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Advice & Tips

Planting Advice

Some advice on growing and maintaining a hedge

Why Plant a hedge?

Conifer and shrub hedges, if well maintained, can provide an excellent screen with many benefits including:

  • Privacy
  • Wind reduction
  • Noise and pollution reduction
  • Screening out unsightly buildings
  • Security, providing a barrier & some plants have thorns (e.g. Pyracantha)
  • Wildlife, leylandii provides a nesting site for birds
  • Long-lived, will last longer than a fence if well maintained
  • Fast growing, the hedge will grow and fill in quickly
How many plants do I need?

We recommmend planting Leylandii, Laurel and other evergreen shrubs between 60cm and 100cm apart (approximately 2-3 feet apart). Hedges with plants 60cm apart “fill in” quicker than those planted 100cm apart.

We recommmend planting Yew (Taxus baccata) between 30cm and 60cm apart (approximately 1-2 feetapart). Hedges with plants 30cm apart “fill in” quicker than those planted 60cm apart.

We recommmend planting Buxus sempervirens (Common Box) between 20cm and 40cm apart (approximately 8-16 inches apart). Hedges with plants 20cm apart “fill in” quicker than those planted 40cm apart.

Click on the button below and enter the distance you need to cover in either metres or feet and click on “Calculate”.

Show Planting Distance Calculator

How to plant a hedge

Clear any weeds or grass from the area where the hole is to be dug.

Dig the hole to a suitable size normally around twice the size of the rootball.

Break up the soil in the bottom of the hole with a fork or spade and mix in some plant feed (we recommend Greenshutters 12 month controlled-release fertiliser). If the soil is poor, mix in some good quality top soil or multipurpose compost as well. If conditions are difficult, we recommend using Rootgrow to help the plants establish a root system quickly.

Water the root-ball of the plant so it is moist all the way through.

Remove the pot.

Place the plant in the hole, ensuring that the top of the roots are just below soil level, and back-fill with soil and compost. Firm around the sides of the root-ball with your foot.

Stake the plant if necessary.

Water well and keep it watered especially during the summer months. You must ensure that the roots never dry out until the plant has a good root system in the ground. 

Establishing a hedge

Keep the hedge sufficiently well-watered. Water the soil around the roots. Never allow the roots to dry out.

Even in following seasons, if you water your hedging plants during the drier months, you will get more growth from them and they will ‘fill in’ quicker.

Immediately after planting, determine how wide you want the hedge to be. Trim any shoots or branches coming out of the hedge back to your desired width. This will encourage the side shoots within the hedge to grow and the hedge will fill in much quicker than if you leave these shoots/branches to get long and straggly. This will create a narrow but dense hedge.

Regularly trim any branches and shoots coming out of the hedge back to your desired width. The more often you do this, the quicker the hedge will fill in and the denser it will become.

Leave the top shoot of Leylandii and Thuja until it is about 15cm (6 inches) below the height you want the hedge to be and then trim this off. In contrast, for Laurel, Portugal Laurel, Photinia, Griselinia and most other evergreen shrubs, it is best to trim the tips of every shoot twice a year during establishment. This will encourage the plants to produce more shoots and they will bush out. You want evergreen shrubs to bush out as they grow upwards.

We recommend trimming hedges in late spring or summer but be careful between March and July as birds like to nest in hedges and it is illegal to disturb them. Trimming hedges at this time of year gives them a chance to put on some re-growth and recover before the winter. Do not trim hedges in very dry or very hot conditions. 

Maintenance of a hedge

Any hedge requires a commitment to regular maintenance.

Regular light trimming of a hedge is better for the hedge, and is easier to carry out, than infrequent heavy pruning.

A leylandii hedge has to be trimmed once or twice a year. All other hedges should be trimmed at least once a year. We do not recommend trimming hedges more than twice a year as it can weaken them, especially if you keep them very tightly trimmed back. We trim our hedges once a year in early summer back to the same width as the previous year. Sometimes we trim the tops (but not the sides) of the Leylandi hedges again in late summer or autumn. Modern power tools do the job quickly and easily when the hedge is trimmed regularly and we have succesfully maintained a leylandii hedge at a height of 120cm (4 feet) for 20 years by trimming it once or twice a year.

If a leylandii hedge is left untrimmed, it will grow up to 90cm (3 feet) a year, may need costly specialist equipment or professional help to get it back into shape and will create large amounts of garden waste to dispose of. Leylandii hedges will not produce new shoots from old wood and cannot be cut back hard once they have become seriously overgrown. For this reason, a leylandii hedge should be well-maintained from the start. If you keep a Leylandii hedge at a height of 6-7ft tall, it is easy to trim. If you let your hedge get taller than this, you will need specialist ladders or platforms to trim your hedge safely.

Never cut a leylandii hedge back so hard that you are cutting into old wood (branches with no green shoots on) as they will not re-shoot.

If the boundary is shared with a neighbour, they should be consulted, as they will need to maintain their side of the hedge. You should ensure they have the ability to do so and you should not allow the hedge to grow to a height where it becomes a nuisance to them. The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 relates to high hedges and allows councils to take action where “reasonable enjoyment of a property is being adversely affected by the height of a high hedge situated on land owned or occupied by another person”. See our advice on legislation for further details.

Legislation affecting high hedges

The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 relates to high hedges and allows councils to take action where “reasonable enjoyment of a property is being adversely affected by the height of a high hedge situated on land owned or occupied by another person”. Nuisance hedges (not always leylandii) are often planted deliberately to annoy neighbours. Hedges should be kept to a height where they are not a nuisance to neighbours.

There are complicated calculations to determine what constitutes a nuisance hedge that take into account factors such as proximity to a neighbours house, height of hedge and the loss of light to a house or garden. For more details see the page on Leylandii Law at Leylandii.com