The 8 best hedging plants, for anyone who wants to steer clear of box hedge

Box isn't counted among the best hedging plants for a reason, you know...

A robin sitting in a laurel hedge
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When it comes to deciding which of the best hedging plants is right for your garden, one thing is absolutely certain: it's best to steer clear of box hedge.

Why? Because, troubled by box blight and the caterpillars of the box tree moth (among others), this popular plant is positively plagued by problems – making it a less-than-ideal addition to your backyard.

Still, there are plenty of gorgeous alternatives out there, if only you know where to look...

The best hedging plants

If a hedge is on your list of garden ideas (and it makes a lot of sense if so, as this is one of those garden trends that can add value to your home), then you're in luck: there are plenty of options available to you.

Long garden with hedges, pathways and garden room

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

'Planting a hedge is always a great investment, both environmentally as well as financially, as they are much cheaper than walls and won’t need to be painted or replaced like a fence,' explains Morris Hankinson, director of Hopes Grove Nurseries.

Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries
Morris Hankinson

Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants, which he established after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex in 1992.

Morris continues, 'As well as being far more attractive, hedges filter wind and particulate pollution and over time will grow into a home for birds and many kinds of beneficial insects.' 

Here, then, is our expert-approved pick of the best hedging plants to introduce to your garden, stat.

1. Hawthorn

One of the prettiest hedging plants around, learning how to grow a hawthorn hedge is a great option for anyone looking for an attractive and low-maintenance addition to their home.

Hawthorn hedging | from £44.99 for 25 × bare root plants at Crocus

Hawthorn hedging | from £44.99 for 25 × bare root plants at Crocus

These bare root hawthorn hedging plants promise fragrant white flowers in May, followed by dark red fruit, and  glossy green leaves.

Packing seasonal interest with its white flowers, glossy green leaves and bright red berries, this is a hedge that looks great all year round. 

It's also considered one of the best hedges for security, too, thanks to its plethora of thorns. And let's not forget that it's a must-have for anyone with a long list of wildlife garden ideas, either.

'Hawthorn is great for birds,' says Christopher O'Donoghue, one of the co-directors of Gardens Revived, 'as it provides them with food and shelter throughout the year.'

Christopher O'Donoghue, one of the directors of Gardens Revived
Christopher O'Donoghue

A gardener with over a decade of experience under his belt, Christopher set up Gardens Revived with his brother, Andrew, in 2018  to create a thriving family business. Together, they have worked on residential gardens, listed buildings and gardens, flower shows and large estates with some exceeding 70 acres – many with historical significance.

With that in mind, be sure to follow Monty Don's advice when determining the best time to cut hedges, as you won't want to disturb any nesting birds if you can avoid it.

2. Traditional yew

Trimmed yew hedging in a formal garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Dubbing them one of the best hedging plants around, Morris says that 'traditional yew topiary plants are selling very well at the moment, as are bare root and rootball yew hedging'.

English yew hedging | from £9.99 at Crocus

English yew hedging | from £9.99 at Crocus

Whether you want to use it as a topiary plant or a fabulous, formal hedge, a traditional evergreen yew promises gorgeous greenery all year round.

Whether you want to use its evergreen colour in your garden border ideas, as an effective privacy screen, as a barrier for noise and wind, or even as a topiary plant, there are many ways to use this stylish hedging plant in your garden.

And, again, a yew is a brilliant way to provide some extra protection for your favourite garden birds, too – just remember to, if you plan on feeding your new feathered friends, to protect your bird feeder from rats and squirrels.

3. Photinia

Photinia hedging against a blue sky

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're scouring this list of the best hedging plants for a truly striking option, you've found it: photinia – particularly the red robin variety – is a great way to add colour and texture to your garden.

Photinia × fraseri 'Little Red Robin' |  £19.99 at Crocus

Photinia × fraseri 'Little Red Robin' |  £19.99 at Crocus

A winner for small gardens, this vibrant hedge can cope with hard pruning, which means it can be trimmed to form an informal hedge or clipped into strong shapes. 

Although it's not incredibly dense, Christopher points out that photinia is an incredibly versatile plant. 

'It can be grown as an ornamental shrub or a hedge,' he says, pointing out that it's also counted among the best trees for small gardens for that very reason.

Whatever you decide, you're guaranteed a riotous display of colour and a distinct air of serenity. Win win, eh?

4. Japanese holly

Ilex crenata (Japanese holly) hedging in a garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're looking to replace your box hedge (or swerve it entirely), Morris counts Japanese holly – aka Ilex crenata – as one of the best hedging plants for the job, noting that it can be shaped to form topiary balls, pyramids, clouds or hedging.

