no. 7.208

Hedges

by J.E. Klett and R. Ford* (9/11)

Quick Facts...

  • Plants used for hedges should be uniform and healthy.
  • Pruning can help renew a hedge that has been neglected.
  • For less maintenance and minimal pruning plant an informal hedge.

Using closely-planted shrubs to create a hedge adds functional beauty to a landscape. A hedge can be used as a windbreak, living fence, a barrier for noise abatement or as a foundation backdrop. Formal and informal landscapes can both benefit from hedge plantings. Understanding species selection, planting procedures and pruning are important when planning and maintaining a hedge.

Selection

Shrubs for hedges should be healthy and uniform. When selecting plants for a hedge, consider the area’s location, exposure, space for growth and desired landscape effect. Shrubs such as privet, arborvitae and viburnum respond well to shearing and are a good choice for a formal landscape. Use lilac, dogwood or juniper in informal landscape planting for a more natural look. For yearround screening, use evergreens such as yew, juniper or hardy forms of boxwood. Consider budget, availability and immediate needs when selecting materials. Large ball-andburlap shrubs are more expensive and more difficult to handle but will have a mature look more quickly. Shrubs in small number five to number fifteen plastic containers are less costly but need more time to grow into a dense hedge. Using bareroot nursery stock makes a hedge planting more affordable. Not all retail nurseries carry bareroot stock—check with local nurseries in early spring.

Planting

After a site has been selected for the hedge planting, consider the height and spread that the area can accommodate. Improperly placed shrubs may overtake walkways and yards, or crowd access ways, easements, and property lines. Planting and spacing shrubs according to their mature height and spread will reduce maintenance problems later. Also be cautious when planting near or under utility areas.

Hedges which will be sheared, or kept formally, are planted closer together. Natural, informal hedges are planted at a wider spacing and allowed to grow together. For help with spacing refer to the included table; in which plant sizes are based on height and spread on three average years of growth. All hedge material will need to be planted into soil that has been amended to meet the various species requirements. Refer to Colorado State University Extension fact sheet 7.235–Choosing a Soil Amendment. Don’t forget that adequate watering is necessary to establish plant material. In the first season use a soaker hose, or drip irrigation with mulch to reduce drying from sun and wind. Success with bareroot nursery stock will depend on planting early in the spring and maintaining proper soil moisture. To learn more about specific planting techniques refer to Colorado Master Gardener Garden Notes 636.

Pruning

Hedges can be maintained in either a natural or formal form (sheared). Proper pruning is important for training and maintaining a healthy hedge. All hedges need regular pruning in order to maintain shape and increase density. Natural form hedges require less maintenance and are ideal in an informal landscape. Pruning to remove old, broken, diseased or unfavorable growth is sometimes needed. Species used informally are spaced so natural habit and form can be preserved.

Sheared hedges require more maintenance. Shearing trains and helps. maintain the proper shape of the hedge so that a dense growth habit can develop. Privet, boxwood, yew, and currants are shrubs that respond well to shearing and are often used in formal landscapes. Once a hedge has been trained, the frequency of pruning will depend on species and landscape use. Commitment to a pruning schedule will make the difference between a beautiful or an overgrown hedge.

If shrubs have gotten too large, it is possible to rejuvenate certain species. Plantings of lilac or honeysuckle, for example, can be pruned using renewal and thinning cuts on the old wood. Some species are easier to maintain and renewal prune than others. Overall success with a hedge will depend on understanding and coordinating proper pruning on a regular basis. Refer to Colorado Master Gardener Garden Notes 619 on pruning shrubs.

