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.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

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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