Picking the Best Hedge Plants for Your Yard

Our recommendations for the best hedge plants are Winter Gem Boxwood and Potentilla “Abbotswood” White. We couldn’t make up our mind whether to go old school classic with boxwood or go for a flowering hedge. We chose both. It all depends on the mood you want to create. With these choices, which you can see in our list below, we’ve got you covered.

Our Top Picks for the Best Hedge Plants

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What Is a Hedge?

You may hear the words hedges, shrub, and bush used interchangeably. There are differences you should know so you can choose the right plant. A hedge refers to a living boundary created with bushes, shrubs, or trees. Shrub is a reference to a plant with multiple perennial stems, unlike a tree which has one central element. A bush is a low-growing shrub or group of plants.

So, when we speak of a shrub, we’re talking about plants that you put in the ground in proximity of each other to form a row or wall. While they typically include one type of plant, you can use different kinds to create interest—as long as they are compatible. To make maintenance easier, they should have the same basic needs and growing patterns.

Hedge Uses

The primary use of a hedge is to create a boundary. As a living fence, they can also provide privacy and function as windscreen. You can also make them a feature in your landscape. Decorative and flowering plants can make an attractive addition to your yard that will do double duty. While you may think of them as borders between properties, they can also create smaller areas.

You can use them to create private garden rooms that are separate from the rest of the yard. They also can make an effective screen for the unsightly elements around your house such as a view of a road or alley. And with a coordinating landscape design, they can act as a feature to tie together the theme of your landscape design.

What Makes a Good Hedge Plant?

The right plant will thrive in its conditions and have an ability to tolerate extremes of a particular area. It will meet its needs for water and nutrition while remaining healthy and vibrant. Defining what makes a good hedge depends on its purpose and the limitations of a site. For example, if privacy is your goal, you should opt for hedges that are dense and tall enough for this purpose.

Likewise, if you want to make it a focal point, flowering plants can create an eye-catching feature. Consider other things that a hedge plant can bring to the table such as food, cover, and windbreak for wildlife or flowers for a centerpiece. Unexpected uses add value to your hedge plants.

Also, think about its year-round place in your garden. If you’re planting hedges as privacy screens, you should stick with evergreen varieties, versus deciduous, that won’t shed their leaves in the winter. Your privacy hedges will persist the entire year. Even with privacy landscaping you have that extra perk of welcome color when the rest of your yard is buried under snow or awash in dull grays and greens.

You should also think about the height of your hedges. Again, a lot depends on use. While it may not be a big deal for privacy, it can be a deal breaker if it blocks a beautiful view. You should always find out what the mature height and mature size will be to avoid any unpleasant surprises down the road. If you’re unsure, break out the tape measure and find out. Don’t leave it to guesswork.

Options for the Right Hedge for You

When picking a hedge plant, consider the entire package. A beautiful appearance is one thing. You also need to know what it entails. It’ll likely come down to maintenance. All growing shrubs will need the occasional pruning if just to remove dead and damaged branches. Doing this task will ensure air circulates within the plant to avoid mold or bacteria development that can harm your plants.

It’s also an essential practice to encourage flowering. The timing for pruning depends on when your shrubs flower. Spring flowers grow on branch growth from the previous year. You should prune after the big show. Shrubs that bloom later must invest in new growth before the flowers appear. Pruning is best done before new growth has spurred flowering for optimal results.

This video from the University of Illinois Extension explains how to trim hedges properly to improve the health and appearance of your plants.


Formal or Informal

There’s a lot to be said for the look of a neatly trimmed hedgerow. Hedging plants adds a sense of balance and order to your landscape. There’s also that stylish factor. Pruned foliage simply looks classy. If this is the mood that you’re after, this is an excellent approach to take. Paired with other classic plants like roses or lavender, you’ll have a gorgeous design.

Your other option is to go informal. Think shrubs with branches of cascading flowers. The advantage of growing varieties with this approach is that it creates a dreamy, relaxed feel. Some may find it more inviting than a formal garden. Informal also applies to maintenance. It’s a garden’s version of that soft, tousled look. It’s a good choice for a cottage or country garden. It’s all about simplicity.

Our Recommendations: Winter Gem Boxwood and Potentilla “Abbotswood” White

Our research into hedges taught us one important lesson. Hedges are as varied as the moods you want to create. And fortunately, you’ll find a hedge plant to suit your landscaping ideas no matter where your tastes will take you. Our choices include both a formal and informal styled-hedge to cover a wide array of interests. Each one offers an excellent choice for a hedge plant.

Winter Gem Boxwood is the classic formal hedge. With a height of 3 1/1 feet and a spread of 3 feet, it does the job without blocking the view. With a medium growth rate, they are appropriate for Zones 5 through 8. Boxwood hedges require extra care to keep their neat, trimmed state. But if you want this feel for your landscape, they offer a good choice that is easy to grow.

We opted for a bit of whimsey with the Potentilla “Abbotswood” White. This hedge plant has a lot to offer. It is cold hardy. This is a boon if you live in temperate climate and want an attractive flowering shrub. We liked the fact that it can tolerate a variety of soil conditions. The fact that it is deer resistant is a definite plus. If there are a lot of deer in your area, this feature is a priority.

Choosing a hedge plant is an opportunity to unify the theme of your landscape design. Whether you like the formal look of trimmed boxwoods or the informal look of cascading blooms, you’re sure to find a hedge plant that will complement your garden. Because they are an investment, it pays to determine what you need in a choice in order the find the best hedge plants.

Photo by guy_dugas licensed under CC0.

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