Plant a Formal Hedge

A tidy, clipped hedge is the standard border for formal gardens. Here's how to get one started.

Modern Outdoor Patio With Formal Hedge

Formal Landscaping for Modern Patio

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

An impeccably trimmed hedge lends formal structure, provides privacy and creates individual garden rooms around this modern patio, while large trees add height and shade.

Yew, hornbeam and beech make excellent closely clipped hedges and you can reduce the cost by buying young bare-rooted plants from late winter to early spring and growing them yourself.

When to Start: late fall to early spring
At Its Best: all year round
Time to Complete: 4 hours or more depending on hedge size

Using Pot-Grown Plants:

When to Start: any time; early autumn or spring is best
At Its Best: all year (evergreen), spring to autumn (deciduous)

Materials Needed:

  • young bare-root hedging plants (yew shown here)
  • composted organic matter
  • spade
  • garden fork
  • stakes
  • garden string
  • watering can or hose
  • all-purpose granular fertilizer
  • pot-grown holly plants (Ilex aquifolium)

Prepare the Site

Six weeks before planting, remove all weeds from the site and dig a trench the length of the hedge and 3 feet wide. Fork in organic matter, and refill the trench. Set out a line to mark the edge of the hedge.

Prepare Site for Hedge

Prepare Site for Hedge

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Mark Planting Intervals

Dig a trench twice as wide and as deep as the plants' root balls. Using a ruler or guide, lay stakes at 18–24 inch intervals along the string line to mark the planting distances.

Lay Stakes Along String Line

Lay Stakes Along String Line

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Check Planting Depths

Check that the plants will be at the same depth as they were in the field when planted — you'll see the soil line just above the roots. Place one plant by each stake and backfill around the roots with soil, removing any air gaps with your fingers.

Planting a Hedge

Planting a Hedge

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Firm In Well

When in place, check that the plants are upright and then firm in around them with your foot. Create a slight dip around each plant to act as a reservoir and water well. Add a thick mulch of compost or manure, keeping it clear of the plant stems. Water for the first year and feed plants annually in spring.

Check Hedge Plant Positioning

Check Hedge Plant Positioning

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Use Pot-Grown Plants

Some plants, such as lavender, boxwood, holly and privet, aren't generally available in bare-root form and are grown and sold in pots. The planting technique is similar to that for bare-root types but pot-grown hedging can be planted at any time of year, as long as the soil is not frozen or very dry.

Dig Planting Holes

Prepare the soil and mark out the area as before. Either dig a long trench or individual holes for each plant — holes need to be as deep as the root ball and twice as wide.

Mark Soil Before Digging Holes for Individual Hedging Plants

Mark Soil Before Digging Holes for Individual Hedging Plants

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Tease Out Roots

If planting in spring, add some fertilizer to the excavated soil. Tease out any congested roots before planting at the same depth as the plant was in its original pot. Firm in with your foot and water well.

Tease Out Hedge Roots Before Planting

Tease Out Hedge Roots Before Planting

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Next Up

Catch Up With Our Blogs

We're serving up the latest news, gorgeous style, crafty DIY projects, clever entertaining tips and more. Consider these your design digests.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.