Table 1. Deciduous and Evergreen Shrubs for Hedge Use

Species Cultivars Height Spread Light Comments
Deciduous Shrubs*
small shrubs (generally mature < 6ft)
Berberis x mentorensis   4-6' 6' sun/part sun dense, thorny, dark green leaves, holds foliage late in winter
     Mentor Barberry         excellent planting for barriers
Berberis x 'Tara'   4-5' 5' sun deer resistant, heavily thorned, yellow flower, red fruit with red fall color; holds foliage late into fall
     Emerald Carousel®
          Barberry
         
Berberis thunbergii   3-5' 5' sun green foliage, adaptable to all but wet conditions, heavily thorned, good for barriers; red leafed forms available
     Japanese Barberry          
Caragana frutex 'Globosa' 2-3' 3' sun dark blue-green foliage, slow-growing dense globe shaped
     Globe Russian
           Peashrub
         
Cornus sericea 'Isanti' 3-5' 5' sun/shade dense and compact, red twigs
     Isanti Dogwood         white flowers and white fruit when not sheared
Euonymus alatus 'Compacta' 4-5' 5' sun/part sun brilliant crimson leaves for fall, responds to shearing
     Dwarf Burning Bush         yellow flowers in spring prior to leafing out, bronze fall color
Forsythia x intermedia         yellow flowers in spring prior to leafing out, bronze fall color
     Lynwood Gold
           Forsythia
'Lynwood' 6-7' 7' sun/part sun excessive pruning in fall results fewer flowers in spring
     Spring Glory
           Forsythia
'Spring Glory' 4-6' 5' sun clonal selection with better flower bud hardiness
     Northern Sun
           Forsythia
'Northern Sun' 4-6' 5' sun clonal selection with better flower bud hardiness
Ligustrum x vicaryi   4-6' 3' sun golden leaves hold late into season, less hardy than "Cheyenne' privet
     Golden Vicary Privet          
Ligustrum vulgare 'Lodense' 2-3' 3' sun/part sun very compact, xeric
     Lodense Privet          
Lonicera x xylosteoides 'Clavey's Dwarf' 4-6' 4' sun/part sun yellow to white flowers, grey - green leaves
Clavey's Dwarf
           Honeysuckle
         
Physocarpus monogynus   3-4' 4' sun/part sun native, bark sheds into paper thin layers
     Native Ninebark          
Potentilla fruticosa   3-4' 4' sun yellow flowers early, compact, rounded
     Shrub Potentilla ' Abbotswood' 2-3' 3' sun white flowers, spreading
  'Gold Drop' 2-3' 3' sun bright green leaves with smaller yellow flowers
  ' Jackmannii' 2-3' 4' sun bright yellow flowers all season, upright rounded habit
Ribes alpinum   3-5' 6' sun/shade good for shearing, good green foliage
     Alpine Currant          
Ribes aureum   4-6' 6' sun/shade native, red fall foliage, fragrant yellow flowers
     Golden Currant          
Rosa x Meidiland®   3-4' 5' sun available in many colors, white, pink, red, fuchsia
     Meidland® Rose
           Series
        flowers throughout summer
Rosa x Carefree Series   2-3'   sun double or single flowers throughout growing season
     Carefree Wonder,
           Carefree Delight
         
     Carefree Beauty,
       Carefree Sunshine
         
Rosa x 'Rad Razz' Knockout   2-3'   sun single flowers throughout growing season
Spirea x japonica 'Froebelii' 3-4' 5' sun natural rounded form
     Spirea 'Anthony Waterer' 2-3' 5' sun leaf color purple red, then matures to dark green
Spirea nipponica 'Snowmound' 3-5' 5' sun white flowers, blue-green leaves
     Spirea          
Syringa patula 'Miss Kim' 3-5' 5' sun good for small gardens, pale lilac flowers
     Dwarf Lilac          
Viburnum opulus          
     European
           Cranberrybush
          Viburnum
'Compactum' 4-5' 5' sun/part sun white flowers, scarlet fruit, compact rounded habit
medium shrubs (generally mature < 10ft)
Cornus alba 'Argenteo-marginata' 6-8' 8' part sun white-edged leaves
     Variegated
           Dogwood
         
Cornus sericea          
     Redosier Dogwood 'Baileyi' 6-8' 8' sun/part sun very adaptable, red stems in winter
Cotoneaster lucidus (aka acutifolius)   6-8' 5' sun black fruit, tolerates extreme pruning, good fall color
     Hedge
           Cotoneaster
           (Peking)
         
