Growing a hedge isn't complicated if you opt for the best low maintenance hedge plants. Despite what you might think, it doesn't have to be hard work as easy-care plants will pretty much look after themselves while creating shelter, absorbing noise and adding precious privacy to your outside space.
Not all hedges are equal, of course, and while some do require a careful routine of pruning and plant care, there are plenty of varieties which, once established, really do need only minimum attention.
Most hedge-related chores relate to the trimming back needed to keep the branches and foliage in shape and under control. Although it is tempting to choose a fast-growing variety to ensure the quickest possible coverage, slower growing hedges will create less work in the long run.
Evergreen hedges, which do not lose their leaves in winter, are more straightforward to care for than their deciduous counterparts, so keep this in mind if you're searching for the best low maintenance plants.
'Although they can offer fantastic color changes and interest, deciduous hedging plants do result in extra work in autumn and winter as the foliage drops and again in spring after the blossom falls,' says garden designer David Chanell of Arlo and Bloom. 'I very often recommend evergreen species such as Choisya ‘Aztec Pearl’ or ‘Sundance,’ and Euonymus japonicus. All three are traditionally grown as individual shrubs but can form a low maintenance hedge.'
Once you have chosen a suitable hedge for your garden or backyard, even the most low-maintenance varieties must be watered for the first few months as the roots establish. Once that has happened, it is time to sit back and enjoy the many advantages of a soft and leafy green boundary – without lifting a finger.
Cut down on gardening tasks with the best low maintenance hedge plants
Get a garden boundary that requires minimal upkeep with our top choices for the best low maintenance hedge plants. From classic evergreens to options that are covered in pretty flowers in spring, there's something to suit every size and style of yard.
1. Euonymus japonicus
When it comes to low maintenance garden ideas, this is a great all-rounder for any plot as it suits every site and situation. It is a bushy shrub with neat, evergreen leaves which tolerates exposed sites, coastal locations, a sunny or shady position and any kind of soil. It is also rabbit-resistant.
Give it a light trim after it flowers, but other than that, it’s fuss-free. This one grows well in the UK, the US and Australia.
You'll find plenty more of the best low maintenance shrubs for gardens big or small in our dedicated guide.
Also known as Mexican Orange, this is another of the best low maintenance hedge plants, and a top choice of garden designer David Chanell. 'It will grow in most conditions related to drainage and light, and it doesn't need additional help to improve the ground conditions,' he says. He recommends ‘Aztec Pearl’ and ‘Sundance’ to his clients.
A drought-tolerant plant, choisya has narrow, glossy aromatic green leaves and sweet-smelling spring flowers, which return in the fall. It grows to between 5-6.5ft (1.5-2m) tall and is suitable for the UK, and zones 7b to 10 in the US, preferring milder winter locations.
3. Thuja smaragd
An evergreen conifer with upright, fan-like sprays of leaves. Some varieties of Thuja are very fast-growing and tall, which means they need careful watching and pruning, but Thuja smaragd takes 10-20 years to reach its ultimate height of about 8ft (2.5m), yet it still offers a dense, attractive screen of bright green all year round. It is a popular choice for the best screening plant in the UK, US and Australia.
4. Cherry laurel
Whether you use it as a windbreak, or plant it to mute the sound of noisy neighbors and improve your garden privacy, cherry laurel is a trooper of a hedging plant, and it’s attractive, too.
Another evergreen, it has neat, glossy leaves which will form a dense screen, with white flowers in spring and cheery red berries in winter. It grows in full sun or shade and just needs one annual cut back, in late winter or early spring.
The ultimate height is around 16ft (5m), but it can be easily trimmed to size. This is also known as ‘English Laurel’ in the US.
One of the best low maintenance hedge plants for creating a more formal, classic look, yew is bushy, dense and evergreen, with fine, needle-like dark green leaves and red berries.
It will grow tall, up to around 49ft (15m), so it is suitable for large gardens, although it can be kept under control with hard pruning in spring or summer. It copes well with sun or shade.
