Planting hedge rows has been common practice by civilizations for over 2000 years. Not only do hedge rows divide properties and increase privacy, but they also create beautiful lines in your garden and yard. You can form hedges from many varieties of bushes and trees. Each variety brings its own unique qualities.
Notably, hedges appear in many ancient cultures across the world. Even though each culture leaned on a different tree to get this natural wall, the process and idea are still the same. In the end, you will shape a line of tree with interweaving branches into a barrier.
Ultimately, you will decide on your tree species based on the characteristics you are looking for in a hedge. Some things you need to consider are height, width, amount of care needed, deciduous versus coniferous, and aesthetics.
Below, we will highlight some of the most popular tree species for hedges. While naming these species, we will also deep dive into the reasons they are so popular. Note, there is not a single “best tree” for hedges. All in all, each one brings something different to the table and you will need to weigh all the characteristics to pick the right one for you.
The top five tree species for hedges are:
Unlike the stereotypical hedge rows, cypress trees stand as individual trees in columnar shapes. If not planted at a proper separation distance, extra care will need to be taken to thin the trees to prevent them from interweaving. Cypress trees will not receive enough air around the branches and will suffer if they interweave.
When cared for properly and left unpruned, a cypress tree will easily reach 50 feet in height. Generally speaking, cypress trees grow quickly, and some species will grow over 4 feet per year. This same growth pattern matches the spread of the tree.
It depends on the specific variety you choose of cypress, but you will want to plant your cypress trees anywhere from 5 to 15 feet apart. The cypress tree needs adequate water, but will be fine unless in a dry spell. Though this tree does not need intense coaching to find its ideal shape, it can grow very tall if left untrimmed. Additionally, it is not cold hardy. It cannot sustain some cold, but thrives better in milder climates that experience less below freezing days.
Cypress trees are an excellent choice for privacy hedges. Overall, they grow a dense canopy of leaves and grow to a superb height. Furthermore, they are attractive in their columnar shape with dark green leaves.
Spruce trees are a superior evergreen choice for a hedge. Ultimately, spruce trees come in a wide variety of sizes. The dwarf varieties grow to 5 feet while other varieties will grow over 60 feet. Spruce trees grow in the traditional pyramidal shape of evergreen trees.
Overall, the small varieties are ideal for hedge rows. They grow and spread quickly. Additionally, you will not lose the privacy of the hedgerow in the winter months since this is an evergreen variety. It cannot sustain significant heat, but does fairly well in colder climates. The needles of the evergreen make the tree resistant to drought and cold.
These trees prefer a moist soil and will not need much maintenance unless in a drought. Furthermore, pruning is only necessary based on your preference for appearances. The spruce tree lives long a life.
Not only do the branches weave together well to create an excellent privacy wall, but some spruce trees also produce needles that are unpleasant to the touch. This will further repel unwanted visitors. All in all, the spruce tree grows into a superb hedge that will last year-round and sustain a cold winter.
Viburnum is likely the most versatile choice for a tree hedge. Dependent on variety, this tree sustains the full range of weather. Some varieties are cold-hardy, heat-hardy, prefer shade, and prefer sun. Ultimately, you will find a variety of viburnum that work for you.
With the wide range of sustainable climate conditions, almost any gardener can plant and see a viburnum succeed. A small amount of pruning will leave your viburnum hedge with lovely spacing and a sense of airiness. However, if a privacy hedge is your goal, you can allow the hedge to grow with less control. It will thicken and weave with neighboring viburnums.
Notably, viburnums produce a beautiful flower that usually blooms in early spring. The flowers vary across the species in size and color. Many varieties are evergreen, but most of them are deciduous. Although, the deciduous varieties develop into beautiful fall colors.
Viburnum does not like to be transferred once established, so choose your final planting location wisely. Otherwise, viburnum will thrive almost anywhere. The one situation to avoid is an overly waterlogged soil.
Many botanists disagree on how to properly classify Boxwood, boxwoods (tree versus shrub). That being said, the Boxwood is one of the most popular choices on this list for a hedge. It trims to any shape you desire and is versatile in almost all conditions. You truly gain full control over the appearance of this hedge.
The dark green leaves of the boxwood hang around year-round. Note that there are many varieties of boxwood and not all are great for hedgerows. You will need to do your research before you choose.
It is best to plant boxwoods at half the final growth spread in distance so that they weave properly. With the flexibility in trimming to obtain any shape, the boxwood does need significant trimming no matter what shape you use.
The boxwood prefers at least partial sun. In the case of a hot summer, you will need to provide ample water to your boxwood to keep it thriving. Moreover, your boxwood will need protection from the extreme colds to avoid a discoloring of the foliage.
5. American Arborvitae
The American Arborvitae is a superb choice because not only is it an evergreen, but it is also beautifully shaped. Trimming is important for this tree to control its height and width. Planting them close together will create an excellent hedgerow.
They usually grow into a narrow, pyramidal shape. When allowed to grow naturally and tight together with other American Arborvitaes, you will need to give it almost no maintenance. If planted with enough spacing, you can create an airy divide between properties. Gardeners and homeowners pick the American Arborvitae for windbreaks.
Overall, the American Arborvitae is hardy, but does not sustain heat well. On the other hand, it grows on the slower side and will take time to establish and create your hedgerow. This tree prefers full sun and moist soil.
A wonderful benefit of the American Arborvitae is the aroma it produces. When the leaves are squeezed, a pleasing aroma is emitted. If left to grow alone and unmaintained, this tree will easily reach 40 feet in height with a 15 foot spread.
To learn more about the Thuja Family, Read More here.
There are many tree varieties to choose from for a hedgerow. They all hold unique qualities. All in all, the application you are desiring will determine what tree species is the best choice for you. Additionally, your climate and soil type will be one of the largest factors for choice. Many tree species are not hardy in the cold or heat extremes.
With a little research and the help of this guide, you will find the ideal hedge for your hedgerow.