15 Best Evergreen and Flowering Shrubs for Hedges

Create Privacy With Natural Borders in Your Outdoor Space

hedges along a paver

The Spruce / Autumn Wood

A hedge is a living wall composed of plants. Hedges can be purely decorative, primarily practical, or a combination of both. Hedge plants are either evergreen or deciduous shrubs, and they're often trimmed to precise sizes and shapes. Decorative hedges sometimes use flowering hedge plants for added visual interest. On the flip side, practical hedges that are intended for privacy screens, windbreaks, and security are often composed of densely growing and tall shrubs. They might have thorns (such as hawthorns) or prickly leaves (such as English holly).

Here are 15 plants that make a nice hedge, including flowering hedge plants and evergreen shrubs.

types of shrubs for hedges

The Spruce 

Warning

Yew, holly, and several other shrubs are toxic, so be careful when growing them if children or pets are present.

  • 01 of 15

    Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata)

    Japanese holly branch with black berries and small light green leaves closeup

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Japanese holly looks more like a boxwood shrub than a holly shrub, bearing small, oval leaves. Many cultivars of this broadleaf evergreen are available. For hedge plants, most people select those that reach 3 to 4 feet in height with a similar spread. While this is a hedge with white flowers, it's usually not grown for its small blooms. Instead, it is the decorative fruits that make a showy statement in the garden.

    This is one of the easiest hedges to maintain, requiring a moderate amount of water though it can tolerate drought. It also can tolerate severe pruning, pollution, and poor soil.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Acidic soil that drains well
  • 02 of 15

    English Holly (Ilex aquifolium)

    English holly bush with red and light green berries hanging on branches with waxy green leaves

    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    English holly, with its prickly leaves, makes a better hedge plant than Japanese holly if you wish to combine security with aesthetic considerations. This is one type of holly that grows big enough to serve as a privacy screen (the 'Ferox Argentea' cultivar is 15 feet tall by 8 to 10 feet wide). However, note that holly berries are toxic and should be kept away from children and pets.

    Like Japanese holly, this is an easy hedge to maintain. English holly has a fairly slow growth rate, so you won't have to do extensive pruning.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Greenish-white flowers and red berries
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, slightly acidic, fertile soil
  • 03 of 15

    Barberry Bushes (Berberis thunbergii)

    Barberry bush branches with small purple-red leaves and bright red berries in sunlight

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Sharp thorns line the barberry's branches, making it a traditional choice for security hedges. Its bright red berries persist through the cold-weather months to provide visual interest in winter. The thorns are present year-round.

    Until recently, barberry had fallen out of favor in North America due to its invasive nature. But the development of new, noninvasive cultivars gives gardeners the opportunity to grow this plant without having to worry about its spread. This shrub can tolerate many growing conditions and requires little maintenance and pruning.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Red berries; some varieties have purple foliage and yellow-orange flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained soil
  • 04 of 15

    Boxwood Shrubs (Buxus)

    boxwood shrub hedge

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    Boxwoods make a very nice hedge plant. These broadleaf evergreens were adored by aristocratic Europeans for centuries as defining elements in formal garden design. North Americans living in deer country have found a new reason to love boxwood hedges: They are deer-resistant shrubs.

    Boxwoods also are straightforward to care for, especially once they're established. They require a moderate amount of water and annual fertilization. And they tend to grow in a pleasant shape without much pruning.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Yellow-green
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained soil
    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    Mountain Laurels (Kalmia latifolia)

    Mountain laurel bush branch with small white blossoms and pink buds clustered together closeup

    The Spruce / K. Dave

    The mountain laurel is another broadleaf evergreen that makes one of the best flowering hedges. It blooms in late spring to early summer with showy, colorful flowers. The pink-flowering types are the most popular.

    Do not try to trim laurels as you would boxwoods. Laurels look best when they are allowed to grow into their natural mature shape. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Rose, pink, white; may have purple markings
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade to full sun
    • Soil Needs: Cool, rich, moist, well-drained acidic soil 
  • 06 of 15

    Yew Bushes (Taxus)

    Yew bush branches with small evergreen needle-bearing leaves and small red berries closeup

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

    Among needle-bearing evergreens, yew bushes are perhaps the most classic hedge plants. They are popular partly because they tolerate shade. While some yews grow tall enough to serve as privacy screens, yews are slow growers. So don't expect privacy for many years.

    Yew can tolerate some drought but prefers a moderate amount of soil moisture. It also should be fertilized annually. Annual pruning isn't essential due to the slow growth rate, but it can help to promote fuller, more lush growth.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8, depending on the variety
    • Color Varieties: Non-flowering; dark green needles and red berries
    • Sun Exposure: Sun, partial shade, or full shade depending on variety
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining soil with a neutral pH
  • 07 of 15

    Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris)

    Lilac bush with small white and pink flowers and buds clustered on branches closeup

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Deciduous hedge shrubs look great while in bloom but are just so-so during the winter. Also, because they drop their leaves and stand naked for part of the year, deciduous shrubs make for less-than-ideal privacy screens. Still, lilacs can make for some of the best flowering hedge plants thanks to their pretty flowers and delicious scent.

    To form a hedge with lilacs, simply plant several of them in a line, and do not fuss with making them conform to precise dimensions. They have a moderate growth rate and will fill out soon enough. If you're looking for small flowering hedge plants, there are dwarf lilac varieties available that might suit your needs.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Lavender-blue, white, burgundy, deep purple, lilac
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Loamy soil with neutral pH
  • 08 of 15

    Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

    rose of sharon

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    Another deciduous shrub commonly found in hedges is the rose of Sharon. It is a valuable plant for gardeners wishing to maintain a continuous sequence of bloom because it is one of the late summer-flowering shrubs that display color during a part of the season when many other plants have already finished blooming for the year.

