Natural hedges and screens are phenomenal alternatives to fences or walls. They're perfect for enhancing your landscape appeal while simultaneously serving a highly functional purpose.
Your hedges and screens are going to be there for years. For this reason, it's worthwhile to do a little due diligence to make sure you’re planting them appropriately.
There isn't a universal set of rules for planting hedges and screens, it can easily vary by plant selection. However, below we have listed some common best practices, separated by informal, formal, and privacy tree plantings.
Informal Hedge and Screen Planting Instructions
Informal hedges are hedges that you plant without any intention of rigorous training into a continuous, uniform hedge. This includes varieties like Oleanders, Gardenias, Hydrangeas, and Azaleas.
First, determine the mature width of your shrub.
Next, place a stake about half of the mature plant width away from where you want your hedge to end.
From this first stake, measure 2/3 to 1/2 of the 'mature plant width' away from your first stake, and place a second stake. Continue this until you have spanned the length of your planting location.
Example: You have a shrub with a mature width of 6 feet. Planting them 1/2 of the mature width apart would mean having 3 feet between each shrub trunk. While planting them 2/3's of the mature width apart would leave them about 4 feet apart.
There's no hard rule for spacing most shrubs. However, your plants are supposed to intertwine. Plant them closer for a faster and tighter hedge, and further away for a slower hedge that is easier on the wallet.
At this point, it’s time to go through and dig your holes at every spot where you place a stake.
Dig your holes twice as wide as the pot they came in to promote root expansion.
Now that your shrubs are planted, you’re going to need to water them regularly to ensure that they establish themselves well.
Mulch will help prevent them from losing moisture from the top of the soil due to evaporation.
Regular fertilization will promote new growth in your newly establishing hedges, and will help them fill in the gaps quicker.
Be careful not to over-fertilize, which can prove deadly for your shrubs. A fertilizer high in nitrogen, such as 10-8-8, will promote foliage growth. This will help your plants reach a larger size faster.
Formal Hedge and Screen Planting Instructions
Formal hedges often include plants like Boxwoods, Ilex, or Privet. Essentially any variety that can be trimmed into hard shapes.
First, determine the desired height of your shrub.
Next, place a stake about 1/3 of the mature width away from where the hedge will end.
Then, use the rule of thirds, and plant your shrubs 1/3 as far apart as your intended height. This may sound close, but that's exactly what this type of hedge is.
Example: If your hedge is going to be 5 feet tall, plant your shrubs about 1.7 feet apart. If they're going to be 9 feet tall, plant them 3 feet apart.
At this point, we recommend digging a ditch along your planting route. Running from your first plant to your last.
This ditch should be about twice as wide as the root ball of your plants, and just deep enough to where the root ball is slightly above the soil line.
Place your plants in the ditch, spaced appropriately.
Backfill the dirt around your plants. Afterwards, tamp it down with your hands, or the front of your foot.
Be careful to keep your plants spaced appropriately while you're doing this.
Apply mulch to encourage moisture retention. 2 inches of mulch is generally sufficient.
Water your new shrubs regularly to ensure that they establish themselves well.
Regular fertilization will promote new growth in your hedges, and will help them fill in more quickly.
Be careful not to over-fertilize, which will lead to the rapid expiration of your shrubs. A fertilizer high in nitrogen, such as 10-8-8, will promote foliage growth.
Privacy Tree Planting
Planting Privacy Trees is a bit different from planting shrubs. Spacing can vary considerably due to growth habit and root spread.
Like informal and formal shrubs, closer tree plantings will result in faster coverage. However, plant them too close and they may end up crowding each other out.
Listed below are some popular privacy trees and their minimum planting distances:
(Don't see your species listed above? We can help! Contact us)
After you've determined the appropriate spacing for your species, planting can be done in a similar fashion to either the informal or formal hedges.
Place a stake about half of the mature width away from where you want your screen to end.
From this first stake, measure the appropriate tree spacing distance, and place a second stake. Continue this until you have spanned the length of your planting location.
Dig a hole, or dig a trench.
We recommend a trench for closer plantings, and individual holes for further spacing.
Now that your trees are planted, water them regularly to ensure that they establish themselves well.
Mulch is important for long-term success.
Regular fertilization will promote new growth, and will help them fill in the gaps.
Err on the side of caution so you don't over-fertilize. A nitrogen-rich fertilizer, such as 10-8-8, will help to promote foliage growth.
Additional Hedge and Screen Planting Tips
If a formal hedge is your end game, trim off about half of the length of the new growth every year. This will encourage the plant to grow densely. It may take slightly longer to reach its mature size, but it'll look much fuller.
For a straight line, try staking your start and end spot first, and then run a piece of flagging tape or string across to keep your line as accurate as possible
To ensure your plants' success, provide winter protection during their first couple growing seasons.
A 4-5 inch layer of mulch will provide some insulation for the base of the plant.
A blanket or piece of burlap can be used over the top of the plant during hard freezes. Simply drape it over the plant and lay stones (or anything heavy enough to hold it in place) on the edges. Make sure it covers the entire plant. Then, remove it during the day to allow the plant to receive sunlight. Do this for the entirety of the hard freeze. It may seem like a pain, but nobody enjoys replacing hedge plants and starting over from scratch.
If you want your screen or hedge to fill in even faster, stagger your shrubs (shown by diagram below). This will take up more space, but is the best way to create a full hedge quickly. This works well with both trees and shrubs.
Remember that with a little prep work, your hedge and screen dreams can go off without a hitch!
Thank you for reading! Be sure to Contact Us with any questions you might have.