Your Complete Guide on How to Plant a Hedge

Ready to edge your space with greenery? We will take you through how to plant a hedge easily. We’ve covered the essentials: selecting suitable plants, preparing your plot, and planting must-dos. By the end of this guide, you’ll be ready to create a hedge that’s both a vibrant border and a garden highlight.

Key Takeaways

  • Select hedge plants based on local conditions and desired aesthetics, considering factors such as sun intensity, tolerance to dryness and winds, maintenance, growth speed, water needs, and unique features.

  • The best time to plant most hedges is early autumn for root establishment, except for frost-sensitive and dormant-phase varieties, which require spring or late winter planting, respectively.

  • Proper soil preparation and planting techniques are essential for healthy hedge growth. This includes enriching the soil with organic matter, ensuring good drainage, spacing plants appropriately, maintaining watering routines, and performing initial and ongoing trimming.

Choosing the Perfect Hedge Plants for Your Garden

oval shaped hedges

Choosing the perfect hedge plants for your garden can be a fun, yet challenging task. It is best to prioritise the plant’s suitability to local garden conditions, considering aspects such as:

  • Sun intensity: depending on the amount of sunlight your garden receives, choose hedge plants that can tolerate full sun or partial shade.

  • Dryness: for dry conditions, hedge plants with waxy coatings or thick, shiny leaves are ideal as they protect against moisture loss.

  • High winds: select hedges that can withstand strong winds and provide a windbreak for your garden.

In shaded areas, you should select hedges with large leaves, which can be beneficial as they capture more light for photosynthesis. But it’s not just about the conditions of your garden. Aesthetics greatly influence hedge selection, and some landscapers might prefer plants with fewer leaves for a more minimalist look. Plants like Camellias are favoured for their glossy foliage, dense growth patterns, and appealing flowers.

Choosing a hedge plant also requires considering its:

  • Purpose

  • Required maintenance

  • Expected height and growth speed

  • Water requirements

  • Specific features such as flowering or possessing thorns

So, as you embark on your hedge planting journey, consider these aspects to ensure that your hedge is a stunning addition to your garden and easy to maintain.

Best Season for Hedge Planting

bright tall hedges

When should you start planting your hedge? Early autumn is generally the best time to plant most hedge species as it allows the roots to be established before winter.

However, there are exceptions. Spring is the recommended planting time for frost-sensitive varieties to avoid frost damage. Bare root and root ball hedging plants are best planted in their dormant phase from late winter to ensure minor damage to the root systems. So, remember to check the specific needs of your chosen hedge to ensure successful planting.

Soil Preparation: The Foundation of Hedge Planting

Before you start planting your hedges, it’s crucial to prepare the soil. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Break up the soil.

  2. Incorporate organic materials such as compost and sheep pellets, dramatically improving soil condition.

  3. This enriches the soil, providing a healthy foundation for your hedge plants to thrive.

If you have heavy clay soils that impede drainage, improve conditions by creating a raised mound for planting and using a gypsum clay breaker. Remember, the optimal soil for hedging plant growth is loose, well-drained, and rich in organic matter, which also contributes to reduced humidity. So, take your time to prepare the soil. After all, it’s the foundation for your hedge planting.

fertilising garden

Planting Your Hedge: A Step-by-Step Guide

Planting hedges may seem daunting, but it can be rewarding with the proper steps. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Lay out the plants evenly, staggering them in a zig-zag pattern.

  2. Place the plants in prepared trenches or holes.

  3. Backfill the trenches or holes with soil and pack it around the roots firmly.

Each step is crucial to ensure a good start for your plants and to provide them with maximum sunlight.

Digging In

When you’re ready to plant, start by digging a trench. Ensure adequate depth and width so that you accommodate the roots and allow them to expand. The trench should be about twice as wide as the pots or root structures for pot and cell-grown plants. Similarly, for root-balled or bare-root plants, the trench should also be twice as wide as the root structure to facilitate growth.

Remember to perforate the sides and bottom of the trench with a garden fork. This encourages root penetration and growth, setting the stage for a strong, healthy hedge.

Setting the Stage

Now, let’s discuss the plant spacing. Proper plant spacing is essential for achieving a dense hedge look from the beginning. For example, species like Buxus should be spaced 20-30cm apart, whereas Griselinia may require 75cm to 1 metre.

Plants must be spaced closely enough to allow the foliage, not the roots, to touch, this ensures there are no gaps in the hedge. So, take the time to set the stage correctly for your new hedge.

Root Care and Watering

Once your hedges are planted, it’s time to focus on root care and watering. Ensuring a deep and extensive root system is crucial for newly planted hedges, necessitating thorough watering routines, particularly in dry conditions. After planting and backfilling the soil halfway, water the hedge deeply with 10-20 litres per meter, according to the plant size, to settle the soil around the rootballs.

