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Hedges and Screens for Northern Virginia

A “hedge” is a row of plants that marks off an area. Some native plants take well to shearing and pruning for size and shape (see below), but you will of course save yourself work if you choose plants that grow to the right size without any need for pruning. You can use tall perennials as a temporary screen while you wait for your woody plants to fill in.


A “screen” provides a visual barrier. We often assume that screening requires evergreen plants, but in fact deciduous plants can be just as effective and provide more options. Another alternative is to train a vine on a trellis or fence.

A “hedgerow” is a naturalized planting of mixed species, providing food and cover to a diversity of birds. Hedgerows create essential corridors for turtles and other wildlife to use as they move around our suburban landscape. Choosing shrubs that sucker will allow the hedgerow to gradually form a thicker barrier. Avoiding plants that sucker rapidly (or removing the suckers) will maintain a “neat-and-tidy” look. Creating a visual effect that pleases the domesticated eye can also be achieved by using basic design principles, such as repeating patterns and providing a succession of blooms and berries. Feed the soil and provide habitat for ground dwelling birds, toads, etc. by leaving fallen leaves in place.

In some situations, a physical barrier that deters deer and people can be desirable. Plants with thorns are good at that!

  • Hawthorns such as Crataegus crus-galli

  • Ilex opaca (American holly)

  • Aralia spinosa (Devil’s Walking Stick)  

  • Prunus angustifolia (Chickasaw Plum)  

  • Rosa carolina and palustris  

  • Rubus species (Raspberry)

Shrubs and trees that can be shaped by shearing

  • Carpinus caroliniana (American Hornbeam) - Can be pruned for shaping and used for a hedge.

  • Cornus amomum (Silky Dogwood)

  • Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon holly) (Native in southeast Virginia. Winter hardiness is a problem here - would need protection.)

  • Itea virginica (Virginia Sweetspire)

  • Morella cerifera (Southern Bayberry)

  • Pinus strobus (White Pine)

  • Rhus aromatica (Fragrant Sumac) - makes a dense hedge

  • Rosa carolina and virginiana


Itea virginica Henry Garnet’ cultivar at Mt. Cuba, after being pruned down low

eastern box turtle.jpg

Pruning native trees and shrubs

Good Virginia native shrubs and trees for hedges

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