Hedge trees are a great way to add color and structure to your property. They can also be used to increase your privacy without resorting to walls or fencing.
Our list of hedge trees contain suggestions suitable for almost every type of garden. While some, such as box, have been used in gardens for over 2,000 years and were a popular landscape design choice in Roman villas, others are more modern and colorful options. Many of the hedge trees on our list are also popular with pollinators while others produce lots of berries, providing a valuable source of both winter color and food for garden birds.
Hedge trees are a versatile option that can be used in a number of different ways.
One of the most popular hedge trees, the cypress is also easily recognizable thanks to its columnar growth habit.
Coming in a range of colors, from light yellow green or bright green shades to darker, almost gray, varieties one of the most popular types is the Leyland Cypress. This particular plant has a surprisingly quick growth habit meaning that you will need to prune it regularly. Unpruned Leyland Cypress plants can achieve a height of 40 to 60 ft and a spread of around 12 ft within just a few years.
When planting your Cypress hedge trees make sure that you space them around 5 to 6 ft apart, the exact spacing varies depending on the variety you are growing. Cypress plants quickly grow, plugging any gaps, to form pleasingly dense hedging. Once established these plants require watering only during prolonged dry spells and little to no fertilization. The vast majority of Cypress hedge trees are hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 10.
The columnar growth of the Cypress adds height and drama to an area.
A good low maintenance shrub choice, the Viburnum’s vigorous growth habit makes it one of the most reliable hedge trees on our list.
Most Viburnum varieties are hardy in USDA Zones 2 to 9. Some varieties prefer shady areas to sunnier spots, meaning that almost every gardener can find a Viburnum variety that will thrive in their garden.
Pruning regularly can give your Viburnum hedge trees an airy look. It also helps to prevent the plants from becoming leggy. Alternatively the plants can be allowed to develop more branches and thicker growth, helping to increase your privacy. To encourage dense growth, position your Viburnum plants slightly closer together, roughly half the width of the plant’s mature size. For arier or lighter hedging, plant roughly 75% of the width of the mature size.
During the spring and summer months flowers emerge, drawing pollinators to the garden. In the fall, as the flowers fade and berries emerge you can trim the plants back, if necessary. Alternatively the shrubs and berries can be left on the plant to provide shelter and food for garden birds.
Viburnum flowers add color and interest.
Another one of the instantly recognizable hedge trees on our list, the Spruce typically grows in an attractive pyramid shape.
While larger specimens can reach up to 60 ft, smaller or dwarf varieties rarely exceed 5 ft. This makes them ideal for growing in pots or edging walkways and framing entrances. Smaller varieties are good hedge trees, filling out quickly to form a solid, private living barrier.
Thriving in moist soil, these are low maintenance plants that do not require regular fertilization. Most varieties are hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8 but some can also grow in cooler conditions. Low maintenance and long lasting it is easy to see why the Spruce is one of the more popular hedge trees.
Be warned, spider mites and infections can cause the Spruce to drop its needles and become thin. If this occurs it is best to dig up the affected specimens and replant some new specimens.
Best known for their use as Christmas trees, the needles of the Spruce make it a good choice for both security and privacy.
One of the most popular hedge trees, Boxwood, is actually a shrub.
Reliable and versatile, Boxwood can be cut and trimmed into a variety of shapes. This makes it a good choice for people who want to control the shape of their plants or indulge in a little topiary. A reliable plant, even during the darkest winter months Boxwood retains its shape and color. Unlike other hedge trees it wont turn brown or thin.
Typically dark green, some Boxwood varieties can be blue-green or light green in color. During the spring months small yellow flowers bloom, further adding to the attraction of these plants.
A good choice to define spaces, for foundation planting or to line paths and entrance points just make sure that you select a suitable variety. While all varieties are easy to care for, Hedge Boxwood fills in more quickly than most topiary varieties. Tending to keep their shape, this cultivar is also easy to prune, meaning that it is unlikely to overgrow its space. Most varieties are hardy down to USDA Zone 4, however some are only suitable for warmer climates, roughly Zones 7 and higher.
Boxwood is a great choice if you want to shape your specimens.
5 Flowering Quince
If you are looking for hedge trees to enhance your home’s security then Flowering Quince is a great choice. These plants are also a good way to add structure and definition to areas.
During the spring, Flowering Quince plants are covered with red, white and pink flowers. As well as adding color these fragrant flowers also attract hummingbirds and pollinators. While the flowers and foliage may fade the plant’s sharp spines remain. It is this that makes Flowering Quince such a good home security option.
Easy to grow, Flowering Quince can reach up to 10 ft tall. This means that the plants require regular trimming and training to keep them at a lower, more manageable height. A pole saw may be required to maintain taller specimens. A deciduous plant, Flowering Quince is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9.
Flowering Quince brings color as well as structure to a garden.
6 American Arborvitae
One of the more attractive hedge trees on our list, American Arborvitae is a reliable evergreen with an interesting shape.
