Blackthorn / Sloe Hedge Plants
Prunus spinosaHedge Plants
- Height: up to 4m
- Soil: not chalk
- Use: Thorny barrier hedging
- Single Row: 3/m
- Colour: Green leaves, black branches
- Flowers: creamy white, late Feb-March
- Location: Shade tolerant
Prunus spinosa: Bareroot Blackthorn Hedging Plants
Delivered by Mail Order Direct from our Nursery with a Year Guarantee
Blackthorn, or sloe, is a native tree that makes a wonderful deciduous wildlife hedge. Its sharp black thorns provide an impenetrable barrier for keeping intruders out and stock in, while a froth of small white, open flowers bring sublime beauty in early spring – an iconic sight in the British countryside. In autumn, the shrub produces small purple-black sloes, covered in a pretty bloom; these berries make wonderful sloe gin. Blackthorn is the perfect secure boundary to any sizeable garden or field, and is tough enough to be a roadside hedge, in sun or part shade, and will thrive in any soil except waterlogged sites. Fast growing, it will reach about 4-6 metres, but is easily kept in check by annual pruning.
The plants on this page are bareroot saplings, ideal for planting as hedging or in woodland projects. If you're looking for another kind of hedging, evergreen perhaps or something for smaller gardens, here's where you can browse our full range of hedging.
Delivery season: Blackthorn hedge plants are delivered bareroot during late autumn and winter, approximately November-March inclusive.
Choosing a size: Small plants are cheaper and overall more convenient for hedge use, unless instant impact is your priority. If you are only buying a few plants for ornamental use, then you may as well use bigger ones. All our hedge plants are measured by their height in centimetres above the ground (the roots aren't measured).
- Native deciduous shrub.
- Very hardy.
- Any soil except waterlogged or chalk, anywhere but shade.
- Perfect native wildlife hedging.
- Thorny barrier.
- White blossom in spring; purple sloes in autumn
- Max. Height: 4m
- RHS Plants for Pollinators
It is extremely hardy and tough. It will grow anywhere with decent drainage, apart from in chalky soils. If your soil is chalky, try using hawthorn instead. It's a native British shrub, recognisable for its distinctive clouds of white spring blossom on bare branches, then purple sloes in autumn. It's also drought tolerant.
It's a tough hedging plant and will regrow quickly after clipping, so it can be hard pruned annually to keep it in check. Do this wearing suitably tough gloves, in winter but not in freezing temperatures. Blackthorn can also be left to grow, if you prefer a more natural shape to your hedge.
Blackthorn has a reputation for its sharp thorns, so take care where you plant it; however, its dense network of foliage and branches means it's popular with birds who use it for nesting and for foraging under cover (they also love the autumn sloes). Plants are quite vigorous, and can grow up to 60cm each year.
Spacing a Blackthorn hedge:
Plant at 3 plants per metre, 33cm apart.
Good in Your Garden
A blackthorn hedge is great anywhere you want to keep out intruders, keep animals in or encourage wildlife – in all but the smallest of gardens. In a city garden, it's definitely a statement of rural intent, that frothy white spring blossom bringing a gorgeous hit of countryside charm. Consider it for enclosing an allotment, as it provides a home for a huge range of wildlife and pollinators and also gives you sloes for gin and vodka in October and November.
The hedge alone will be a real draw for wildlife, attracting pollinating insects, birds and all kinds of small mammals to its dense cover. To continue the ecological theme, underplant with common dog violet, hedge woundwort or dead nettles and don't tidy up too much. The leaves and fallen berries are rich pickings for hedgehogs, insects and other creatures. Team it with a wildflower meadow on a sunny bank for maximum pulling-power for insects, birds and mammals.
Blackthorn is an essential component in some of our hedge mixes, including our Bird Friendly hedging, and combines well with other native hedging plants such as wild crab-apple and dogwood. Treat as a good old-fashioned pick and mix create a mixed hedge to provide fruit, flowers and protection all year round.
