How to Plant a Beautiful Hedgerow (15 Traditional, Native, and Edible Plants)

Put simply, a hedgerow is a row of plants used to mark a border. Dense and tall-growing evergreen bushes may be used to create a year-round living privacy screen, while a mix of native shrubs and perennials might serve the double purpose of providing wildlife with shelter and habitat. Hedgerows are often used to mark the border between properties or between different areas of a landscape.

Hedgerows are as functional as they are visually appealing and have countless benefits, including:

  • Serving as a windbreak
  • Marking a physical border
  • Increasing biodiversity by providing shelter and food for birds and other wildlife
  • Attracting pollinators and other beneficial insects
  • Slowing soil erosion and surface runoff, aiding in flood control
  • Minimizes the effects of pollution by filtering air and sequestering carbon
  • Edible hedgerows provide food
  • Acting as a privacy screen
  • Creating shade
  • Conserving home energy by regulating temperatures
  • Reducing noise from neighbors and nearby roads
  • Showcasing beautiful plants and hiding eyesores

Are you intrigued? Good! We think that hedgerows elevate any landscape. Keep reading for some basic instructions on how to design a hedgerow and our top picks for traditional, native, and edible plants.

Designing a hedgerow

The best hedgerows are multi-dimensional, featuring plants with varying heights and growth habits, as well as a mix of deciduous and evergreen shrubs. If you can, incorporate a few bushes that produce berries as well as flowering shrubs to feed pollinators and birds. Choose perennials with a longer lifespan so that the hedge will live on for many years.

At a minimum, plan for the hedgerow to be at least 10 feet wide, but a wider hedgerow will make an even better windbreaker and allow more space for a diverse array of plants.

Choosing the right plants

Hedges can be low-growing and feature perennial flowering plants that grow no more than two or three feet tall. Hedgerows can also include native shrubs and trees of varying heights, bloom times, and foliage color. Whether you opt for a traditional hedge or a non-traditional hedge, the choice is all yours!

Arborvitae, cypress, and privet are among the fastest-growing hedge plants, so incorporate these shrubs if you want the most immediate results (although growing a hedge is never instant).

Traditional hedgerow plants

  1. Arborvitae

  2. One of the more common hedging plants, arborvitae is a diverse species so you have limitless options. Arborvitae are evergreens sporting flat yellow-green foliage that have a sweet scent, and depending on the variety, plants may range from a few feet to 40 feet tall.

  3. Boxwood

  4. Perhaps the most popular edging plant, boxwoods are easy to care for and can be pruned into nearly any imaginable shape, or left alone to grow naturally. Boxwoods are evergreen, thriving in hardiness zones 4–9 and tolerating both full sun and partial shade.

  5. Cypress

  6. Another well-known evergreen edging plant, cypress can range from the ground-hugging Sungold Thread-Branch to the shrub like Verdonii Hinoki. The flat, scaly foliage tends to grow in a pyramidal shape and changes color from chartreuse to bronze as the season progresses.

  7. Holly

  8. Hollies are a diverse species with several different varieties that meet a wide range of needs. Japanese hollies like Sky Pencil have a narrow upright growth habit, while Compact Japanese have a lower-growing, bushier shape. Chinese hollies are known for their bright red berries, but you’ll need both a male and female plant to ensure pollination and berry production

  9. Juniper

  10. Another popular evergreen hedging shrub, the juniper species ranges from low-growing groundcovers to full-size trees, so there’s bound to be something to suit your preferences. Junipers are characterized by their blue-gray foliage and edible blue berries. Depending on the variety, junipers thrive in zones 2–9, so they are an excellent hedging plant for Northern landscapes.

  11. Privet

  12. This deer-resistant shrub makes a beautiful hedgerow. Fragrant flower clusters draw pollinators to the landscape, and the color-changing foliage adds visual interest to the landscape. Privet does require heavy pruning to keep the plants looking clean.

  13. Yew

  14. An excellent hedging choice for year-round interest, yews are especially well-adapted to temperate North American climates, thriving in zones 6–9. Plant both a male and female plant to ensure the production of edible berries.