Arborvitae plants typically have a wide base which slowly tapers towards the top. This gives your hedging an unique appearance. If you dislike this unusual growth habit, you can also trim your American Arborvitae down. Keeping the plants short encourages thicker, fuller growth to form. As well as making good hedge trees, American Arborvitae can also be used to soften house corners or accent a door or gateway.
Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 7 these elegant specimens require little regular care apart from watering during dry spells. Best planted in well draining soil and in full sun, Arborvitae are typically slow growing plants.
Evergreen specimens, during the winter months the foliage of the American Arborvitae provides a welcome shelter for many garden birds while the berries are eaten by squirrels and pine siskins. The berries or cones are light brown in color and can remain on the plant throughout the winter months, providing long lasting interest.
Arborvitae or Thuja creates a thick barrier.
7 Wax Myrtle
Another one of our evergreen hedge trees, Wax Myrtle retains its bright glossy leaves throughout the year in USDA Zones 7 to 9.
A quick growing plant, Wax Myrtle is a great way to introduce both privacy and security to your garden. A single specimen can also make a good focal point. During the spring months green flowers emerge. By the winter these have developed into blue-gray berries that provide a valuable source of winter food to garden birds.
A versatile plant, Wax Myrtle tolerates salty soil and sea spray well, making it a good choice for more exposed positions. For the best possible display, water the soil around your plants regularly. Wax Myrtle can produce between 3 and 5 ft of new growth every year. This means that the plants may require regular pruning to keep them in a neat shape. You should also prune away any branches that are damaged by ice or snow.
One of the most well known evergreens, the Holly plant’s glossy foliage and red winter berries provide year round interest.
A reliable plant, Holly is hardy in USDA Zones 5 and warmer. Some varieties can also tolerate conditions in Zone 4. As well as being good hedge trees, Holly is also a good way to secure your perimeter thanks to its saw-toothed foliage.
Holly plants are dioecious, this means that they are either male or female. If you want red berries, which are produced on female plants, you will need to plant both male and female varieties. A slow growing plant, reaching 15 to 25 ft when mature, space your Holly bushes around 5 ft apart. This gives them lots of room to grow into. For the best possible results enrich the soil before planting and water regularly. Any damaged or diseased branches should be pruned away quickly to prevent disease spreading to the rest of the plant.
The prickly foliage and bright red berries of the Holly bush.
One of the most versatile hedge trees on our list, Juniper is a member of the Cypress family.
Hardy in USDA Zones 2 to 10, these evergreen coniferous trees have distinctive scaly foliage making them an eye-catching choice. Juniper’s thick green foliage remains on the plant throughout the year, sometimes changing from its usual rich green to shades of blue, silver or bronze in the fall. In the spring small green or yellow flowers also emerge.
Juniper is a quick growing plant. Requiring regular watering, if the soil is allowed to dry out the foliage quickly browns and falls from the plant. Mature specimens can reach up to 20 ft if not regularly pruned. As well as a good hedging plant, Junipers also make good specimen plants.
The attractive foliage and berries of the Juniper tree.
Euonymus is one of the most attractive hedge trees, thanks to its foliage which changes from a dark, glossy green to a lighter shade. Some varieties may turn yellow in the fall while others have mottled white and green or yellow and green foliage. These colorful plants form an attractive living barrier, especially when they are in flower or are covered with pink-red winter berries.
Most Euonymus varieties are hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8. When planted in well draining soil these are largely problem free plants. Caterpillars and aphids can be problematic. Infestations are best treated with an application of insecticidal soap. A dose of fertilizer every spring encourages lots of new growth to form. Cut back your Euonymus regularly to prevent it outgrowing its space.
Purchasing lots of new Euonymus plants can be expensive. It is often cheaper, and surprisingly easy, to grow new specimens from cuttings.
A Privet hedge is a common sight in suburban gardens. But while it may be a cliche, there is a reason for its universality. They are excellent hedge trees.
Be careful when choosing your Privet. These plants are quick growing and require regular pruning to keep their growth and shape under control. Due to this fast growth habit, in some areas certain Privet varieties are considered invasive.
Evergreen or deciduous, most Privet varieties are hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8 but this can vary depending on the species. Common Privet is a popular choice thanks to its thick foliage. It is also cold hardy.
Most Privet varieties produce oval or lance shaped glossy green foliage. This provides dense coverage. In late spring and early summer fragrant, tubular white flowers emerge. These are followed by round, black berries. Best planted in full sun, water regularly and fertilized once a year in the spring to encourage lots of fresh, healthy growth.
Privets make excellent hedging trees.
Popular for its fragrant flowers, Oleander is one of the most versatile shrubs or hedge trees on this list.
Oleander can be identified but its dark green narrow, leathery foliage. During the spring and summer pink, white, red or peach flowers can emerge.
Best planted in full or partial sun and well draining soil, Oleander is a sub-tropical plant. Pleasingly low maintenance in southern and coastal areas, these plants tolerate heat, wind and sea spray well.
Hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 10 Oleander plants won’t tolerate temperatures below 20 ℉. Frost can also cause damage in the cooler or more exposed parts of Zone 8.If frost damage does occur, prune the plants back. New growth quickly forms the following spring.
