How to Grow a Hedgerow for Privacy, Wildlife, and More

If you want to create a border or barrier in your garden or yard, you might think of installing a fence first. However, in many cases there is another, more natural option to consider: a hedgerow.

Hedgerows are often called "living fences," offering many of the benefits of a fence along with a few extras. For example, a hedgerow can:

  • Create a visual and physical border between different sections of your yard.
  • Provide privacy by blocking the view of your yard from your neighbors.
  • Reduce sound, such as softening some of the noise coming from a busy road.
  • Create a wind barrier and reduce snow drifts in the winter.
  • Attract or help wildlife by providing food and protection.
  • Add beauty to your yard or garden with attractive flowers and foliage.

If you want to create your own hedgerow, here's how to get started.

1. Decide where you want it, how wide and tall it should be, and what its main purposes are.

Knowing these things will be essential for picking the right shrubs, bushes, or trees to grow for your hedgerow. Is it going to be in full sun, or will you need plants that thrive in shade? Do you want your hedgerow to grow to four feet tall, six, eight? Do you want it to be neat and orderly, or more natural-looking? Will you need native plants to provide for wildlife, or flowering shrubs for visual appeal? Do you want an evergreen hedge, or will deciduous plants be better?

2. One species or more?

Once you have your parameters in place, next you need to decide whether you prefer the uniform look of one type of plant for your entire hedgerow, or if you want a variety. For example, if you have a large space to fill, consider adding in fast-growing trees as well as shrubs.

3. Choose your plants.

If you decide to go with only one species, look for something that fits as many of your needs as possible. If choosing multiple plants, don't go overboard! Choose plants that will look good together when mature, and pay attention to the different spacing, soil, sun, and water needs of different species.

Some fast-growing shrubs to consider are Variegated Weigela, Golden Forsythia, and Weigela florida.

4. Prepare the soil and plant according to your plants' needs – then be patient!

When planting your shrubs, bushes, or trees, keep in mind spacing needs of the mature plant. You want your plants to be close enough to create a solid-looking hedgerow, but far enough apart that they won't be overcrowded at full size. For best results, follow the instructions that come with your plants, for spacing and care needs.

Remember that shrubs and trees won't reach full size overnight, so have some patience while they're growing! In the meantime, you can plant tall annuals in between to fill in the space.

5. Maintain your hedgerow.

Many plants used for hedges will need to be trained as they grow to form the proper shape, and trimmed or pruned regularly to keep them a manageable height and size. Even if you're going for a more natural-looking hedge, your plants will likely need some regular maintenance.

6. Enjoy the results!

Whether you grow your hedgerow for aesthetic purposes, practical reasons, or a bit of both, the work will pay off for years to come.