2016 FAQs: Choosing the Right Hedging Plant (Part 1)

Choosing the Right Hedging Plant is really no different to deciding on, say, your new kitchen. It comes down to listening to both your head and heart…

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Beech 1.5m

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Choosing the Right Hedging Plant: The Starting Point

While hedging plants are generally not especially fussy in the way, say, Heathers are, plants do have preferences and while it is not necessary to always provide absolutely perfect conditions for each variety, it is important to ensure the prevailing and provided conditions are at least within the plant’s range of tolerance. So, for example, while Common Beech will be happy in partial shade, Purple Copper Beech must have full sun.

The starting point in Choosing the Right Hedging Plant therefore has to lie with the head. There are certain practical considerations that have to hold sway. These are:

  • Soil
  • Conditions
  • Situation

Choosing the Right Hedging Plant: Soil

Look around you – the chances are that hedging plants growing well in the gardens of your immediate neighbourhood will thrive in yours. If, for example, Yew is growing well in gardens to your left and right, then Yew can go on your wish list. But, don’t take this for granted as there can be variables: perhaps your garden is a couple of metres lower and therefore more prone to bogginess. If so, you may have to turn to Hornbeam.

And while it is true that most hedging plants will thrive in most soils, really getting to understand your soil is both easy and inexpensive…

The first test is the easiest – one look will tell you if your soil is clay, chalk, sand or loam. And if it’s a new garden, then dig a hole a couple of spades deep to check that your topsoil isn’t covering a different soil beneath. (And you can use this hole for the drainage test detailed in our next Post)

It is also worth checking your soil’s pH. You can buy a cheap testing kit from your local garden centre or online and take readings across your garden This will tell you if your soil is extremely acid or alkaline – the two conditions that cannot, must not be ignored. The guide is as follows. If your soil is between 5.6 and 8.4, the vast majority of hedging plants will be content:

Ultra acidic                               < 3.5

Extremely acidic                  3.5–4.4

Very strongly acidic             4.5–5.0

Strongly acidic                       5.1–5.5

Moderately acidic         5.6–6.0

Slightly acidic                 6.1–6.5

Neutral                             6.6–7.3

Slightly alkaline            7.4–7.8

Moderately alkaline   7.9–8.4

Strongly alkaline               8.5–9.0

Very strongly alkaline         > 9.0


In the next post, we’ll look at how conditions in your garden effect your choice