How to Plant a Hedge: A Guide to Green Screening and Border Definition

Plant a Hedge

How to Plant a Hedge: A Guide to Green Screening and Border Definition

Are you considering the addition of a natural privacy screen to your garden? Or perhaps you’re looking for some definition along borders?

When contemplating how to enhance the aesthetics of your outdoor space while also providing much-needed privacy, it’s hard to surpass the utility of a well-placed hedge.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the sequential steps and important considerations for planting a hedge that not only thrives but also fulfils its intended purpose in your garden.

Planting a hedge is easy!

Plant a Hedge


Choosing the Right Plants

Understanding the Purpose of Your Hedge

Before selecting your hedge plants, it’s important to define the primary function of your hedge:

  • Privacy: Will it need to form a screen year-round?
  • Boundary marking: Is it meant to delineate property lines or garden areas?
  • Windbreak: Should it minimise the impact of prevailing winds?
  • Noise reduction: Are you aiming to diminish road noise or create a tranquil garden ambience?

Each objective may influence the choice of species, planting distance, and maintenance regime.

Evaluating Site Conditions

Site analysis helps ensure that the chosen hedge plants are suited to the local conditions:

  • Soil Type: Assess soil texture, drainage, and fertility.
  • Sunlight Availability: Understand the pattern of sun and shade across the day, and throughout the year.
  • Space Considerations: Research your plant’s ideal spacing for hedging on the internet or on your plants’ tags. Determine the available planting area and avoid overcrowding.
  • Climate: Take into account the regional climate, which affects plant hardiness.
  • Microclimate: Identify any site-specific conditions such as frost pockets or heat reflectance from nearby structures.
  • Companion Plants: Consider other garden plants that have similar requirements, as these can be paired effectively with your hedge.

Selecting Suitable Species

The key to a successful hedge lies in choosing the right plant species:

  • Biodiversity: Look for species that offer flowers, fruits, seeds and habitat to support local wildlife.
  • Foliage: Decide between evergreen plants (most Australian natives, for instance) for year-round coverage, or deciduous ones for seasonal variation.
  • Growth Rates and Mature Heights: Consider how fast the species grows and its potential height at maturity, especially if you wish to minimise regular pruning and let the hedge reach its natural size.
  • Maintenance Requirements: Some hedges require more care than others, including feeding, irrigation, pruning, and vigilance for pests and diseases. Consider choosing a low-maintenance hedge.

By taking the time to thoroughly understand your hedge’s purpose, assess the site, and carefully select species that are fit for your conditions and needs, you’ll lay the groundwork for a hedge that not only looks beautiful but also serves its intended function with distinction.

Planning Your Hedge

The process of planning your hedge is foundational to its success. It requires careful consideration and an understanding of the various factors that will affect both the aesthetics and functionality of your green screen.

The number one rule in horticulture is “right plant, right place” This Slim Callistemon is perfect for the space, because it has a narrow, upright growth habit. Slim™Callistemon viminalis ‘CV01’ PBR.

callistemon plants

Design Considerations

  • Formal vs. Informal Hedge Aesthetics: Decide whether you’re aiming for a manicured look (formal) or a more naturalistic style (informal).
  • Straight or Curved Lines: Contemplate the flow of your garden spaces when deciding on the line your hedge will take.
  • Single or Multiple Species: This choice will impact not only the visual interest but also the biodiversity your hedge supports. A mix can provide varied resources for fauna, but may not be as neat for formal gardens.

Spacing Guidelines

  • The planting distance between individual plants depends on their species and your landscape goals. Consult plant labels or online databases for specific guidance.
  • Consider root competition and the desired thickness of your hedge.
  • Dense planting results in a thicker hedge that’s faster to join.
  • Wider spacing is more economical as it requires fewer plants, but patience will be needed while waiting for the plants to fill in the gaps.

Preparation for Planting

Soil Preparation

  • Testing soil pH, texture, and structure are a good idea—acidic or alkaline soils can greatly influence plant health and growth, while the physical properties can create a heaven or hell for our plants.
    • pH: A measure of soil acidity or alkalinity which affects nutrient availability.
    • Texture: Whether your soil is clayey, silty, sandy or loamy, this influences water retention and root penetration.
    • Structure: Good, stable soil structure promotes healthy root development and water movement. As an over-simplification, adding organic matter is usually the best way to improve soil structure.
  • Drainage should be adequate to prevent waterlogging, which many plants don’t appreciate. Too much drainage prevents enough moisture and nutrients for other plants.
  • Further testing is generally not required for most amenity hedges unless there are specific concerns about fertility or contamination.

Tools and Materials

  • Ensure you have all the necessary tools for hedge planting including spades, trowels, and measuring tools.
  • Don’t overlook protective gear such as gloves to prevent blisters, a hat for sun protection, high vis gear for visibility, and goggles for eye protection. Hearing protection is advised if you’re using an auger.

