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US National Arboretum


Good Hedges Make Good Neighbors

Images of suggested evergreen hedges

What are the best evergreens for a screen or hedge? Before deciding on what plant material to use, it’s best to ask a few basic questions: Is the desired planting location in full sun or shade? How tall do you want the screen to be? Will the area have a formal or relaxed design?

Considering the cost of installing a screen -- which generally requires the purchase of many plants bought all at once to create a look of uniformity -- selection of the right plants from the very beginning can make all the difference in how the screen will look many years from now. After years of planting Leyland cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii) as a screen in the Washington metropolitan area, it became apparent that this was not going to be the answer to everyone’s prayers for a perfect screening plant. Although its fast growth and inexpensive price made it a very popular choice for that function, a fungal disease known as Seiridium canker (Seiridium cardinale) has taken its toll on many older, established plantings.

Screens/hedges are typically composed of only one kind of plant, which creates the perfect condition for the rapid spread of disease. A single infected plant may spell demise for an entire row. An ideal screen, therefore, would actually consist of a variety of plant material. While this may not be the best approach for very formal plantings, it is quite suitable for most other garden landscapes. Imagine how beautiful a mixed row of spruce, pines, and hollies would look or, on a smaller scale, juniper, arborvitae, and the dwarf southern magnolia 'Little Gem'.

Following is a list of recommended plants for use in screen plantings for the Washington Metro area:
[Click on any image to see a larger version; click your browser's back button to return to this page].

Large scale:

  • Ilex opaca 'Jersey Princess'   —   Full sun or light shade, moist well-drained soil. Not for unprotected areas with strong winds. Attains an 8-10’ wide by 30’ tall size at maturity. A female selection with good dark green color.
  • Image of Picea orientalis branch Image of Picea orientalis plant

  • Picea orientalis   —   Full sun, average soils. Attains an 8-10’ wide by 35’ tall size at maturity. Handsome, deep green foliage and somewhat slow growing.     >>>>
  • Pinus strobus 'Fastigiata'   —   Full sun, well drained soils. Attains a 12-15’ wide by 40’ tall size at maturity. Blue-gray foliage. A Pennsylvania Horticultural Society gold medal winner.
  • Thuja plicata 'Virescens'   —   Full sun or light shade, average soils. Attains a 7’ wide by 40’ tall pyramidal size at maturity. Glossy, deep green foliage.

Image of Ilex x attenuata Foster #2

Small scale:

  • Ilex x attenuata 'Foster #2'   —   Full sun to partial shade, moist well drained soils. Attains a 5’ wide by 25’ tall, compact habit at maturity. A female selection with good dark green foliage.     >>>>


  • Juniperus chinensis 'Spartan'   —   Full sun, well drained soils. Narrowly columnar, 3-4’ in width by 20’ tall at maturity. Good medium green color.


  • Juniperus virginiana 'Emerald Sentinel'   —   Full sun, well drained soils. Narrowly pyramidal, 6’ wide by 15-20’ in height at maturity. Dark green color.


    Image of Myrica cerifera

  • Myrica cerifera   —   Full sun to partial shade, average soil, but tolerates infertile soil. Loosely globose, 10 – 20’ in width and height. Fragrant leaves and berries. Useful for larger, more informal areas.     >>>>


    Image of Picea pungens 'Fat Albert'

  • Picea pungens 'Fat Albert'   —   Full sun, well drained soils. Strongly pyramidal, 8 -10’ in width to 15’ tall.     >>>>


  • Taxus x media 'Flushing'   —  
    Image of Taxus media 'Flushing' Full sun to partial shade, well drained soils. Very narrow column, 2’ in width by 10’ in height at maturity. Very dark green foliage. Female selection.     >>>>


  • Thuja occidentalis 'Smaragd' (aka 'Emerald' or 'Emerald Green')   —   Full sun or partial shade, average soils. Attains a 4-6’ wide by 12-15’ tall size at maturity. Good green color, even in winter. Keep trained to a single leader to avoid plants splaying opening ice or snow storms.
  • Image of Thuja occidentalis 'Smaragd' hedge row

    Image of Thuja occidentalis 'Smaragd'

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Last Updated   January 31, 2005 3:38 PM
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