Consistent watering is vital for newly planted hedges to be established correctly, and they need particular attention during periods of dry weather. In te first summer following planting, a hedge may require 5 to 10 litres of water per meter twice a week. Larger rootballed plants will need more water. So, keep that watering can handy and ensure your hedges get the hydration they need.

The First Year: Caring for Your New Hedge


As your hedges grow during the first year, they require special care. Keep the area around your new hedge free of weeds and grass which compete for resources. Applying mulch can help suppress weeds and retain moisture, but be careful not to touch the plant stems.

In addition to keeping the area weed-free, it’s crucial to:

  • Ensure efficient water use, provide 10 litres of water per metre of hedge height every three to four days, preferably in the morning.

  • Fertilise your hedges once a year or when signs of nutrient deficiency appear.

  • Remember to water thoroughly post-fertilisation to distribute nutrients and avoid leaf burn.

With these steps, your new hedge is well on its way to thriving in its first year.

Shaping Success: Initial Trimming and Training

skilful male landscaper using high altitude hedge trimmer for topiary in park side view

As your hedges grow, they’ll need some shaping and trimming. Promoting healthier, denser, and more uniform growth, trimming a hedge is essential for its maintenance and overall appearance. Regular trimming encourages the plant to grow more densely and evenly, resulting in a more well-maintained and attractive hedge. It ensures the hedge receives adequate sunlight, airflow, and water, helping to prevent the spread of infections. Begin trimming hedges during cooler weather with clear skies and low humidity to minimise infection risk, starting when new buds are noticed.

Shaping your hedges by pruning after each new growth spurt can help guide their growth. Here are some tips to follow:

  1. Make significant and steady upward cuts and training cuts to guide branches.

  2. Aim to replicate the natural shape for easier maintenance.

  3. To ensure a straight hedge, clear dead wood from the point of origin.

  4. Make minor angled cuts to thin without cutting the main trunks.

  5. Use a guide edge or a taut string between stakes as a guideline.

Following these tips will help you shape your hedges effectively.

Ongoing Hedge Maintenance Essentials

Once your hedges are established, they’ll need ongoing maintenance. Here are some tips for maintaining your hedges:

  1. Moderate pruning should be done about twice a year to maintain hedge shape and encourage growth.

  2. Perform a more extensive trim in winter to remove any dead or damaged branches and to shape the hedge.

  3. Do summer maintenance trims to preserve height and shape.

  4. Care must be taken not to disturb nesting birds during the hedge-trimming process.

In addition to regular pruning, leftover foliage and branches from hedge trimming, as well as mature compost at the foot of the hedge, can be used to fertilise and sustain soil health. Regular, careful inspection throughout the year is needed to detect any signs of problems, including watching for diseases, especially in autumn when fungi spores are abundant.

Keeping the hedge neatly trimmed enhances its appearance and contributes to dense and healthy growth. With these maintenance essentials, your hedges will continue to thrive and beautify your garden.

Tools of the Trade: Selecting the Right Hedge Trimmer

Maintaining your hedges is easier and more efficient with the right tools. Choosing the right hedge trimmer is essential to match the cutting depth and power requirements of the specific type of hedge to ensure effective and healthy trimming.

When shaping with an electric hedge trimmer, start trimming at the base and work upwards with significant sweeping cuts for the most efficient shaping. With the right hedge trimmer, maintaining your hedge becomes less of a chore and more of a hobby.


Caring for your hedges can be rewarding, from choosing the perfect hedge plants for your garden and considering local conditions and aesthetics to planting, maintaining, and trimming your hedges. With the right tools, knowledge, and dedication, you can enjoy the beauty and benefits of a well-maintained hedge in your garden. So, why start your hedge planting journey today and see the transformation it brings to your garden?

Frequently Asked Questions

For the best hedge plants in New Zealand, consider Syzygium Resilience, Ficus Tuffy, Viburnum Hedgemaster, Griselinia Broadway Mint, and Griselinia Broadway Mint. Check out your local plant company for a range of options.

The best months to plant hedges are Spring and Autumn, allowing the plants to establish their roots before the summer heat arrives.

When choosing hedge plants, consider local garden conditions, the purpose of the hedge, maintenance needs, height, growth speed, water requirements, and specific features like flowering or thorns. These factors will help you make an informed decision for your garden.

Prepare the soil for hedge planting by breaking it up and adding compost and sheep pellets. If the soil has poor drainage, consider creating a raised mound and using a gypsum clay breaker to improve conditions.

Water your newly planted hedges deeply with 10-20 litres per meter immediately after planting and 5 to 10 litres per metre twice a week during the initial summer. This will help them establish and thrive.

Picture of Dylan Heath

Dylan Heath

Dylan Heath is a fully qualified arborist with over 13 years of experience working in both the private and local council sectors. He comes with a wealth of knowledge, skill and passion for arboriculture.