Yew berries and foliage are toxic, so take care in gardens with young children or pets. Yew is native to Europe, Turkey and Iran. It does well in cooler, northern areas of the US, but it can be trickier to grow well in hot climates such as Australia.
- If you love the idea of low maintenance garden border ideas too, our expert guide has plenty to inspire your planting scheme.
If you want a low maintenance hedge which will also deter intruders, this spiky plant is a great choice. Try ‘Mohave’ which has dense, small green leaves, white flowers in summer and thick clusters of red berries in the autumn.
It can be cut into shape in the spring and early summer (make sure you have a thick pair of the best gardening gloves to hand for the job) or just leave it alone for an informal wildlife-friendly hedge.
Its prolific nature means that pyracantha is classed as invasive in certain areas of the US and Australia. If you want other options for a new garden boundary that will grow quickly, our guide to the best fast growing hedges has plenty of suggestions.
7. English holly (Ilex aquifolia)
A slow growing evergreen, with spiny leaves and delightful red berries in winter, holly makes a sturdy, thick and secure hedge which needs little more than a trim in the summer to keep it happy and healthy.
There are many different types of holly, with both solid green and variegated leaves, but generally this plant has flexible needs, tolerating full sun and part shade and any kind of moist, well-drained soil.
In rural areas, holly plants may require a rabbit guard around the trunk as they get established, particularly if you're already struggling with how to keep rabbits out of your garden or yard.
English holly thrives in cooler areas of Australia. It thrives in US growing zones 7-9, but American holly is a good substitute for gardens outside these areas.
Just because a plant is evergreen does not mean that it stays the same boring color all year round, and this pretty option for the best low maintenance hedge plants certainly rings the changes.
Try Photinia X Fraseri ‘Louise’ which shifts through red to olive green to a dark grey green as the seasons turn. It has cream flowers in spring, followed by red berries. It will thrive in sun or partial shade, in moist, well-drained soil.
Minimal pruning is needed, just a light trim in spring and summer (avoiding the height of summer). It is a popular choice for gardeners in Australia and will grow in the US, zones 7-9.
9. Osmanthus x burkwoodii
An evergreen shrub with leathery, sharp leaves which have a similar shape to holly, Burkwood Osmanthus, as it’s also known, is a very hardy, easy going hedging plant, which will tolerate full sun or part shade.
It is a well behaved slow-grower, and only needs pruning if it gets too big for the plot. This is best done in late spring, after the display of starry and superbly scented white flowers (the botanic name actually means ‘fragrant flower’).
It’s a good choice if you're searching for small garden ideas and it grows well in the UK, Australia and the US, in growing zones 7-10.
Which low maintenance hedges will stay green all year round?
Any hedge which is described or labelled as a hardy evergreen will keep its color and its leaves through every season of the year. But it is important to choose a species that will not grow too big for the space as some can become dominant in record time.
'If you choose the right evergreen, it's reassuring to know that it will develop into a fully formed hedge in a reasonable time frame without becoming a problem and outgrowing the space given to them in the garden,' says garden designer David Chanell. 'It won't require frequent pruning or develop into a huge specimen, such as Leylandii, that may need the assistance of a professional arborist to cut it back.'
Which low maintenance hedge plants are best for shady areas?
For areas which hardly get any sunlight, opt for shade loving plants such as a holly (ilex) or a Japanese laurel (Aucuba japonica), as both will tolerate lower light levels.
An experienced freelance journalist, editor and columnist writing for national magazines and websites, Fiona now specialises in gardens. She enjoys finding and writing about all kinds, from the tiniest town plots to impressively designed ones in grand country houses. She's a firm believer that gardening is for everyone, and it doesn’t matter if you have a single window ledge or an acre, there’s always peace and joy to be found outside. The small town garden of her Edwardian terraced house is currently a work in progress as she renovates the property, but her goal is always to fill it with flowers, climbers, colour, fragrance – and as many of her treasured vintage finds as she can possibly fit in.
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