A long, low boxwood hedge along pavement
(Image credit: hrabar)

If you’re looking to create an area of privacy in your yard, look no further than an evergreen hedge row. Sure you can use a fence, wall, specialty or designed paneling to screen an area but, installing evergreen hedge shrubs gives it a more natural look that will blend in with the existing landscape. Plus, it’s often a less expensive option. Not sure what evergreen hedge plants to look for? Read on to learn about evergreens for hedges.

About Hedging Evergreens

Despite the name, all evergreens lose some leaves each year. Compared to deciduous plants, though, they still keep enough foliage to provide year round screening. There are essentially two types of evergreen: broadleaved and narrow leaved. Narrow leaved evergreens such as pines and junipers have needle-like foliage which stays on the tree for a couple of years more, while broadleaved types lose older leaves during the winter or early spring.

All evergreens require good soil drainage, but broadleaved varieties need more consistent soil moisture than narrow leaved evergreens. Broadleaved varieties also need more protection from cold, dry winds and winter sun than narrow leaved evergreens.

Screening evergreens should generally mature at about shoulder height with dense foliage and low branching habits. In some areas, a mix of evergreens and deciduous plants make for a more natural looking screen than a simple row of evergreen shrubs or trees.

Considerations before Purchasing Evergreen Hedge Plants

The first thing to consider when planning an evergreen hedge is the location. Consider the mature size of the plants. Broadleaved plants do best when in a protected east or northern exposure with consistent soil moisture, while narrow leaved evergreens are more resilient and less picky about site conditions.

In any case good drainage and loose aerated soil is important. This means that dense, mostly clay soil should be amended with a course of organic material prior to planting.

The amount of maintenance a plant requires should also be considered. If you want a military row of precisely pruned evergreens, then prepare for more maintenance than with a more unruly natural look composed of broadleaved evergreens and deciduous plantings.

Types of Evergreen Hedge Plants and Shrubs

The most common evergreen hedge plant is boxwood. Deer tolerant, it is a favorite in formal gardens. Hardy to USDA zone 5, boxwood does best when in a sheltered location in either sun or shade.

One of the more common upright narrow leaved evergreens suited for screening is the arborvitae. Arborvitae work well in narrow spaces and grow best in full sun. Another evergreen suited for narrow spaces is the columnar Japanese plum yew. This evergreen will thrive in sun or shade and is fairly deer resistant.

Another upright with dark green, glossy leaves is cleyera (Temstroemia gymnathera). Extremely adaptable, cleyera is both drought tolerant and deer resistant.

Other evergreen trees suitable for screening include white fir, Japanese Cryptomeria, Leland cypress, many varieties of holly, Chinese and Rocky Mountain juniper, Eastern red cedar, Sweet Bay or Southern magnolia, Eastern white pine, Cherry laurel, and Canadian or Carolina hemlock.

Flowering Evergreen Plants for Hedges

Add in some color with flowering hedge plants such as California lilac (Ceanothus), hedge germander, ‘Firethorn’ Pyracantha coccinea and Pittosporum tobira. Azalea, rhododendron, camellia, gardenia, pieris, daphne will also brighten up a hedged area.

Variegated shrubs such as Japanese pittosporum and wintercreeper also add a pop of color and look especially nice when combined with other broadleaf and narrow leaf evergreens.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.