Native options for hedgerows

These are just a few North American native plants; shop our entire Southeast Native selection here.

  1. Hydrangea

  2. Hydrangeas make for a gorgeous hedgerow, with their papery pastel-colored flowers. Some varieties of hydrangea can grow up to fifteen feet tall, but these versatile shrubs tolerate full sun and partial shade, and pollinators love the flowers. Choose between the blue-violet Endless Summer Pop Star or the lime and blush-colored Proven Winners Little Lime.

  3. Viburnum

  4. A deciduous shrub prized for its toothed foliage and cream-colored flower clusters, viburnum is sure to bring more pollinators to your landscape. Depending on the variety, viburnum may feature fragrant flowers, and while some cultivars grow up to ten feet tall, others top out at four or five feet tall.

  5. Spirea

  6. Spirea is a densely-growing deciduous shrub with delicate-looking pink flower clusters. Sharp-toothed foliage takes on a bronzed hue in fall for year-round interest. A favorite with pollinators. Ranges in height from low-growing groundcovers to medium-sized shrubs and thrives in hardiness zones 3–8.

  7. Abelia

  8. Draw more butterflies to your landscape with Abelia. The semi-evergreen shrub features glossy green foliage in spring that turns bronze by fall. The bell-shaped, fragrant flowers are a favorite among pollinators. Abelia reaches between four and six feet tall when mature and grows best in zones 6–9.

Edible plants for hedgerows

  1. Blueberry

  2. These deciduous shrubs have glossy foliage that turns a beautiful rust color in fall. Tolerant of acidic soils and hardy enough to survive even the harshest winters, we suggest planting a few early, mid, and late-season varieties for delicious berries all summer long.

  3. Barberry

  4. Did you know that barberries are edible, and have medicinal properties? The tiny red berries have been used to treat everything from an upset stomach and diarrhea to fever and lack of appetite. Even if you never harvest any berries for that purpose, the red-mahogany foliage is striking throughout the year. Just be careful of the thorny stems!

Spacing and planting a hedgerow 

The best time to plant shrubs is in the fall, but if you miss the autumn planting window it’s not the end of the world—it just means that you’ll have to water your new transplants more frequently in the spring and summer months.

Mark out the hedgerow, using measuring tape and flagging the borders if you want to be precise. Till the bed or kill any grass by placing a tarp over the bed for several weeks, or leave the grass and dig individual holes for your plants.

If you are able, have the soil tested for composition and pH and adjust as needed. At a minimum, add a layer of organic compost and sprinkle a balanced granular fertilizer over the planting area.

Place the plants where they will be planted to get an idea of how the hedge will look, maintaining the recommended spacing for each mature plant. Then you can move plants before you start digging holes.

Once you are satisfied with the placement of your plants, you can grab a shovel and start digging. Dig a hole as deep and twice as wide as the root ball of each plant. Set the plant in the hole, holding the trunk of the plant level with the soil surface, then backfill the hole with soil.

Ongoing hedgerow maintenance

When planted correctly, hedgerows require very little care after initial planting. Like most shrubs and perennials, hedges require regular watering, yearly feeding, and pruning as needed.

Water the transplants thoroughly after planting, and water the new hedge every few days in the summer months. Once established, hedges won’t need additional watering if they receive at least an inch of rain per week. If you live in a dry area or have newly planted hedges, you might benefit from installing a drip irrigation system to automatically water your hedgerow.

Fertilize hedgerows once a year after their initial planting, in early spring.

Mulch the plants with wood chips, black plastic, or a combination of the two to suppress weeds. Add two to three inches of mulch to the bed, and pull the mulch away from the trunk of the plants to avoid suffocating them.

For a clean look, prune hedges once a month during the growing season, but stop pruning in late summer to prepare the plants to go dormant for winter. For the best results, research the specific pruning needs of individual plants.

With a little effort, you can create a stunning and functional hedgerow that will enhance your landscape for years to come. If you’ve been considering planting a hedgerow, there’s no better time to get started. 

Shop our full collection of hedge plants here, and order yours today!