How to plant a bare-root wildlife hedge

How to plant a bare-root wildlife hedge

Find out how to plant up a mixed hedge for birds, pollinators and other wildlife, in our step-by-step guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Time to act
Time to act

Do Time to act in January

Do Time to act in February

Do Time to act in March

Do not Time to act in April

Do not Time to act in May

Do not Time to act in June

Do not Time to act in July

Do not Time to act in August

Do not Time to act in September

Do not Time to act in October

Do Time to act in November

Do Time to act in December

Hedges provide many opportunities for wildlife to flourish, by providing shelter, food, nest sites and more.

As well as this, they form a natural barrier against unwanted visitors, a baffle against noise and wind, and a lovely tapestry of colour that changes with the seasons.

The thicker and taller your hedge, the more inhabitants it will support, but even a short strip will attract wildlife, including birds, field mice, bank voles, hedgehogs, invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles.

To save time and money, start your hedge by planting bare-root plants from November to March with plants like hawthorn, hazel and blackthorn. You can even buy themed, ready-made hedge packs, for example thornless or edible packs.

Before you plant, enrich your soil with plenty of well-rotted manure to give your hedge the best start in life.

Related content:

Follow the easy steps in this guide to plant your wildlife hedge.


You Will Need

  • Bare-root hedging plants
  • Mycorrhizal fungi granules
  • Bucket
  • Garden spade
  • Secateurs
  • Garden compost or well-rotted farmyard manure

Step 1

Soak the roots in a bucket of water for about 30 minutes, while you dig the trench. Trim off any roots that are damaged or overly long, to stimulate good growth.

Soaking the bare-root plants
Soaking the bare-root plants

Step 2

Make up a gel of mycorrhizal fungi, mixing granules and water in a bucket. Dip the roots in so they’re fully coated, then place the plant in your trench. Space each plant around 30cm apart.

Make a gel with mycorrhizal fungi
Make a gel with mycorrhizal fungi

Step 3

Backfill the soil around the roots and firm down with your heel to get rid of any air pockets. Give the plant a gentle tug to check that it’s securely in place.

Backfill around the roots
Backfilling around the roots

Step 4

Plants with a few roots, such as this bare-root rose, can be planted simply into a slit made in the soil with a spade. Drop the roots in, release the spade and firm in.

Planting a bare-root rose
Planting a bare-root rose

Step 5

Prune each plant back hard, by as much as half, to encourage it to become bushy. It might seem brutal, but it’ll give you a thicker hedge.

Cut the plants back by half
Cut the plants back by half

Step 6

Water the plants in, then add a layer of garden compost or well-rotted manure as a protective mulch, to help retain moisture at the roots. Keep well watered over the coming year.

Mulching around the plants
Mulching around the plants

Tips for planting your hedge

  • Plant bare-roots on the day they arrive, so they don’t dry out. If you can’t, soak them in a bucket of water then plant in a patch of bare soil until you’re ready
  • Insert whips at the correct depth, so the dark part of the stem is below soil level. Firm plants in with your heel, to prevent air pockets around the roots
  • Mulch the ground around the plants with a thick layer of organic matter to help prevent the roots drying out
  • Water regularly, especially during dry weather, as newly planted shrubs are vulnerable to dessication. You can cut back on watering after three to four months, when a new root system will have developed
  • Remove weeds that develop around the base of your hedge, as these compete with the shrubs for water and nutrients, slowing establishment

Plants for the base of a wildlife hedge

Underplanting the hedge with wildflowers will increase the biodiversity. Many plants tolerate these dry, shady conditions, so choose a mix to extend the season. Buying plug plants will keep down the cost. Plants to grow include the common polypody, cowslips, English bluebells, hedge woundwort, sweet violets, foxgloves, daffodils and yarrow. Honeysuckle and ivy are great for growing through your hedge.

Plug plant cut out