Planting a hedge
Nursery Manager

Hedges by their very nature are often planted in exposed positions, so the secret of successful establishment is to make sure that they are well protected from prevailing winds for the first few years. Careful planting and covering the surface of the soil with a mulch to prevent competition from weeds and help retain moisture around the roots will also help.

When should I plant?
Container-grown hedging plants can be planted at any time of the year, except when the soil is frozen or waterlogged, but autumn is the ideal 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 autumn but in exposed gardens I would recommend they are planted in April (May in colder areas) so they can become established before the onset of winter. In these areas it's also worth putting up a protective barrier of windbreak netting after planting until the evergreens are established. 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 garden situations a single row of correctly space plants will be adequate, but if you want quick cover or an impenetrable hedge opt for a staggered double row, instead.

Type of hedge Evergreen? Vigour How far apart?
Beech deciduous medium 60cm (24in)
Berberis evergreen medium 45cm (18in)
Box evergreen low 25cm (15in)
Elaeagnus evergreen low 45cm (18in)
Escallonia evergreen medium 45cm (18in)
Hawthorn deciduous medium 30cm (12in)
Holly evergreen low 45cm (18in)
Hornbeam deciduous medium 45cm (18in)
Lavender evergreen low 30cm (12in)
Laurel evergreen medium 45cm (18in)
Lawson's cypress evergreen high 45cm (18in)
Leland cypress evergreen high 60cm (24in)
Photinia evergreen medium 45cm (18in)
Portugal laurel evergreen medium 45cm (18in)
Privet deciduous high 25cm (15in)
Ribes deciduous medium 45cm (18in)
Rosa evergreen medium 45cm (18in)
Western red cedar evergreen medium 45cm (18in)
Yew evergreen low 45cm (18in)

Six tips to success

  1. Once you have prepared the strip of ground, mark out the line of the hedge using a garden line or a piece of string. I also find that it's worth cutting a cane to length as a quick guide for accurate spacing. You will need to dig a hole at least twice as wide and deep than the hedging plant's container. Mix the soil you've removed with well-rotted organic matter and leave to one side. If your soil is heavy, like mine, it's worth breaking up the sides and bottom of the hole by gently pricking the smeared surfaces with a fork - this will allow the roots to grow into the surrounding soil.

  2. The hedging plants need to be planted at the same depth as they were in the pot. Check the hole is 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 in the bottom of the hole.

  3. 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 tease out any roots of container-grown plants that were circling around the bottom or sides of the pot so they grow away from the rootball and into the surrounding soil.

  4. Position the hedging plants in the centre of the hole at the correct spacing. With bare-rooted plants, carefully spread the roots out across the bottom of the hole. Start to fill in the sides of the hole with the soil mixture, gently firming it down with your heel. Shake the stem of bare-rooted hedging plants before firming the first layer to make sure soil trickles down in between the roots. Regularly check the plants are upright.

  5. Once the hole has been filled, gently firm the soil once more - you don't want to squash it in, just 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.

  6. After planting I always cover the surface of 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, either side of the row lay a thick black polythene disguised with a layer of chipped bark or soil.