How to Plant a Privacy Hedge
Learn how to plant a privacy hedge in 8 simple steps.
Privacy screens like all hedges can serve several purposes and can add value to many different types of property.
- Serves as a living privacy fence to provide privacy from street traffic and neighbors
- Creates a sound barrier to reduce noise
- Acts as a windbreak to protect against harsh winds
- Works as a living snow fence to reduce snow
- Serves as a living privacy fence to limit your view to mask distant objects
Determine the type of tree that best suits your needs
Evergreens are great for reducing noise, reducing snow, and screening all year long. Deciduous Trees offer a wider variety of landscaping elements including spring flowers or fall colors but do not provide a year round screen.
Decide how high you want your screen
Determine how high you want your screen. Put a ladder or have someone stand where you are considering placing the hedge, this will let you visually see how high you want your screen.
Popular Evergreen Tall Tree Hedges
- American Arborvitae is a popular tree hedge but can grow 40' to 60' tall
- Green Giant Arborvitae is a popular fast growing hedge that can grow up to 60' tall
Popular Evergreen Shrub Hedges
- Emerald Arborvitae grows 10' to 15' but can be trimmed shorter
- Nigra Arborvitae can grow 20' to 30' but takes pruning well so it can be trimmed shorter
Popular Deciduous Shrubs
- The Rose of Sharon is a great flowing hedge
- North Privet is a fast growing shrub that is suitable for many yards
Decide how much width you have available
After figuring out your main reason for planting and how high you want your hedge, the next step is to determine how much space you have available. If you have a large amount of space available you may consider making a double or triple row. If the space is tight you may consider the following trees or shrubs.
Planting in rows close together trees and shrubs will not spread out as wide as if they were a single species in a landscape.
Narrow Evergreen Tree Hedges
- American Arborvitae will grow up to 15' wide in the wild but can trim shorter in a hedge setting and due to close planting proximity will greatly reduce overall width.
Narrow Evergreen Shrub Hedges
- Emerald Arborvitae grows 3' to 4' wide in the wild but commonly 2' wide in hedges
- Korean Boxwood grows 4' to 6' wide in the wild and can be trimmed to fit smaller spaces
Narrow Deciduous Shrub Hedges
- North Privet grows 4' to 6' wide in the wild but can be trimmed to more compact widths.
Select a plant that meets your needs
Now that you know why you are planting a hedge, how much space you have, and how tall you want your screen; you can select a plant.
Check out the hedge overview in Step 2 to compare popular hedges.
Rows and Spacing
The amount of space you have and how dense you want your screen will determine the number of rows you plant. Spacing between rows is based on crown width, but at a minimum try to avoid root crowding by setting at least 12" to 24" apart measuring from the center of the plant. Spacing will depend on the type of shrub or tree you are planting and how close you want them at maturity.
- For evergreen trees, like junipers and cedars, you would want 6-8 feet between trees
- For pines and spruce trees it is recommended to leave about 10-12 feet between trees
- American Arborvitae can be planted as close as 3 feet
- Mid-sized evergreen shrubs you may want to plant 3 to 4 feet apart
- Narrow shrubs like the Emerald Arborvitae or Korean Boxwood can be planted 24 inches apart
- North Privet can be planted 24 inches apart
- The Rose of Sharon should be planted 2-3 feet apart
- Again, at a minimum try to avoid root crowding by setting at least 12-24 inches apart measuring from the center of the plant. Also remember by planting trees and shrubs in rows close together they will not spread out as wide as if they were a standalone tree or shrub.
Map out your planting area
Once you have picked out your plants you are now ready to map out the location of your plants.
You can do this by putting wooden stakes in the ground at each end and tie a string between them. This will make sure you have a straight row or rows. Based upon the amount of space you have determined from Step 5, place a sprinkler flag or other marker along the string. (Example: You determined that 24 inches is the amount appropriate for your plan and plants. You would then place a sprinkler flag at 24 inches, 48 inches, 72 inches, and so on.
Plant your shrubs
For hedges, it is best to dig a straight trench when planting bare root shrubs. For containerized plants, individual holes work best. However, either method can be used.
Follow our handy tree planting videos to learn how to plant your tree or shrub privacy hedge.
Training your shrubs as a hedge
Start training your shrubs after it is established and growing vigorously. Generally this takes 1-2 seasons after planting.
To train as a hedge, trim top and sides a few times per year as necessary, removing about one-half the length of new shoots. Most needled evergreens make their growth early in the season, while most broadleaf evergreens and deciduous plants grow over a longer period of time. Ideal hedge shapes are wider at the base than the top, to allow sunlight to reach the lower leaves.
Training a tree like a juniper, cedar, or pine is not recommended. If you are using a tree to create a hedge or screen, it is best to allow them to grow naturally and follow good pruning techniques.