Hedges can be attractive and functional additions to landscapes. From only a few feet to as much as 15 feet tall, they may be clipped for a formal look, pruned to control size and shape or allowed to grow into their natural form.
Winter is a great time to plant a hedge, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill. This allows the shrubs to take advantage of the less-stressful conditions during the cool season to get established in the landscape. But don’t expect quick solutions to landscape problems, such as privacy or screening, Gill says.
“Even fast-growing plants will generally take three to five years before they begin to do the intended job,” he says.
Hedges can do an excellent job of creating privacy for outdoor living areas and are less expensive than building a wall or privacy fence while creating a more natural look. And they can screen unattractive views or serve as sound barriers.
“The plants we use for hedges are always evergreen,” Gill says. And they’re generally made of one type of shrub or small tree planted in a single row.
Close spacing helps provide quick results. Most shrubs can be planted 3- to 5-feet apart, but small 2-foot-tall hedges, like clipped boxwood or dwarf yaupon, could be planted closer. And exceptionally wide-growing shrubs, such as Russian olives, can be spaced farther apart.
Gill recommends selecting plants based on your taste, the purpose of the hedge, the desired height and the growing conditions. Besides size, being evergreen and growing fast, consider shrubs that also produce flowers, fragrance or attractive fruit.
A number of shrubs and small trees that are useful for hedges include:
For a 3- to 5-foot hedge: dwarf yaupon holly, Chinese mahonia, dwarf sasanqua, dwarf oleander, azaleas, Indian hawthorn, nandina and Rotunda holly.
For hedges 6 to 10 feet: ligustrum, cleyera, camellia, sasanqua, oleander, dwarf Burford holly, gardenia, pittosporum and Indian azaleas.
For taller hedges and screens: banana shrub, sweet olive, Japanese viburnum, sweet viburnum, Japanese yew, ligustrum, cherry laurel, loropetalum, Russian olive or elaeagnus, pineapple guava, wax myrtle and hollies.
Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.