This is your mini-encyclopedia of tree hedges. Here, you will find a brief history and details of the popular tree hedge types.
When it comes to adding some lush greenery to your home, a few options are available to you. But if you're looking for something more substantial than a few potted plants, you might want to consider a tree hedge. Essentially, it's a row of trees planted close together and trimmed to create a hedge.
Tree hedges have been used for centuries to create privacy, define property lines, and add aesthetic appeal to a home. There are many different types of tree hedges, each with its own unique look and purpose.
This article will explore the most popular types and the factors to consider before selecting one for your own home.
Before we jump onto the types, let's quickly go over the history of tree hedges.
Brief History of Tree Hedges
Throughout the centuries, hedges have been used for various purposes, including as windbreaks, to keep livestock contained, and as privacy screens. In fact, they were even mentioned in the Bible!
Hedges have been in use for over 2000 years. The garden landscapes of the Roman villas used Box hedges. Knot gardens with yew or box were introduced in England during the sixteenth century. Parterres were in trend during the 18th and 19th centuries and were heavily used in the French and English gardens.
Over the years, hedges have evolved, and they are now commonly used as security and ornamental features in gardens.
Now that we've covered the brief history of tree hedges, let's move on to the types.
Different Types of Tree Hedges
In this segment, you will learn about the various tree hedges, their properties, and benefits.
Cypress is one of the most popular types of tree hedges. It is an evergreen conifer hedge that can grow tall, making it an excellent choice for privacy hedges. Cypress is also very drought-tolerant and can withstand harsh weather conditions. They grow up quickly and need regular pruning during the growing period. You can find them in different colors ranging from yellow-green to bright green shade, and even a little gray. Within a few years, they can reach a height of about 40 to 60 ft (1219 to 1828 cm) and 12 ft (365 cm) spread.
These plants grow quickly and form a dense hedge. You should space them about 5 to 6 ft (152 to 182 cm) apart when planting. However, this spacing varies depending on the variety of Cypress. The most popular type of Cypress used for a hedge is the Leyland Cypress. Most varieties are hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 10. One of the main benefits of Cypress is that it is very low-maintenance. Once established, they can do just fine without regular watering or little to no fertilizers.
Viburnum is a type of flowering shrub that is often used as hedges. It is a fast-growing plant that makes it a popular choice for privacy hedges. Viburnum has a dense growth habit and can be easily trimmed into different shapes. Most varieties of Viburnum are hardy in USDA Zones 2 to 9. These hedges are low-maintenance and can tolerate different growing conditions. They are available in many different varieties, each with its own unique set of features. For example, the Arrowwood Viburnum has attractive fall foliage, while the Doublefile Viburnum is known for its beautiful white flowers.
Some people want a thick private hedge, while others prefer it to be airy. You can achieve your desired look by properly spacing Viburnum plants. If you want a thick hedge, then plant the trees close together. However, if you want an airy look, space them further apart. You can see flowers during the summer and spring months. And it's best to trim the plants after the spring when the flowers have fallen.
Spruce is another popular type of tree hedge. It is an evergreen conifer known for its dense growth habit and distinct shape. Easily recognized by their pyramidal shape, the large spruce can reach around 60 ft (1828 cm), while the smaller ones touch around 5 ft (152 cm). The smaller ones are ideal for walkways, edging, and foundation planting. But if you want a thick privacy hedge, then plant the larger ones.
Spruce is a low-maintenance plant that is very drought-tolerant. With USDA Zones 3 to 8, they can grow in several conditions. They thrive in moist soil but do not demand regular fertilization. Spruce is easy to maintain and only requires pruning every few years to keep them in shape. However, they are susceptible to damage from any infection or spider mites. If it happens, the spruce can lose its needles and become thin. In such a situation, it's best to replace the affected plant.
Boxwood is one of the most preferred and reliable hedge options. It is often called a tree, but It is an evergreen shrub. You can trim boxwood into different shapes and sizes, making it ideal for topiary. It's a solid hedge that maintains its shape and color even during the darkest winter months. Typically, they are dark green; however, you can also find some blue-green or light green varieties.
These are most suitable for line paths or creating borders around the property, defining the place. They are very attractive and give a classic look to the area. Moreover, the small yellow flowers that bloom during the spring add to the beauty. Another feature that makes it a popular choice is that it fills in quickly. They are perfect for USDA Zones 4 to 8 and can tolerate full sun or partial shade. However, some varieties prefer warmer conditions.
The flowering quince is a deciduous shrub grown for its beautiful flowers. It is related to apples and pears. They have sharp spines that make them an ideal choice to enhance security. These plants typically grow up to 10 ft (304 cm) tall, and they can be easily trimmed to the desired size. They are most preferred for their showy, vibrant flowers that bloom during the spring. The plants are loaded with white, pink, and red flowers with amazing fragrances attracting hummingbirds and pollinators.
This is one of the best flowering shrubs for hedges. The flowers and foliage will dry, but the spines will remain, providing security. Flowering quince is perfect for USDA Zones 5 to 9. They are very low-maintenance and can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions. But they prefer well-drained, moist soil.
