How to Plant a Formal Hedge (Video)

Planting Formal Hedging

This video on trench planting formal hedging applies to all the formal garden hedge plants, like Beech, Yew, Laurel, Privet, Hornbeam or Box, which are often planted in large sizes, from pots, and outside of winter. 
It does not apply to the classic country hedge plants, like Hawthorn, Hazel, Blackthorn, or Field Maple, which are more easily slit planted as shown in our country hedge video here. However, formal hedge plants sold bareroot in winter are often slit planted, especially the smaller sizes, so it's worth seeing both methods.

Whereas country hedging usually needs a mypex fabric weed barrier, formal hedging that is easy for you to maintain is better served with hoeing and organic mulch. If you can't give it that attention, then use the fabric, or cardboard covered with leaves if you want to DIY it. 

You can plant pot grown stock at any time of year; autumn is the most convenient time because the wet weather should do a good job of watering your new plants.

If you are planting a hedge, or any trees, in summer, be sure to water them correctly or they will die!


Hello and welcome to Ashridge Trees (Nurseries). We're going to show you how to plant formal garden hedge. We've used Yew in this film, but the same procedure can be followed for Beech, Box, Hornbeam, Privet and all other formal hedging plants. These plants are available barerooted during the winter planting season, which runs from November through to March (approximately), and in containers during the summer.

Before you start, you will need a sprayer or watering can, if you're going to use weed killer, a spade, sharp knife, a few canes, string, a bucket, a one meter long piece of wood. And, on planting day, you will need your plants.

Using canes and string, mark out the area of the planting trench. In this film, we're going to show you how to plant a Yew hedge in a single row where the trench should be 60cm wide. If you're planting in a double row, which is preferable for Beech, for instance, then the trench would be 90cm wide, and there would be 40cm between the rows.

Apply a non-residual weed killer, any one containing glyphosate is fine, following the manufacturer's instructions, a minimum of four weeks before you intend to plant. Remove the turf, which you can put upside down on your compost heap. Now, take the earth from the trench, removing roots and stones and stack it on a sheet nearby.

Check the depth of the trench. Make sure the plants will be no deeper in the soil than the level they grew at before they were lifted. If in doubt, it is always better to plant too high than too deep.

Take one bundle of plants out of their wrapping. Cut the string and soak the roots in the bucket of water. Mark the planting line with two canes and a piece of string.

Even spacing of plants in a formal hedge is important. We suggest using a measuring stick to help you. Following the instructions for each plant type.

The one we're using here is for planting at three per meter.

Using the string as an indication of soil level, hold each plant at the correct height and return the soil under and around the roots, firming as you go.

This does not have to be done by hand, you can use a spade. Before you finally firm the ground, double-check the spacing of the plants.

It's important with barerooted plants that a good contact is established between the roots and the soil, as soon as they're planted. Without stamping, firm the ground around each plant using your full body weight. It's a good idea to hold the plant vertical whilst doing this. Don't forget to water your hedge after planting and during dry spells in the spring until it's well established.

You've just planted your first formal hedge. Well done!

You can read more about and buy most of the items you need here:

  • Hedging - Bareroot plants are cheapest (Nov-March delivery only). Pot grown plants are delivered year round: some plants are only sold pot-grown.
  • Bamboo Canes.
  • Bonemeal fertiliser to mix in to the soil before returning it around your plants.
  • Mycorrhizae friendly fungi that work with your hedge's roots - recommended if you are planting in poor, dry soil.
  • Round-up Weedkiller is glyphosate based and effective against tough weeds.

Classic Formal Hedge Plants

The list below is not exhaustive, but these formal hedging plants & shrubs are by far the most popular.  Between them they grow almost anywhere, they look neat and tidy and they are easy to maintain. 

Beech, Green Not evergreen, but it holds its autumn leaves through winter. Any well drained soil.
Beech, Copper As above, with deep purple leaves in summer.
Box Evergreen. Very shade tolerant, slow growing.
Cedar, Western Red Evergreen.  Fragrant foliage. Slower growing than Cypress, so you can get away with clipping only once a year - never miss a year, though. Like most conifers, it can't be hard pruned.
Cypress, Lawsons Evergreen. Quite fast growing (but not like Leylandii!).

When mature, clip twice a year to keep in shape. It can't be hard pruned.
Holly Evergreen. Very hardy. Shade tolerant.
Holm Oak Evergreen. Grows on the coast
Hornbeam Not evergreen, but like the beeches, it holds its autumn foliage through the winter. Performs much better than beech in shady places & will grow in quite damp clay soil that beech won't tolerate.
Laurel, Cherry Evergreen. The most common "English" Laurel. Very shade tolerant, will do well in any well drained soil except shallow chalk.
Laurel, Portugal Evergreen. The hardiest Laurel. Very shade tolerant, will do well in any well drained soil including chalk.
Privet, Gold or Green Evergreen. Great value. The most popular city hedge plant - excellent for polluted areas. Grows well in poor soil &
Yew Evergreen. Yew is the all time classic formal hedge. Grows well in any well drained soil & shade tolerant.

Do not cut the leading stems of your yew plants until they reach the desired height of your hedge.

All the Hedge Plants you buy from Ashridge Nurseries are Guaranteed

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