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How to plant a hedge

How to plant a hedge
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Hedges are often planted in exposed positions (to stop the neighbours from looking in). This means they can be battered by the weather a bit, so the secret to growing strong thick hedges is to make sure they’re well protected from prevailing winds for the first few years.

Careful planting and covering the soil with mulch to prevent competition from weeds and help retain moisture around the roots will also help.

When to plant?

Container-grown hedging plants can be planted at any time of the year, except when the soil is frozen or waterlogged. Autumn is the best time for deciduous hedges because the soil is still warm enough to encourage some root growth before the onset of winter. This helps the hedging plants establish quickly so that they are more able to withstand any hot, dry spells the following summer.

Container-grown conifers and other evergreens can also be planted in early autumn, but in exposed gardens, it’s better if they’re planted in April (May in colder areas). In these areas, it’s also worth putting up a protective barrier of windbreak netting – to help the evergreens settle in.

Plants sold without any soil on their roots, known as bare-rooted, should be planted during the dormant season only (November to March).

How far apart?

Hedges can be planted in single or double rows. For most gardens a single row of correctly space plants will be perfect – but if you want a quick cover or an impenetrable hedge, try a staggered double row, instead.

Here’s a guide to hedge types and their sizes:

ColourCentre PlantsTrailing Plants
BeechDeciduousMedium
BerberisEvergreenMedium
BoxEvergreenLow
ElaeagnusEvergreenLow
EscalloniaEvergreenMedium
HawthornDeciduousMedium
HollyEvergreenLow
HornbeamDeciduousMedium
LavenderEvergreenLow
LaurelEvergreenMedium
Lawson’s cypressEvergreenHigh
Leland cypressEvergreenHigh
PhotiniaEvergreenMedium
Portuga laurelEvergreenMedium
PrivetEvergreenHigh
RibesDeciduousMedium
RosaDeciduousMedium
Western red cedarEvergreenMedium
YewEvergreenLow

Seven tips to success

  1. Once you have prepared the strip of ground, mark out the line of the hedge using a piece of string.

  2. Next, dig a hole at least twice as wide and deep as the hedging plant’s container. Mix the soil you’ve removed with well-rotted organic matter (compost) and leave it to one side.

  3. The hedging plants need to be planted at the same depth as they were in the pot. Check the hole is at the right depth by laying a cane or piece of straight timber across the hole. If the plant is standing too high you’ll need to remove or add some of the soil to the bottom of the hole.

  4. Water container-grown plants thoroughly and allow to drain. The easiest way to get a large plant out of its pot is to gently lay it on its side and, with one hand supporting the shrub, tap the pot rim and ease the rootball out of its pot. Bare-rooted hedging plants should be kept moist at all times. Carefully pull out any roots of container-grown plants that are circling around the bottom or sides, so they grow away from the rootball and into the surrounding soil.

  5. Position the hedging plants in the centre of the hole at the correct spacing (see table above). Start to fill in the sides of the hole with the soil mixture, gently firming it down as you go. With bare-rooted plants, carefully spread the roots out across the bottom of the hole first. Then shake the stem before firming the first layer, to make sure the soil trickles down in between the roots. Regularly check the plants are upright.

  6. Once the hole has been filled, gently firm the soil once more – to get rid of any air pockets and make sure the plant is secure. Water the hedging plants once again using at least one full watering can per plant.

  7. After planting cover the soil with a generous layer of mulch, such as chipped bark to help discourage weeds and reduce the amount of water loss from the soil. Alternatively, lay black polythene disguised with a layer of chipped bark or soil on either side of the row.