American Arborvitae is a reliable evergreen choice and is easily recognizable due to its unique shape. They are wider at the bottom and gradually narrow towards the top. This makes up for a unique look in the garden, plus they are slow-growing plants making them low maintenance. They are perfect for creating privacy hedges or as a foundation planting. The American arborvitae is a popular choice for hedges and privacy screens.
This evergreen conifer can grow up to 50 to 70 ft (1524 to 2133 cm) tall. However, the dwarf variety only reaches around 3 to 4 ft (91 to 122 cm). They are perfect for USDA Zones 3 to 7 and thrive in well-draining soil and full sun. You can use them as a specimen plant or foundation planting. However, they are also popular for creating privacy hedges and windbreaks.
The wax myrtle is an evergreen shrub preferred for its attractive foliage and berries. It is also called southern bayberry or southern wax myrtle. The plant is native to the southeastern United States and grows in different habitats. They are often used as hedges or foundation plantings. Wax myrtles can also be used as a specimen plant or pruned into different shapes. Growing 3 to 5 ft (91 to 152 cm) a year, they grow quickly and thick, offering great privacy and security.
The plant flourishes in moist soil and prefers full to partial sunlight. It has small green flowers that bloom during the spring, and during the winter, you get blue-gray berries. The berries are very attractive to birds. You will have to water them regularly, plus it is advised to prune the damaged limbs to maintain their shape and size.
Holly is a broadleaf evergreen known for its glossy, prickly leaves and red berries. It is a popular choice for hedges and topiary. The plant is dioecious, meaning there are male and female plants. The female plant produces berries while the male plant does not. Holly is relatively a slow-growing hedge that reaches a height of around 15 to 25 ft (457 to 762 cm). They are perfect for creating privacy hedges and topiary.
The plant prefers full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. Plant them in the spring for the best results. It's best to plant them at a 5 ft (152 cm) distance to grow without crowding. They are perfect for USDA Zones 5 to 9. You will have to water them and fertilize them once a year regularly.
The Juniper is an evergreen conifer that has needle-like leaves. They are popular for privacy hedges, topiary, and foundation plantings. Junipers are available in various colors, shapes, and sizes. They grow fast and can reach a height of about 15 to 20 ft (457 to 609 cm). Juniper maintains the thick green foliage throughout the year; however, it changes shades from green to bluish to silver or bronze in fall. You get beautiful green or yellow flowers during the spring.
The plants require moisture, so you need to water them regularly. If the soil goes dry, the foliage will quickly brown and fall. One more thing to notice is that the berries, needles, and stems of Juniper are mildly toxic to cats and dogs if consumed. So, if you have pets, this isn't the best option. However, they are a great plant for hedges.
Euonymus is a broadleaf evergreen that is native to Asia and Europe. It is also known as burning bush or spindle. With foliage that changes from dark green to light green, this makes for a lovely hedge choice. Some varieties turn yellow in the fall, while others have mottled green and yellow or green and white foliage. Euonymus can grow about 10 to 20 ft (304 to 609 cm) tall, making it a perfect hedge for privacy.
The plant prefers full sun; however, it can tolerate partial shade. It grows best in moist, well-drained soil. You should fertilize the plant once a year in the spring for the best results. Euonymus is perfect for USDA Zones 4 to 8. You will need to water them, especially during the summer regularly.
Privet is a fast-growing, deciduous shrub known for its white flowers and glossy green leaves. It is a popular choice for hedges and topiary. Privet can grow up to about 6 to 12 ft (182 to 365 cm) tall and has a dense, compact growth habit. However, it grows fast, so it needs regular pruning to maintain its shape.
Most varieties are hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8; however, they vary per species. Privet prefers full sun to partial shade and grows best in moist, well-drained soil. Water regularly and fertilize one in spring to get a healthy and attractive hedge. You get a dense coverage of oval or lance-shaped glossy green foliage. The late spring and early summer blossom tabular white flowers, followed by blackberries.
Oleander is a small evergreen hedge tree or shrub popular for showy, fragrant flowers. It is a prevalent choice for hedges, screens, and foundation plantings. The sub-tropical plant is recognized by the dark narrow, leathery foliage. They can be grown in various growing conditions and are low maintenance in coastal areas. Moreover, they are drought-tolerant, but frost can damage them, and they can't bear temperatures below -6° C (20 ℉).
However, pruning the damaged plants will encourage rapid new growth, and it's best to do the pruning in the fall. You will see white, pink, red, or peach flowers during the spring and summer months. They are very fragrant and grow in clusters, adding to the beauty of the hedge. Oleander is poisonous if consumed, so avoid it if you have kids or pets.
Firethorn is a fast-growing, deciduous shrub preferred for its red berries and sharp thorns. Also known as Pyracantha, they are an ideal option for security and can also be used as an espalier. It's an evergreen shrub that is hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 9; however, it is deciduous in colder regions. Firethorn can grow about 6 to 18 ft (182 to 548 cm) tall and has a dense, compact growth habit.
