Using a Tree as a Hedge Plant

Tree Species That Work Well With Low Maintenance

American Arborvitae
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Hedges provide both privacy and beauty in the landscape. Many trees are well suited for hedges, but selection of a tree should be made by considering the particular purpose of the hedge and the growing conditions at the desired site. Check the individual tree species for characteristics and site needs.

A homeowner wanting to plant a hedge should be committed to doing major maintenance. Actually, trees, if picked correctly, can be a medium to low maintenance hedge if there is available room.

Selecting Trees for Hedges:

Remember that you will have to dedicate much more space to a tree than to shrubs. Abide by the tree's minimum spacing requirement which can be found at your nursery.

Deciduous trees in a hedge generally provide screening only during the spring/summer growing season. Evergreen trees, both broad and narrow-leaved types, are effective year-round hedges. Sometimes a flowering tree is desirable. Such trees may be pruned periodically but should be allowed to grow in their natural informal shape.


The planting space required will vary with the type of tree and the purpose of the hedge. For the most part, you will have to dedicate more space to a tree than to shrubs. Always consider the tree's minimum spacing requirement.

Conifers used for tall screens which require little trimming and should be spaced about six feet apart. Trees for informal or untrimmed hedges should be spaced farther apart than if planted for trimmed hedges.

To assure a thicker hedge, place plants in a double row.

Training and Care:

Trees do not take training and pruning as well as shrubs. Most trees can not be rejuvenated by pruning back to ground level. Trees do not fill in as well when topped - and most should not be topped.

Shrubs will grow to fill the hedge much quicker than trees.

Since trees take longer to fill in space and are planted farther apart, the initial planting may look sparse and take several years to look like you intended. Having patience is a must. You have to give a tree the time it needs.

Recommended Trees for Windbreaks and Privacy Hedges:

White Fir or Abies concolor: grows to 65' - Large evergreen tree with silver green to blue color. Not as vigorous as other large evergreens.

American Arborvitae or Thuja occidentalis: grows to 30' - Useful for windbreaks or screens. Do not use in hot dry situations.

Amur Maple or Acer ginnala: grows to 20' - Dense and compact, requires little pruning. Useful for large windbreaks and screens.

Carolina Hemlock or Tsuga caroliniana : grows to 60' - Dense compact evergreen tree. Use for windbreaks or screens.

Cornelian Cherry or Cornus mas: grows to 24' - Small yellow flowers in early April. Dense compact small tree. Red fruit are produced in summer. You might even consider a common dogwood or Cornus florida.

American Beech or Fagus grandifolia : grows to 90' - Dense compact tree. Useful for wind-breaks or screens. May be difficult to transplant. Usually expensive.

American Holly or llex opaca: grows to 45' - Thorny broad-leaved evergreen.

Fruit is colorful. May be winter injured in northern areas.

Chinese Juniper or Juniperus chinensis ‘Keteleeri’ : grows to 20' - Loose evergreen with light-medium green leaves. Pyramidal form.

Canaerti Juniper or Juniperus virginiana ‘Canaertii’: grows to 35' - An Eastern red cedar cultivar. Dense compact evergreen with dark green leaves. Pyramidal form.

Osage Orange or Maclura pomifera: grows to 40' - Dense compact thorny habit. Use only for tall hedges where other plants won’t survive. Useful for windbreaks or screens. The hedge most planted by farmers years ago.

Leyland cypress: grows to 50' - Fast-growing, beautiful, and dense conifer that can quickly outgrow its space and subject to a major canker disease. Plant with caution.

Norway Spruce: grows to 60' - Dense compact narrow-leaved ever- green tree.

Needs shearing. Useful for windbreaks or screens.

Eastern White Pine or Pinus strobus: grows to 80' - Dense compact evergreen tree. Needs shearing. Useful for windbreaks or screens.

Douglas fir or Pseudotsuga menziesii: grows to 80' - Dense compact evergreen tree. Excellent for windbreaks or screens. Difficult to grow in some locations.