Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

The Best – and Worst – Shrubs for hedges

Alpine currant.

There is no lack of good shrubs for use in hedges. Here is a list of the better varieties for use in colder temperate areas (Canada and the northern United States).

  1. Alpine currant (Ribes alpinum) zone 4b
  2. Amur maple (Acer tataricum ginnala) zone 2a
  3. Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) zone 3b
  4. Arctic willow (Salix purpurea ‘Nana’) zone 2
  5. Blizzard mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii ‘Blizzard’) zone 2
  6. Boxwood (Buxus spp.) zones 4 to 9, depending on variety
  7. Common privet (Ligustrum vulgare) zone 6b
  8. Dwarf European Cranberry Bush (Viburnum opulus ‘Nanum’) zone 2b
  9. Dwarf lilac (Syringa spp.) zones 3 to 5, depending on variety
  10. Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) zone 4
  11. Hedge cotoneaster (Cotoneaster lucidus) zone 2b
  12. Honeysuckle* (Lonicera spp.) zone 2
  13. Japanese barberry** (Berberis thunbergii) zone 4
  14. Ninebark (Physocarpus spp.) zone 2b
  15. Shrub rose (Rosa spp.) zones 2 to 7, depending on variety
  16. Shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) zone 2
  17. Siberian peashrub (Caragana arborescens) zone 2
  18. Snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp.) zones 2 to 5, depending on variety
  19. Spirea (Spiraea spp.) zones 2 to 6, depending on variety

*Varieties resistant to witch’s broom only.

**Considered invasive in certain areas. Always check with local authorities before planting.

Shrubs to Avoid

The following shrubs are often offered as hedge plants, but actually make poor choices in most cases:

  1. Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.): Avoid varieties subject to witch’s broom.
  2. Siberian elm, also called Chinese elm (Ulmus pumila): Popularly sold as a “fast-growing hedge”, Siberian elm is actually a tree and will quickly outgrow its role. It soon loses its lower branches and is highly subject to diseases when heavily pruned.
  3. Spruce (Picea spp.): Their tendency to thin out at the base and to react badly to harsh pruning make them poor hedge specimens.
  4. Yew (Taxus spp.): They make excellent hedges in zone 6 and above, but are subject to winter burn in colder climates.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “The Best – and Worst – Shrubs for hedges

  1. Joey Bedrosian

    you have honeysuckle listed for best and worst. which is it?

    • I’m sorry if the text wasn’t clear. Honeysuckles that are subject to witches brooms make terrible hedges. Onces that are not make great hedges.

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