Planting Hedges as Screens

Whether you can wait years for the screen to grow in place, or need a screen right away, you have many options when planting hedges for screens. 

A Rear Terrace Leads to the Swimming Pool

A Rear Terrace Leads to the Swimming Pool

The rear terrace is framed by stone balustrades with decorative urns, leading to an inviting swimming pool. The line of the terrace is continued with the use of a linear hedge to further define the garden's spaces.

Photo by: Doug Young

Doug Young

Tools and Materials

  • Books
  • Drawing materials

Step 1: Assess your needs. 

Are you looking for a living fence for year-round privacy, or just for seasonal screening? How much maintenance can you manage? Do you want a mixture of plants with multiseason interest (flowers, changing foliage, winter color, fruit), a formal clipped hedge, or potted plants for portable screening? What is your minimum height requirement? How much money can you invest in this project?

Step 2: Assess the site. 

Evaluate the area in terms of dimensions, sun and shade exposure, soil type and drainage, and proximity to underground features such as gas and water lines. Talk to your neighbors to alert them about your intentions, and make sure the project works for them, too.

Step 3: Choosing plants. 

Once you have information about the site, you can decide what kind of plants will thrive there and meet your needs. When your desire is for immediate results, only a fence or a substantial investment in mature plants and landscaping will do the trick.

Mixed plantings of evergreen and deciduous shrubs provide interest in many seasons.

Deciduous plants provide more shade in summer but allow light to reach your yard in winter.

Fruiting trees, bushes, and vines provide snacks for you and the birds and for your neighbors.

Tall potted plants make a fast portable screen around a pool, patio, or deck.

Clumping bamboo and ornamental grasses grow quickly and lend an exotic air.

Annual vines grow quickly up a trellis. Perennial vines can climb an arbor or trellis, or soften a fence.

Tips

Excellent plants for traditional hedges include evergreens such as boxwood (Buxus), oleander (Nerium), yew (Taxus), arborvitae (Thuja), and hemlock (Tsuga). Deciduous hedge plants include Japanese barberry (Berberis), and privet (Ligustrum). Be sure to check the USDA Climate Hardiness Zone of each plant and compare it to the zone where you live.

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