    Rose of Sharon can be a fast-growing flowering hedge plant in conditions it likes. And if you allow it to self-seed, it can easily form a lush living wall. Pruning isn't a major task, but you can clean up its shape and remove unwanted seedlings.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White, red, lavender, or light blue
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich and moist
    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15

    Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia)

    Forsythia bush with long arching branches with small yellow flowers in front of lamp post

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Forsythia bushes are among the first plants to bloom in spring. You probably will not want to prune them as meticulously as you would, say, boxwood. Most people agree that these early spring-flowering shrubs look best when they're allowed to "have a bad hair day"—i.e., grow in a fairly natural form.

    If you're looking for some of the fastest growing flowering hedges, forsythia might be the choice for you. The larger varieties can gain a couple of feet per year. But there are small varieties too that might suit your needs if you're looking for shorter flowering hedge plants.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
  • 10 of 15

    Privet Hedges (Ligustrum)

    Privet hedge with small green leaves clumped together and trimmed in a box-like form

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Like mountain laurels, privets are broadleaf shrubs that put out flowers, though their white flowers are not much of a selling point. Not all varieties of privets are evergreen, and those that are don't grow in all hardiness zones. So check with your local county extension to see whether you can grow evergreen privets in your area if you're looking for an evergreen hedge. Also, ask whether they are invasive in your region.

    In the right conditions, privets are fairly easy to grow. They should be watered regularly when they're starting out, but then they can tolerate some drought. They also take well to heavy pruning, so you can shape them to suit your needs.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Color Varieties: White flowers
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Tolerant of a variety of soil types
  • 11 of 15

    Azaleas (Rhododendron x Gable Stewartstonian)

    Azalea bush with red flowers and green leaves on dense branches

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

    As with privets, azaleas can be either evergreen or deciduous, but their flowers are far superior to those on privets. So if you're looking for an evergreen hedge with flowers, see which azalea varieties can grow in your area. Stewartstonian azalea has it all: Its dense branching structure makes it a good hedge plant (in contrast to the Exbury-type azalea, which has a looser branching structure). And it is a shrub that blooms in early spring and offers good fall color.

    Make sure to check your individual variety's growing needs. And provide your azalea with well-draining soil, or it might suffer.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Red, orange, pink, white, yellow, purple
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Fertile, well-drained, acidic, and kept evenly moist
  • 12 of 15

    Arborvitae (Thuja)

    Arborvitae dense bushes trimmed in a pyramidal form next to white and blue building

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Arborvitae shrubs are a popular evergreen hedge plant. They have a dense growth habit that makes them good privacy screens or windbreaks. There are many types of arborvitae that come in various sizes, shapes, and colors. '​North Pole' and 'Emerald Green' are just about the right size for most landscapes. But 'Green Giant,' which can become 60 feet tall, is likely too big for small properties.

    Pruning needs are minimal, as they grow in a nice natural shape. But you can prune annually to clean up growth and remove any broken or dead portions.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 7
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Tolerates a range of soils but prefers moist well-drained loams
    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    Canadian Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis)

    Canadian hemlock growing as tree with long curving trunk and small needle-like leaves on branches

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

    Although Canadian hemlocks grow as trees in the wild, they are often sold in shrub form for use in hedges. They are evergreen, so your hedge can provide privacy year-round.

    Canadian hemlocks do well with yearly pruning. But they don't tolerate wind, drought, or high heat very well. Keep the soil moist, but ensure that it has good drainage.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Small, yellow to light green
    • Sun Exposure: Partial sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, acidic
  • 14 of 15

    Acoma Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia x ‘Acoma’)

    Acoma crepe myrtle tree with white bloom clusters on weeping branches

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

    The Acoma crape myrtle is a hybrid that grows smaller than the main crape myrtle species plant at around 2 to 15 feet high with a slightly smaller spread. Thus, it can make for an excellent flowering hedge with white flowers to add visual interest. 

    Only minimal pruning is necessary just to clean up the lower branches. You can also pinch the tips of young plants as they grow to encourage a bushier form. In addition, it's ideal to deadhead (remove the spent flowers) to encourage further blooming.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining
  • 15 of 15

    Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)

    ninebark shrub

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Ninebark is a fast-growing flowering hedge plant that comes in several size varieties. You can form a small flowering hedge, or get one of the larger varieties that top out at around 10 feet high. 

    Ninebark can tolerate many different growing conditions, including clay and rocky soil along with drought. It’s best to prune out around a third of the older or damaged growth after the shrub flowers to improve air circulation and keep it vigorous.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Pink, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, clay, acidic, well-drained
FAQ
  • How far apart should you space plants for a hedge?

    It depends on the type of plant you have chosen for your hedge. Typically they should be spaced approximately 18 to 36 inches apart. Check with the nursery on the care and planting specifications of the plant you've chosen to use.

  • How often should a hedge be watered?

    Newly planted hedges will need to be watered once or twice a week, while you generally can water established hedges once a week or every other week. But this can vary based on the plant species and your growing conditions.

  • How often should you trim a hedge?

    Hedges typically need to be trimmed at least two to three times a year, but some types of plants will need to be trimmed more often.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ilex aquifolium. NC State Extension

  2. Yew. Yale University.

  3. Holly Berries. National Capital Poison Control Center.

  4. The Invasive Japanese Barberry. Penn State Extension.

  5. Deer. Missouri Botanical Garden.

  6. Privet. PennState Extension.

  7. Pruning Evergreens in the Landscape. University of Vermont Extension.

  8. Canadian Hemlock. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.