Euonymus alatus 6-8' 8'   sun/part sun deer resistant, brillant red fall color, corky wings more prominent
     Burning Bush          
Forestiera neomexicana   6-8' 6' sun olive-green leaves, finely twigged, yellow flowers in early
     New Mexico Privet          
Hibiscus syriacus many clones available 6-8' 6' sun dark green foliage turns pale yellow in fall, showy late flower
     Rose-of-Sharon          
Ligustrum vulgare 'Cheyenne' 6-8' 6' sun/part sun glossy green foliage, dense, responds well to shearing,
     Cheyenne Privet         good formal hedge, white flowers and black fruit when not sheared
Philadelphus lewisii 'Cheyenne' 6-8' 6' sun/part sun thrives with no special care, fragrant white flowers in spring
     Cheyenne Mock
           orange
         
Physocarpus opulifolius 'Diablo' 6-7' 6' sun purple red foliage, layered bark
     Ninebark 'Luteus' 6-7' 6' sun yellow new foliage color, layered bark
Prunus x cistena   6-8' 4' sun purple foliage all season
     Purple Leaf Sand
           cherry
         
Spiraea x vanhouttei   6-8' 10' sun fountain habit, white flowers in spring
     Vanhoutte Spirea          
large shrubs (generally mature > 10ft)
Caragana arborescens   10-15' 5' sun/pt sun good for screens and windbreaks
     Siberian Peashrub          
Lonicera korolkowii 'Floribunda' 10-12' 8' sun blue-green foliage, pink flowers, Plant Select®: 1999
     Blue Velvet Blueleaf
           Honeysuckle
         
Prunus tomentosa   6-10' 8' sun/part sun good bird habitat, red fruit, pink flowers in spring
     Nanking Cherry          
Rhamnus frangula 'Columnaris' 8-12' 3' sun upright growth habit, glossy green leaves
     Columnar Buckthorn          
Sambucus canadensis 'Aurea' 8-12' 6' sun good fruit, white flower, new foliage yellow
     Golden Elder          
Sambucus pubens   4-12' 12' sun/shade red berries late summer to fall, dark green leaves
     Native Elder          
Syringa vulgaris   10-12' 12' sun/part sun fragrant purple flowers in spring, prone to powdery mildew
     Common Lilac 'Alba' 8-12' 12' sun/part sun very hardy, fragrant white flowers in spring
Viburnum opulus          
     Snowball
           Viburnum
'Roseum' 8-12' 5' sun/part sun profusion of sterile white flowers, xeric, aphids often a problem
Evergreen Shrubs*
small shrubs (generally mature < 6ft)
Buxus sempervirens          
     Boxwood 'Julia Jane' 3-5' 3' part sun/shade dark green foliage, hardier form
Pinus mugo 'Slowmound' 3-5' 4' sun remains dwarf, dark green foliage
     Slowmound Mugo
          Pine
         
Taxus x media 'Densiformis' 3-4' 8' part sun/shade tolerates shearing
     Dense Yew          
Thuja occidentalis 'Hetz Midget' 3-4' 3' sun slow growing, rounded dense growth habit
     Hetz Midget
          Arborvitae
         
medium shrubs (generally mature < 10ft)
Buxus sempervirens          
     Boxwood 'Green Tower' 6-8' 2' part sun/shade upright habit, good green leaf color in winter
Juniperus chinensis 'Blue Point' 8-10' 4' sun/part sun maintains shape with little shearing, sets fruit
     Blue Point Juniper          
Taxus x media 'Hicksii'   8-12' 4' part sun/shade upright habit, darker green foliage in winter
     Upright Yew          
large shrubs (generally mature > 10ft)
Juniperus scopulorum 'Wichita Blue' 8-12' 5' sun tolerates shearing
     Rocky Mountain
          Juniper
         
Thuja occidentalis          
     Arborvitae 'Degroot's Spire' 10-12' 3' sun/part sun tolerates shearing
  'Emerald' 10-12' 4' sun/part sun does not yellow in winter, dark green foliage

*based on three years of growth

*J.E. Klett, Colorado State University Extension specialist and professor, horticulture and landscape architecture; R. Ford, former undergraduate environmental horticulture student. 9/2011

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