Shrubs for hedges in shade

Using shrubs to create a tall hedge for privacy or a low hedge to mark boundary lines is a green way to build a fence. If the landscape is in full, partial or dappled shade, plant shade-loving evergreen or flowering deciduous shrubs to create the hedge. 

Evergreen shrubs

Evergreen hedges provide year-round green for winter interest. American boxwood grows up to 8 feet tall and wide, and Japanese boxwood grows up to 4 feet tall and wide. Another evergreen option is the 'Nana' dwarf yaupon holly, which grows up to 5 feet tall and 10 feet wide. All these evergreen shrubs have dense leaves, making them ideal for a privacy hedge

Flowering shrubs

Small, white trumpet-shaped blooming shrub
Glossy abelia hedge in the fall.
Hedges that grow in the shade may also offer flowers suitable for cutting, like these deciduous options. Glossy abelia forms canes of small leaves and highly fragrant, white trumpet-shaped blooms from mid-summer into autumn. Glossy abelia can reach a height 12 feet and a width of 5 feet. It can easily be controlled through pruning by cutting the cane as close as a few inches from the ground. In USDA hardiness zones higher than zone 6, the leaves may remain green through winter.

Hydrangea shrubs grow in partial shade and offer large pink, blue or white blooms depending on the shrub variety. The shrub grows about 5 feet tall and wide if not pruned to control size. The blooms are suitable for cutting and drying. Though not tall enough to offer privacy, planted side-by-side, hydrangea can create a beautiful boundary line.

How many shrubs do I need?

To determine how many shrubs you need, measure the area where the hedge will be planted. At the plant nursery, locate the height and width information on the plant tag. Divide your landscape measurement by how many feet wide the shrub will grow; the result is how many shrubs you need. For a more compact hedge, drop about 1/4 of the expected width of the full-grown shrub.

Planting a hedge

Dig the hole for each shrub two to three times as wide as the shrub’s container and as deep as the container. Digging the hole wider will allow for easier root penetration. When placed in the hole, the soil at the top of the root ball should be level with the surrounding ground. Digging the hole the same depth as the root ball helps to keep the shrub from sinking below ground level.

Backfill the hole halfway around the root ball and then water to settle the soil. Finish backfilling the hole and water again. Apply 2 to 4 inches of mulch, like pine chips or leaf mold, to help retain moisture and block weed growth. Water every seven to 10 days, spring to fall, if there is no rainfall. The second year, water twice monthly.