Planting Your Hedge

Timing for Success

  • Choosing the right time to plant isn’t always critical, but is certainly beneficial. For most species and climates, late winter or early spring is ideal.
  • Planting should be avoided during extreme weather conditions that can stress the plants.

Step-by-Step Planting Process

  1. Measuring and Marking Out the Hedge Line: Use a measuring tape, and string lines or marking paint for precision.
  2. Digging the Trench or Planting Holes: The width and depth should accommodate the root ball fully. Ensure the trench or holes are as deep and twice as wide as the root ball.
  3. Adding Amendments if Necessary: Include gypsum for heavy clay soils, soil wetters or kaolin clay for hydrophobic sand, and organic matter for structure and nutrition.
  4. Initial Watering and Care: Provide ample water to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. Be careful with heavy clays, which may hold water for longer than you realise and encourage root rot.

By adhering to these guidelines and considering every aspect of the process, from design through to the actual planting, you;ll enhance your hedge’s chances of thriving and fulfilling its role in your garden.

Post-Planting Care

After the careful selection and planting of hedge plants, post-planting care is vital to ensure their healthy establishment and long-term success.

Watering Requirements

Establishing a Watering Schedule

The development of a consistent watering schedule is paramount for young hedges. They require regular watering to encourage deep root growth, which in turn provides stability and access to nutrients.

Automated irrigation is probably the best way, but if you’re willing to commit to hand-watering that’s more economical and gives you a chance to observe your plants.

Managing Water Stress in Young Plants

Water stress can occur if a plant receives too little or too much water. Recognising the signs, such as wilted leaves or overly soggy soil, and adjusting your watering accordingly helps prevent stress that could hinder growth.

Fertilisation and Mulching

Selecting the Right Fertiliser

Most hedges can withstand regular fertilisers, including most native plants. However, members of the Proteaceae family thrive with native fertiliser mixes that are low in phosphorous to prevent nutrient toxicity.

Benefits of Mulching for Hedge Plants

Mulch serves several functions: it retains soil moisture, suppresses weeds, and adds nutrients. Furthermore, it can protect against temperature extremes by insulating the soil.

Why Chunky Mulch is Better Than Fine Particles

Coarser, chunkier mulch allows for better air and water movement through the soil, preventing mould growth and ensuring roots receive adequate oxygen. When used at a thickness of around 100mm, it also discourages weeds taking root as there are no fine particles that act like soil for them to take root.

Pruning and Shaping

Initial Pruning for Healthy Growth

Pruning early on encourages bushier growth and helps the plants to establish a strong framework. This is particularly important for hedge plants to create density.

Long-term Shaping Strategies

As your hedge matures, strategic pruning will shape it according to your desired aesthetic and functional requirements. Pruning the tips of branches encourages bushier growth, while avoiding pruning encourages the existing branches to grow longer.

Phototropism often dictates those longer branches drop leaves within the plant. This means that when you prune the branches back where you want them, there may be few or no leaves left.

Safety and Tool Maintenance

It’s important to prioritise safety when pruning. Use well-maintained tools to make clean cuts and protect yourself with appropriate gear.

Use proper ladder safety; never stand on the top two steps, always keep your ladder level, don’t reach out too far, and never do anything you’re uncomfortable with.

With a little bit of patience, your hedge can look as good as this! Naringa™ Westringia hybrid ‘WES01’ PBR

Plant a Hedge

Plant Diseases and Pests

Vigilance in identifying signs of plant disease and pests early on can save a hedge. Preventative measures, like selecting disease-resistant varieties and encouraging beneficial organisms, are beneficial for management.

Abiotic Health Problem Troubleshooting

Abiotic problems refer to non-living environmental factors that can negatively impact plant health, including physical and chemical elements like chemicals, sunlight, water, and soil conditions.

Monitor for symptoms such as leaf scorch or chlorosis (leaf yellowing), which can indicate issues with watering, sunlight exposure, or soil nutrient imbalances.

Protect young hedges from damage during lawn maintenance and ensure they’re not planted too deeply to avoid root rot. Check for old ties or other objects that are strangling the plant.

Each plant has its climate preferences and sunlight needs. Matching these with your garden’s conditions is crucial for hedge vitality.

Periodic thinning may be necessary to maintain airflow and light penetration. Every couple of years, take out some of the thinner branches – be conservative to avoid stressing your plant or causing it to look unsightly, of course.

Replanting may be needed for hedgerows that have become overgrown or sparse.

Assess and amend soil periodically to cater to your hedge plants’ specific needs, ensuring continued nutrient availability and proper drainage. Or, even better, plant something that thrives in your garden’s existing conditions.


Hedges are indeed a long-term investment in your garden’s beauty and functionality. By adhering to the advice outlined in this article, you can create a hedge that fulfills its purpose and contributes positively to your outdoor space.

Remember, the specific needs of your environment and the role your hedge will serve are fundamental. With informed species selection, effective site preparation, and diligent plant maintenance, your hedge will flourish, providing privacy, habitat, and aesthetic appeal.


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