The plant prefers full sun to partial sun and grows best in well-draining soil. During the spring, its branches are loaded with white flowers. They fall and get replaced by bright red-orange berries in the summer. Firethorn makes an excellent hedge, and you can also grow these plants as specimens or foundation plants.
Hydrangea is a deciduous shrub that is known for its large flower clusters. It is a popular choice for hedges and foundation plantings. Most varieties are hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8, and they do grow best in well-draining soil and love the sun. Typically, the hydrangea hedge can touch a height of 15 ft (457 cm), but it can vary according to the species.
One interesting fact that makes them unique is that the color of the flower is affected by the soil type. If you use acidic soil, the flower will turn out to be blue and pink if you use alkaline soil. Hydrangea is resistant to pests and diseases; however, they require regular watering and mulching. All the efforts put into growing Hydrangea are worth it as it offers long-lasting color and interest.
Yews are slow-growing, evergreen trees that have a pyramidal or columnar shape. They are popularly used as hedges and topiary. Yews are known for their ability to tolerate shearing and can be easily pruned into various shapes. They are hardy in USDA Zones 2 to 10 and can grow in different growing conditions. These plants produce cones and red berries, plus the shape and size of needles vary as per the variety planted.
Yew trees have a deep history and were known to be used by the Druids for their magical properties. Plus, they are an ancient symbol of Christianity as they are used to decorate churches. One thing that needs attention is that Yew trees' fruit, bark, and needles are toxic to humans and animals. So, avoid planting these trees if you have kids and pets at home.
Factors to Consider Before Selecting a Tree Hedge
When it comes to hedges, there are various trees that you can choose from. The type of tree you select should be based on the purpose it will serve. Several factors demand consideration before making your final decision. Here, we'll discuss these factors to give you a better understanding.
The first thing you need to consider is the type of plant. You can choose from evergreen and deciduous plants. Evergreen plants maintain their foliage all year round, while deciduous plants lose their leaves in the fall. Evergreen plants demand regular pruning and are ideal for privacy hedges. On the other hand, deciduous plants need less maintenance and can be a good choice for foundation planting.
So, if you want a plant that will offer privacy throughout the year, you should go for an evergreen plant. If you don't mind the bare look in winter, you can opt for a deciduous plant.
The size of the plant is another essential factor to consider. You need to select a plant that will not outgrow your space. For instance, if you have a small garden, you should not choose a plant that will touch the sky like American Arborvitae or Spruce. Such hedge options are great for privacy, but they need a lot of space. If you don't have the required space, go with small or medium-sized hedges like Yews or Boxwoods. Such hedges are easy to care for and do not completely block your view.
Moreover, you should also consider the mature height and spread of the plant. Some plants can have a moderate growth rate, but they can touch great heights when fully grown. So, it is essential to do your research and select a plant that will be the right size for your garden.
The growth rate is an important factor, especially if you are looking for an instant hedge. A plant with a fast growth rate will quickly fill the space and provide you with the desired results. However, such plants also require regular pruning to maintain their shape. On the other hand, slow-growing plants take their time to fill the space. But they don't need much pruning and are ideal for low-maintenance gardens.
So, it is important to consider the plant's growth rate before making your final decision. If you want to cover a large area quickly, you should go for Leyland Cypress. Some other options for rapid growth are Privet, Viburnum, and Juniper. Ensure you are ready for the extra work before selecting a fast-growing plant.
The next factor to consider is the light requirements of the plant. Different plants have different light conditions. While some plants need full sun to thrive, others can do well in shady areas. So, it is important to select a plant that will be able to grow in the available light conditions.
For example, if you have a shady garden, you should not select a plant that needs full sun. Such plants will not be able to grow properly and will eventually die. Some of the best options for shady gardens are Yews, Boxwoods, and Holly. These plants can thrive in low-light conditions and don't need much care. On the other hand, if you have a sunny garden, you can go with Cypress, Arborvitae, and Juniper.
Soil needs are something that you should not overlook. Different plants have different soil requirements. Some plants need well-drained soil, while others can do well in clay or sandy soil. So, it is vital to select a plant that will be able to grow in the soil type you have.
For instance, Hydrangea is one type that is greatly affected by the type of soil used. If you have acidic soil, the plant will produce blue flowers. However, if you have alkaline soil, the plant will produce pink flowers. So, it is crucial to know the plant's soil needs before making your final decision.
Lastly, you should never select a plant without considering its poisonous nature. Some plants like Oleander and Yew are poisonous and are not safe to have around children or pets. Other than that, you should also consider the thorns of the plant. Some plants like Spruce and Juniper have sharp needles that can cause injury. So, it's essential to be aware of the poisonous nature of the plant before selecting one.
You should consider these essential factors before selecting a tree hedge for your home. By keeping these factors in mind, you will be able to select the best plant for your garden.
Tree hedges are a great way to add privacy and beauty to your home. But before selecting a plant, it is crucial to consider the abovementioned factors. By doing so, you will be able to choose the best plant for your garden.