Evergreens make wonderful, quick hedges and privacy screens. Some mature quickly into dense hedges and others develop with you, over time. When planting your living screen, do not plant in a straight line. Zig-zag the trees to give a fuller effect and to allow the trees to get air and the sun. This will also help the hedge give with the wind, preventing breakage and wind tunnels.
Choose a couple of your favorite evergreen varieties. It is wise to plant more than one variety of evergreen in a border so that disease and pests will not destroy the whole planting. Take a look at some top choices.
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Long a European favorite, boxwood (Buxus) responds very well to pruning and shaping. Besides making great hedges, boxwoods are a favorite tree for a topiary. The tiny, evergreen leaves remain tidy when clipped. Korean boxwood is proving to be hardier than the English varieties. Prune in late spring, as new growth darkens. It is suitable for U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 5 to 8. Size varies with species and it prefers full sun to partial shade.
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Yew (Taxus baccata) makes a dense hedge that responds well to pruning. Overgrown yew hedges can often be restored by hard pruning in late winter. Many yews used for foundation plantings remain squat. T. baccata grows to 6 feet tall and 16 feet spread, making it great for hedging. The uniformity of a yew hedge makes a great wall for enclosed gardens. It is a slow-to-medium grower. It is suitable for USDA zones 5 or 6 through 8. Yew grows best in full sun to partial shade.
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Arborvitae Green Giant (Thuja "Green Giant") was introduced by the U.S. National Arboretum. You can grow it in almost any soil conditions from sand to clay. It forms a pyramid shape and requires no pruning. It is pest resistant and even deer resistant. For a quick hedge or windbreak, plant these plants 5 to 6 feet apart. For a more gradual hedge, plant 10 to 12 feet apart. It is suitable for USDA zones 2 through 10 and grows best in full sun. These fast-growers can reach a height of 60 feet and a spread of 20 feet.
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Popular for its glossy green leaves, and bright red berries, hollies (Ilex) look best if kept trimmed and full. Only the females set berries, but you will need a male to cross-pollinate. There are some new varieties that do not require two sexes. Hollies prefer acidic soil and the addition of peat or garden sulfur may be necessary. The American holly is more widely adaptable than English holly. It is a medium grower, reaching a height of 6 to 10 feet and a spread of 5 to 8 feet. Plant hollies 2 to 4 feet apart. It is suitable for USDA zones 5 through 9 and prefers full sun to partial shade.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Firethorn (Pyacantha coccinea) can be a bit unruly, but it still looks striking in the landscape. It is an evergreen with white flowers in spring and orange-red berries from summer into winter and is popular for Christmas decorations. This drought-tolerant plant likes full sun to partial shade. Plant firethorns 3 to 4 feet apart. It is a fast grower and can reach a height of 8 to 12 feet and a spread of 3 to 5 feet. Prune if necessary, after flowering. It is suitable for USDA zones 5 or 6 through 9.
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The Leyland cypress (x Cupressocyparis Leylandii) is a column-like evergreen with flat scale-like leaves. It makes a tough privacy screen or windscreen that is salt tolerant and grows best in full sun. Many new cultivars are being bred for bluer color, variegation, and more feathery foliage. It is a fast grower and you can prune to shape it as new foliage deepens in color. It is suitable for USDA zones 5 through 9. It can reach a height of 60 to 70 feet and a spread of 15 to 20 feet.
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Also known as the gold dust tree, Aucuba japonica "Variegata" has leathery pale bright green leaves mottled with yellow variegation. This tree is a standout, especially when used to light up a shady area, which it prefers. "Variegata" is a female and requires a male for pollination, to produce red berries. Good choices include "Mr. Goldstrike" and "Maculata." This laurel likes moist soil but can handle periodic dry spells. It is a slow grower that can be pruned in early spring to summer. It can reach a height of 6 to 9 feet and a spread of 3 to 5 feet. It is suitable for USDA zones 6 through 9.
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The more upright cotoneasters can be used to form a solid hedge. Several cotoneaster species are evergreen or semi-evergreen, especially in USDA zones 7 and higher. It grows best in full sun to partial shade.
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- C. lucidus: It grows 6 to 10 feet tall; grows best in USDA zones 6 through 8.
- C. glaucophyllus: It grows 3 to 4 feet tall with a 6-foot spread; it grows best in USDA zones 7 through 9.
- C. franchetii: It grows 6 feet tall with a 6-foot spread; it grows best in USDA Zones 5 through 8.
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Nandina domestica is popular in the southern U.S., where its fall/winter berries are the most striking. However, Nandina is tougher than its delicate foliage would suggest. White spring flowers come in hydrangea-like panicles and are followed by bunches of red berries. The foliage blushes red for fall and winter. It is a medium-to-fast grower and can be pruned before new growth. Expect a height of 5 to 7 feet and a spread of 3 to 5 feet. Heavenly bamboo grows best in full sun and in USDA zones 6 through 9.
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A classic hedge plant, not all privets (Ligustrum) are evergreen. The dense foliage responds extremely well to pruning and can be pruned after flowering. Most have white summer flowers followed by black berries. Privet is very adaptable and will grow in just about any conditions from full sun to shade. USDA zones vary from 3 to 6 and 7 to 8, These fast growers reach a height of 15 feet and a spread of 5 to 6 feet.