Did You Know?
Prunus is a genus of more than 400 species of flowering trees and shrubs, many of which are highly prized for their fruit. The genus includes almonds, peaches, apricots, cherries and damsons.
Blackthorn is much prized for walking sticks; only blackthorn or oak wood may be used to make an authentic sail eille (shillelagh in English), the stick of Irish folklore. It is also said that Parliament's Usher of the Black Rod's knocking stick is made of it.
It is steeped in folklore related to witches, used both in their wands used to curse pregnant women, and as fuel for their execution pyres. The sloes as an omen for the year ahead: 'many slones [sloes], many groans' meaning if the blackthorn is heavy with sloes, then the following year will be full of sickness.
In English tradition, it was thought to have been the main component of Christ's crown of thorns, however, the two candidates for that are Paliurus spina-christi and Ziziphus spina-christi, both of which are common in the Western Mediterranean region. Be that as it may, it was considered bad luck to bring Blackthorn cuttings indoors.
It is self-fertile and its fruit (sloes) are traditionally used for infusing with gin, vodka and brandy, but they also make good jam. In colder parts of the country where frosts come early, try leaving ripe sloes on the branch; a touch of frost will mellow their astringency making them surprisingly sweet (you can do this in freezer as well).
The leaves are an important food source for butterfly and moth larvae, including the Emperor and Magpie moths, but especially the Black Hairstreak. Many birds, especially nightingales, like to nest in blackthorn.
Flowers & Bees: An RHS Plants for Pollinators tree. Bees and other insects love its open flowers in early spring, being one of the first trees to blossom. Blackthorn blooms on bare wood, making the spectacle even more striking. The leaves burst from the bud after the blossom, in April.
Firewood: Once you've cut back any branches or twigs, blackthorn makes excellent firewood.
Growing Blackthorn plants:
Blackthorn will grow well in most soil conditions with decent drainage and average fertility. It is very hardy and suitable for frosty or exposed locations.
It will not grow well if the soil is chalky. Hawthorn is a good alternative on very poor or chalky soils.
Prepare your site before planting:
Native hedge plants like Blackthorn are very tough. The only essential preparation is to kill the weeds in a strip a metre wide along the planting site: improving the soil should not be necessary. If your soil is exceptionally poor and dry, then digging in some well rotted manure and/or compost is worthwhile.
Watch our video on how to plant a country hedge for full details.
Hedge Planting Accessories:
Prepare your site for planting by killing the weeds and grass with Neudorff WeedFree Plus.
You can buy a hedge planting pack with sheets of mulch fabric and pegs to hold it down.
If you are planting in an area with rabbit and/or deer, you will need to use a plastic spiral guard for each plant, supported by a bamboo cane.
If your soil quality is poor, we recommend using mycorrhizal "friendly fungi" on the roots of new trees and shrubs.
You can also improve your soil with bonemeal organic fertiliser and Growmore.
After you plant a hedge, the most important thing to do is water it in dry weather. If you didn't use mulch of some kind, you will also need to weed around the hedge. Both of these will be necessary for at least a year after planting.
Trimming Country hedge plants: Blackthorn is a vigorous, native hedging plant that benefits from being cut back hard right after planting, as shown in the country hedge planting video. In the following years, your young hedge should be trimmed lightly once in winter, until it is mature. When it is fully grown, you can clip it at anytime. A good time to clip Blackthorn hedges is after the sloes are harvested in late autumn.
Special notes on caring for Blackthorn hedges:
Blackthorn is a very tough hedge plant that shouldn't need special attention once it has established. If you didn't use a mulch fabric, it is beneficial to mulch around the base of the hedge each year.
Hygiene & Diseases:
Dead, damaged or diseased wood can be pruned off as soon as it appears.
Disinfect your pruning tools between every cut if there is any sign of disease.
Burn or dispose of any diseased material, do not compost it.