy bare root hedging plants?
Bare root hedges are cheaper, as they are grown in loose fertile soil, without the need for excessive irrigation or pots, and take up less space during transportation.
However, it's worth considering exactly when you will plant your hedges, as bare root hedging should only be planted between late autumn and early spring while the plant is dormant, or less active.
This allows the roots to make quick contact with soil and burst into life in spring.
What is the hardiest hedge?
Despite its vivid tropical blooms, forsythia is hardy in almost all situations, with great wind, salt, and drought resistance, as well as being able to tolerate long frosts over winter.
However, every single one of the hedging plants listed in our guide is hardy down to at least zone 7.
How do you plant a hedge?
For their first year, hedges can be slow to establish, so it's important to prepare the ground before planting a new hedge. To prepare the ground for hedging, remove any visible weeds by hand, then dig over a trench at least twice as wide as the root balls on your hedge plants.
Remove any underground roots, and add organic matter (compost or manure) to the loose soil. Place hedging plants around 2-3ft apart, then backfill around them, and soak the area.
Add More Aesthetics and Privacy by Planting the Best Hedging Plants
I’m a sucker for a messy hedge. There’s something just beautiful about a floriferous hedge, packed with summer blooms that speaks to me. So for me, it’s got to be Fuschia, pouring over low walls, or in informal domed hedges throughout the garden, that truly changes a space.
For you, it might be different, but now you know the benefits, and challenges of all types of hedging, you can start your own journey. What are you waiting for? Go out, and get planting!