Thinking Outside the Boxwood – Ideas for Hedge Plants

  • Sumo

Many different kinds of plants can qualify as hedge plants. All that’s really needed is dense foliage and a reliable, regular shape to the plant. Many folks don’t consider deciduous plants when putting in a hedge and that is a mistake.

Some of the best hedges are deciduous. Think about it. The only time most deciduous plants are naked is when nobody goes outside anyway. And many of these plants have dense enough branching to provide a decent amount of privacy screening, even when they’re bare. When you open the door to deciduous plants as hedging you have the opportunity to consider a lot of beautiful plants.

Take Lilacs, for example. When most people think of lilacs, they think of a tall, leggy shrub about 12-14′ tall and maybe 6 feet wide. That would describe the common lilac (syringa vulgaris), but did you know there are many types of lilacs that are actually quite bushy and dense?

Minuet Lilac is a perfect example of this. Minuet grows to about 6-8′ tall, slightly less wide, and can easily be pruned into a dense hedge. And unlike most common lilacs, Minuet doesn’t sucker, so your hedge will stay in one place!Syringa prestoniae Minuet

Spirea plants can make excellent hedges. During winter they lose their leaves, but once spring rolls around they leaf out quickly and become incredibly dense. They also have attractive foliage, and many of them bloom for months on end.

Little Princess Spirea is pretty small, hence the name, but would make a great low hedge. They top out at between 2.5’ and 3’ tall but spread to 4’ wide. They have bright green serrated leaves and their flowers bloom in clusters of pink, mauve, and red. These flowers appear in early June and last until first frost.

spirea hedgeAnother fun one for hedging is Snow Mound Spirea. These plants get a bit bigger, up to 5’ tall and wide. They form a dense mound at the heart of the plant, but then the new growth comes out in long arching branches that hang and sway in the wind. These arching branches are covered with a row of white blossoms in June that make the whole plant look like it is covered with snow!

You can prune a Snowmound to be quite dense at the end of the season. However, once the new growth starts it will quickly get a fluffy appearance that is rather striking. These plants are probably 5′ tall. Imagine a hedge like this stretching the length of your front yard!

hedge spirea snowmound

Eastern Ninebark is another good one to consider, particularly as it provides year-round interest. In late spring this guy has massive clusters of pinkish to white flowers all over it. Then in summer, enjoy the dark green lobed leaves. In late summer to fall, the capsule-like reddish fruit appears to brighten your day. Finally, in winter, after the leaves fall off, you can enjoy the rich colors of the exfoliating bark that peels off in strips to reveal many layers and shades of reddish to light brown bark. Ninebark will reach up to 8’ in height and about 6’ wide.

Hedge Physocarpus opulifolius

How about Snowball Bush? Also known as Snowball Viburnum, or Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’, this makes a great, reliable hedge that reaches 10-12’ in height and width. It is a pretty massive shrub that can almost be a hedge in one plant! You can also grow these in moist soil. Plus you get the snowball flower clusters in spring to summer, maple-like leaves that grow dense and green, and fall color as the leaves turn orange-red.

Snowball bushes, like this one, are too good to have just one! So, why not make a hedge out of them?

Hedge Viburnum opulus Roseum 2

Weigelas can be used as deciduous hedges, too. In fact, they are pretty commonly chosen for this purpose. There are many varieties, sizes and flower colors.

There’s Red Prince, which gets up to 6’ in height and width and bears red trumpet flowers in spring. This color of red is really striking, and the plant flowers profusely, as all weigelas tend to. Red Prince often will rebloom throughout the summer and into fall.

Or there’s Rumba Weigela with its pinkish/mauve flowers that last all summer long. It gets to be about 3-4’ tall.

Hedge Weigela florida RumbaWe also have my favorite, Java Red, which reaches only about 2’ tall and wide, maybe a few inches higher. The coffee-colored leaves make a striking contrast to the pink flowers.

Oh, and butterflies and hummingbirds love these flowers! Imagine a hedge covered with flowers, butterflies and hummingbirds all summer long!

Mock orange would make an excellent hedge plant. Not familiar with Mock Orange? It is so called because when it blooms the flowers smell like orange blossoms! This is one beautiful plant! It gets to be about 5 feet tall, but may reach as wide as 10’ – another plant where you practically have a hedge in one plant! It’s also native, so you know it will grow well here.

Hedge Philadelphus lewissii

You want something a little more unusual? How about Feather Reed Grass? This plant can certainly be used to form a botanical wall. This grass plant reaches a height of about 4′, but when it blooms the flower heads add another 2′ on top. You can plant these as a partial screen, or put them closer together to form an impenetrable wall!

Hedge Feather reed Grass

As far as grasses go, you can’t do better than Pampas Grass for a security hedge. These plants vary in size by variety, but even the smaller ones tend to reach at least 6′ in height, and some of the larger varieties can surpass 10′ or more! Each plant is dense, packed, and beautiful! The grass blades have a sharp edge to them that can scratch or even cut bare skin, so they provide excelled security as well.

hedge pampas grass

Blueberries make really nice hedges. They grow fairly dense foliage; have attractive flowers; there’s the fruit, of course; and then some beautiful fall colors. Most blueberry plants reach heights and spreads of between 4 and 8 feet. Also, blueberry plants produce more fruit when you have more than one variety, so a mixed blueberry hedge is an excellent option for killing multiple birds with a few stones!

When you start to consider plants other than evergreen types, a whole world of hedging possibilities opens!

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3 Responses to Thinking Outside the Boxwood – Ideas for Hedge Plants

  1. I really enjoy the blog.Much thanks again. Great.

  2. John says:

    Hardy fuchsia ( Fuchsia Magellanica ) either the standard red and purple or the delicate white version ( Alba ) can make very decorative hedges that are non stop bloomers, very hardy and can be sheared to size.

    • Scott says:

      I agree, I just haven’t found a wholesale source for these yet. Once I get one I’ll be able to reproduce them, but haven’t gotten there yet. Thanks for the suggestion!

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