Hornbeam hedge in spring

Fast-growing hedges

Need a hedge in a hurry? Here are some fast-growing plants for hedges.

If you’re planting a hedge, the chances are that you want it to grow fast, creating privacy, a boundary or a windbreak, or dividing your garden into ‘rooms’. A hedge is an excellent alternative to a fence – it provides interest all year round and can provide shelter and food for a wide range of wildlife. It also makes a better windbreak than a fence – it filters the wind, rather than creating eddies in your garden.

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The cheapest way to plant a hedge is to plant bare-root plants in the dormant season, between November and February. Many hedging plants can be grown in this way, including beech, hornbeam and yew. Discover how to plant a bare-root hedge. Evergreen hedges, such as privet, are best planted in early autumn.

Choose plants that will establish and grow fast, knitting together quickly. Here are some suggestions for fast-growing hedging plants, all of which should put on a minimum of 30cm growth a year.

A hedge is an excellent alternative to a fence - it provides interest all year round and can provide shelter and food for a wide range of wildlife.

Cherry laurel

Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is a dense evergreen with large glossy green leaves; it should put on at least 30cm in a year. In summer it bears fruits that resemble cherries, turning from red to black as they mature. Grow in sun or shade.

Evergreen cherry laurel
Evergreen cherry laurel

Fuchsia

Fuchsia magellanica can be grown as an attractive and unusual flowering hedge in milder parts of the UK. It can reach 3m in height but can be pruned after flowering to keep it at a more manageable height if desired. Grow in a sheltered spot, in partial shade.

Dark pink and purple fuchsia flowers
Dark pink and purple fuchsia flowers

Griselinia

Griselinia littoralis is an attractive evergreen that has oval, apple-green leaves and is especially suited to sheltered sites and seaside gardens – avoid northern or exposed situations. You can expect griselinia to grow around 30cm in a year. Grow in a sunny spot.

Oval-leaved griselinia hedge
Oval-leaved griselinia hedge

Beech

Beech (Fagus sylvatica) forms a dense, attractive hedge that should put on at least 30cm of growth per year. It’s deciduous but if you clip it in autumn, it will retain its coppery leaves over winter, before they are replaced by new, fresh green leaves in spring.

Beech
Beech

Bamboo

Bamboo makes a contemporary, evergreen hedge. Choose with care – some varieties can reach 6m tall, and some have invasive, spreading roots – be sure to contain them within a solid barrier. Different varieties grow at different rates – 30cm-1m a year. Grow in moist soil.

Phyllostachys nigra f. henonis
Phyllostachys nigra f. henonis

Viburnum tinus

Viburnum tinus is a dense evergreen shrub that makes a lovely, informal flowering hedge. It has dark green leaves and clusters of strongly scented flowers from late winter to early spring. It grows fast when young (at least 30cm a year); more slowly when mature.

Maroon buds and white flowers of viburnum
Maroon buds and white flowers of viburnum

Photinia

Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’ is a popular choice for an evergreen hedge. The new growth in spring is an attractive red, before maturing to a glossy, dark green. Expect it to put on 30cm in a year. Clipping it in summer will give it a more formal look.

Red, new Photinia foliage
Red, new Photinia foliage

Privet

Privet (Ligustrum) is a very popular hedge choice, popular in front gardens. It’s evergreen and grows at a rate of around 30cm per year. Trim it a couple of times in summer to encourage it to form a dense, formal, neat hedge.

Privet, bearing small white flowers
Privet, bearing small white flowers

Western red cedar

Western red cedar (Thuja plicata) is a good alternative to leylandii (x Cupressocyparis leylandii) which can become problematic. It grows at a rate of 45-60cm a year, so bear this in mind when considering it.  The leaves release a fragrance when crushed or rubbed against.

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A hedge of western red cedar
A hedge of western red cedar

Portuguese laurel

Portuguese laurel, Prunus lusitanica, is another good choice for an evergreen, formal hedge. It produces small, fragrant white flowers in summer, followed by dark berries which are popular with birds. It will put on between 30cm and 60cm a year.

A glossy green Portuguese laurel hedge
A glossy green Portuguese laurel hedge

Pruning hedges

Hedges are best trimmed in summer. Wait until July, when any nesting birds will have finished raising their broods.

Pruning shears