Tips for Planning and Starting a Hedgerow

In general, the two most important steps to creating a hedgerow are selecting the right plants for your goals and establishing the hedge with plenty of care in the first few years after planting. While the cost and labor involved in starting a large hedgerow can be significant, the same is true of most types of fences. But once established, a hedgerow only gets better over time (with little or no additional cost), while a fence inevitably gets worse and eventually needs to be replaced. Here are some more considerations for getting started:


  • Identify the main purposes of your hedgerow and choose your plants accordingly. For example, if privacy or screening a view is your goal, Roger Cook of This Old House writes: “Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) is a good choice because it doesn’t need pruning to keep its full shape from top to bottom and adapts to a wide range of growing conditions... To get a sense of privacy right away, select specimens that are at least 6 feet tall, with green foliage and moist root balls.” (This Old House magazine; July/August 2010; p. 106)


  • Be patient; well-planned landscaping takes time to mature. The same is true of hedgerows. The Mississippi State University Extension Service recommends: “...trees and shrubs can be established from container plants. For faster screening, plant shrub species a little closer together than their mature width. Select several species of large trees, smaller trees and shrub types; especially ones with wildlife benefits. To minimize watering and maintenance requirements, plant in the fall or winter and use tough plant species that require little care.”


Rebecca Knapp offered these additional tips about designing with hedgerows:

  • “(Be aware of) visibility of cars and pedestrians as they meet at alleys and driveways. I design hedgerows to end at a good distance from the street and sidewalk in order to maintain sightlines.


  • In the front yard, I try to keep the mailman's path open with step stones through the bed so he doesn’t have to trample over the plantings.


  • If trees are included, plant them in odd numbers; one tree is fine,  but instead of doing two, it looks better to use three. The decision to plant trees is often based on space. Narrow trees are handy in smaller yards.


  • A low foreground element, like perennials, can be a nice way to transition back from a tall hedgerow to your lawn. Alternatively, if the hedge is only about 3 feet tall, it can look especially clean and crisp without perennials in front. 


  • Hedgerows don’t have to be straight; you can wiggle the plants forward and backward to create interest and make it less formal. Mixing evergreen and deciduous plants is a good idea for year-round interest and screening. Trees with berries or those that hold their leaves all winter (such as oaks) can add another dimension to the hedge.”


For more information on choosing the right plants and starting a hedgerow, consult a local landscape architect or designer, or call your nearest extension service for recommendations and referrals.