Ilex crenata 'Convexa' |  from £8.99 at Crocus

Ilex crenata 'Convexa' |  from £8.99 at Crocus

Oh sure, you can trim this into a topiary-style event, but this compact and easy to grow evergreen shrub can be just as easily left to grow naturally. 

'Japanese Holly may be trimmed to make an almost identical low hedge to box, and, again like box, it can make a larger hedge with patience,' promises Morris.

Again, this is another of those brilliant hedges that will produce lots of glossy black fruit in autumn, making it a boon to hungry garden birds everywhere.

5. Portuguese laurel

Portuguese laurel hedging plant

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're looking for a wonderfully dense hedge, then you can't go wrong with a Portuguese laurel: it's another of those evergreen hedges that packs an extra punch with fragrant summer flowers – perfect for bees, butterflies and other poillinators.

Portuguese laurel |  from £25.99 at Crocus

Portuguese laurel |  from £25.99 at Crocus

This evergreen shrub boasts dark green leaves with red stalks, and fragrant flowers in the early summer, making it another hedge with all-year interest.

'Portuguese laurels make a beautiful addition to any garden,' says Christopher, promising that they are 'easy to grow in any and all soil conditions and situations, too'.

6. Cherry laurel

Cherry laurel hedging

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Another laurel on the list of best hedging plants? To quote Miranda Priestley, 'groundbreaking'.

To be fair to this attractive evergreen number, however, it's fast growing and thrives almost anywhere, making it an easy win for greener gardeners.

Prunus laurocerasus 'Rotundifolia' |  from £24.99 at Crocus

Prunus laurocerasus 'Rotundifolia' |  from £24.99 at Crocus

Small white flowers in the summer, ornamental red berries after that, and glossy evergreen foliage all year round? No wonder the cherry laurel is such a popular box hedge alternative.

'Not only does a cherry laurel make for a good privacy screen, but it's also very good at reducing noise pollution,' explains Christopher.

Throw in its pollinator-approved flowers (ideal for all of your bee garden ideas), and you have more than enough reasons to plump for a cherry laurel. Just remember to leave its berries for the birds, as they're incredibly toxic.

7. Euonymus japonicus

Euonymus japonicus hedging

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Morris is a big fan of euonymus japonicus, describing it as one of the best hedging plants and noting that more and more gardeners are investing in 'cultivars of Euonymus japonicus such as Jean Hugues and Greenspire' as excellent alternatives to box hedge.

Euonymus japonicus Paloma Blanca | £19.99 at Crocus

Euonymus japonicus Paloma Blanca | £19.99 at Crocus

If you're in the market for something a little different, the foliage of this adaptable evergreen shrub starts off a gorgeous greenish white colour, gradually darkening to glossy green over time.

'These plants are easily maintained evergreens with year-round appeal, and with over 130 total species available, there’s bound to be a euonymus hedging species to suit your garden,' he promises.

8. Privet

Privet hedging

(Image credit: Getty Images)

An oldie but a goodie, the classic privet is counted among the best hedging plants not just because of its dense foliage, but also because it can tolerate shade and poor soil.

It's also another of those hedges that are considered great for wildlife – which, considering a wildlife garden could boost your property value by 39%, is nothing to be sneezed at.

Oval leaf privet | from £15.99 at Crocus

Oval leaf privet | from £15.99 at Crocus

Thriving in sun or shade, the oval leaf privet is a crisp, pollution-tolerant hedge – making it ideal for homes in urban or built-up areas.

'There are so many reasons to love a privet hedge, but people living in urban areas will be particularly happy because it's pollution-tolerant,' says Christopher. 


Which plant is best for hedging?

While many tend to assume that box is the best plant for hedging, its myriad problems and pests mean that it should be at the very bottom of your list. Instead, turn your attention to the likes of traditional yew, hawthorn, privet, Japanese holly, cherry laurel, Portuguese laurel, photinias, and euonymus japonicus.

What is a good evergreen hedge?

There are plenty of options if you're looking for a good evergreen hedge, including Photinia Red Robin and the classic cherry laurel. If you're looking for a low-level hedge to separate your garden borders, lavender is also a great shout!

What is the cheapest way to plant a hedge?

If you're looking for the cheapest way to plant a hedge, you'll definitely want to consider bare root options.

'Renewed interest in bare root hedging plants continues, and there is some notable trading down from instant, rootball or potted options, no doubt driven by the cost-of-living pressures,' says Morris.

'Native hedging mixtures are selling very well, another bare root product that is economic and an environmentally sound buying choice. Customers are planting them in record numbers which is great news all round!'

Now that you know our pick of the best hedging plants, it's time to suss out what you want from yours: privacy, shade, seasonal interest, or a combination of the three.

Just be sure to research which varieties will thrive in your garden's soil and shade conditions before you get planting...

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.