Easy to care for, as this guide shows, these low maintenance plants are pleasingly drought tolerant. Be careful not to overwater the plants, this can cause the foliage to yellow. Pinching out the growing tips prevents legginess and encourages more bushy growth to form. While pinching out can be done at any time of year, pruning and shaping is best done in the fall.
Oleander is poisonous if ingested. Avoid planting in areas with pets and small children. If you have sensitive skin, wear gloves when handling Oleander plants for added protection.
The attractive Oleander plant.
Known for its stiff, thorny branches Firethorn plants are not only a great security choice, the plants can also be trained as an espalier along trellising.
During the spring white flowers fill the branches. In the summer the flowers fade to be replaced by red-orange berries. These are a valuable source of winter food for bids.
An evergreen which is hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 9, the eye-catching Firethorn is deciduous in colder regions. Easy to care for, Firethorn is best planted in full or partial sun and well draining soil. Also known as Pyracantha, Firethorn can reach between 6 and 18 ft in height depending on the variety you are growing. As well as making good hedge trees, these plants can also be grown as specimen or foundation plants, in containers or flower beds.
Pyracantha is a colorful choice.
One of the most visually attractive hedge trees, the large flowers of the Hydrangea provide long lasting color and interest. Whether you are growing the lacecap or mophead variety, these plants provide interest throughout the year.
Interestingly the type of soil you plant Hydrangeas in affects the color of the flowers. The flowers will be blue in acidic soil and pink in alkaline soil. You can also find large white flowering varieties.
Easy to grow and largely pest and disease resistant, most varieties of Hydrangea are hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8. Hydrangeas do best in sunny positions and well draining soil. While these plants love the sun they can struggle if things get too hot. Water regularly and mulch the soil to keep the roots cool during the summer months. Depending on the variety you are growing the plants can reach up to 15 ft in height. If you want to learn more about caring for hydrangeas, this guide will tell you everything that you need to know.
An attractive choice, the Hydrangea adds color and interest.
15 Yew Trees
A member of the conifer tree family, Yews produce red berries and cones instead of flowers. An evergreen plant, the needles can vary in shape and size depending on which variety you have planted.
A perennial, Yews are hardy in USDA Zones 2 to 10. Once established these are low maintenance, versatile and drought tolerant plants. They also tolerate a range of growing conditions. This resilience and versatility helps to make Yews good hedge trees. They are also good specimen plants and can be used to line borders, paths and entry points.
An ancient symbol of Christiantiy, sprigs from the Yew tree have long been used in Christmas decorations along with holly leaves and berries.
Be careful like some of the other suggestions on our list of hedge trees, the needles, fruit and bark of the Yew is toxic to both humans and pets.
The Yew tree is a resilient option.
Hedge Tree Considerations
When selecting your hedge trees there are a few things you should take into account.
Evergreen or Deciduous?
Terms such as evergreen or deciduous can be confusing to novice gardeners. Basically, evergreen plants keep their leaves throughout the year. This means that evergreen trees remain green, providing privacy and interest throughout the year. Additionally, evergreens are also good windbreakers, helping to shelter exposed positions.
Evergreen plants require pruning at least once a year and regular fertilization. A good general purpose shrub fertilizer, such as Miracle Gro Shake ‘N’ Feed Flowering Trees and Shrubs Continuous Release Plant Food, provides a regular source of all the nutrients your plants may need.
Unlike evergreens that can keep the produce new leaves while the old ones remain on the plant, deciduous plants drop their foliage every year. Lush and green during the spring and summer months, during the fall and winter deciduous plants can appear sparse, leaving you with many gaps in your hedging.
When selecting your hedge trees take into account the mature size of the plants. Small low growing plants such as types of boxwood can act as a physical barrier without completely blocking out the outside world. While you can prune any plant to the desired height, selecting plants that reach a low or medium height can make this task a lot easier.
Whatever variety you select, your plants will require some regular shaping and maintenance.
Medium and taller plants often provide far more of a physical barrier than low growing hedge trees. These make it difficult for people to see into or enter your property. However, taller specimens can be more difficult to maintain. In more exposed areas some taller specimens may benefit from the support of a tree stake when they are young or newly planted. These, such as the Dewitt Tree Stake Planting Kit, help your growing plants to develop a strong, upright growth habit.
Finally, take into account other requirements such as soil and light preferences. Before you plant or purchase your hedge trees do a little research. You may need to make amendments to the soil, such as digging in compost to improve drainage before you plant. If you are unaware of the condition of your soil, a soil test kit is a quick way to find out.
Working in some compost or well rotted manure also helps plants to settle more quickly in their new position. Additionally, selecting plants that are suitable to your growing conditions makes ongoing care and maintenance a lot easier.
The right choice of hedge trees can introduce privacy, security and interest to the garden.
Hedge trees are a great way to introduce natural privacy to a space. Providing you with not only a safer, more private space but also a reliable place of shelter and source of food to many garden birds and pollinators. The foliage, flowers and berries also bring year round interest. With all these benefits in mind, why not add some hedge trees to your garden?
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.