DIY Network

How to Plant Shrubs for Hedging and Privacy

Planting a shrub hedge adds privacy and helps define spaces.

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  • Time

    2 hours

  • Price Range

    $100 - $250

  • Difficulty



Step 1: Choose a Shrub Variety

Taking into account budget, site, soil, hardiness zone and light conditions, select the shrubs that will form the hedge. For the best privacy and noise protection, quick-growing plants are best, but these shrubs also must be pruned more often to maintain a consistent shape. Evergreens offer year-round color and privacy, but they are typically slow growers; deciduous shrubs grow more quickly, but be aware that their leaves will drop in the fall.

For a formal look, choose all the same variety of shrub, or consider mixing a variety of plants and sizes for a less formal look. Some popular shrub varieties include boxwoods, holly, arborvitae, blue spruce, lilac, forsythia, hydrangeas, azaleas and rhododendrons. Be sure to check with garden professionals to guarantee the right shrub for the site and project. The best time to plant most shrubs is in fall or winter while they're dormant; the worst time is summer because their metabolism is at a season high.

Step 2: Mark and Dig Holes for Planting

Use stakes and string to mark the placement of the shrub hedge. Consider these planting options: staggering the planting holes on either side of the line forms a denser privacy screen more quickly whereas planting the shrubs in a straight line makes pruning, watering and other maintenance easier.

To plant a straight hedge, dig a single trench along the length of the entire line. Dig a channel that is just deep enough to accommodate the root balls and roughly twice as wide. When planting a staggered hedge, mark the location of each plant before digging holes that are just deep enough to accommodate the root balls, but twice as wide. It is imperative to consider the future size of the plants and to leave ample room between them -- otherwise, they may need to be transplanted in a few short years.

Step 3: Plant the Shrubs

Shrubs are sold in three forms: bare root, balled in burlap, and container grown. Bare-root shrubs can be placed directly in the planting hole with no advance preparation. Spread out the roots of all plants once in the hole. When planting a balled-in-burlap plant, remove the burlap before planting. If the shrub is in a plastic container, remove it before planting.

Never lift the plant by its trunk as it could cause the root ball to loosen and fall apart. Always support the roots when moving a plant from one location to another. Backfill the trench or planting holes halfway with soil and compost, and give the plants a good soaking with water. Fill with remaining soil to tops of root balls. After planting and watering, add a layer of mulch around the new shrubs.