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Types of Shrubs: Garden Hedges for a Natural or Formal Look

A small Slender Deutzia bush in full bloom covered with white flowers

Types of shrubs and bushes.

They not only add texture and style to your garden, but also add a more formal look to your landscape.

They are a much friendlier version of a wooden fence or stone wall between properties.

When planting your shrubs it’s a good idea to plant them in a zigzag row. Offsetting them will help with getting more sun to the plant and also with air circulation.

Planting a couple different varieties is a good idea. It avoids having to replace the entire row if they are attacked by pests and diseases and the plants die.

Types of shrubs for hedges can be used for:

  • Dividing your gardens
  • Lining your driveway or sidewalks
  • Surround your house to help with the heating costs
  • They can divide farmland
  • They can block the wind
  • They are a great habitat for wildlife
  • They can also be used for fun, like creating a maze from boxwood plants


Here are a few plants I offer in my plant nursery that make great hedges.

Types of Shrubs

Barberries (Berberis thunbergii)

Red Barberry Shrub with small red berries

A low maintenance, slow growing shrub that is great as a hedge or stand alone specimen plant. The small berries have a tart flavour that has medical benefits. 

Drought and salt tolerant.


Euonymus fortunei (Euonymus)

Euonymus shrub with green and yellow variegated leaves.

With variegated green and gold leaves, these year round types of low maintenance shrubs can be used as a climber, ground cover or even a hedge. Some can even grow as large as 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide.

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Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster)

Cotoneaster full of red berries

If you are looking for a ground cover you might consider this low and fast growing shrub. The berries produced in fall are a great food source for birds during the winter.


Golden Privet (Ligustrum x vicaryi)

Golden Privet with a light greenish yellow leaves.

This golden leaved slow growing shrub looks best when planted in full sun and will grow to about 10 feet tall. In milder winter the leaves will remain but typically it is a deciduous shrub. It's blooms are small white clusters of flowers that appear during summer.

Drought tolerant.


Dogwood Bush (Cornus alba)

Dogwood Bush stems of bright red for winter interest.

If you are looking for types of shrubs that are native to Ontario, this is one. It adds great winter interest with its red stems that really stand out in the snow. It can grow as large as 9 feet tall and 5 feet wide or trimmed back to around 4 feet.

It's fast growing and Salt tolerant.


Yew Shrub (Taxus)

Branch from a Yew Shrub with red berries

Great for making a hedge, border or just by themselves. Adding one to your landscape will give you added texture and attract wildlife. 

It's slow growing, low maintenance, drought tolerant, and can be poisonous.


Boxwood (Buxus)

Round dense green leaved shrub of a boxwood

If you are looking for an evergreen shrub this is it. They range in size and shape and because they are slower to grow they are easy to maintain, you only have to trim them if you think they are starting to look messy.


Dwarf Burning Bush

An excellent fall interest plant with it's bright red leaves. Grows to about 8' tall and wide.

Perfect in mass planting to form a garden hedge or as a single specimen plant.

This low maintenance shrub will thrive in full sun and attract birds.


These are the types of shrubs I currently offer. Keep checking back as I am always adding new plants to my landscape.


How to Prune Shrubs into the Perfect Hedge

Why should you prune your shrubs? Pruning your shrubs improves the plants health and gives your landscape a manicured look.

Pruning also:

  • directs the growth in the way you want it to grow
  • removes any unwanted branches that are dead or diseases
  • it allows light and air to reach the center of the plant which will promote new growth
  • removes any branches that cross each other that could end up wounding the plant

If you are pruning in the middle of summer, prune on a day that is overcast. This way you aren’t running the risk of burning the newly exposed leaves. 

As you are pruning your hedge, always keep in mind that you will want the bottom slightly wider than the top. This allows sun to reach all of the plant.  

Even though electric shears are faster, I don’t recommend them. What they do is tear the branch apart and that’s not good for the plant and it invites pests and diseases to attack the plant. I recommend hand pruners, shears and loppers. For very large branches that need to be removed, a pruning saw is perfect.


Types of Shrubs General Pruning Tips

You will have easier cleanup if you lay a plastic sheet down to catch the cutting. For smaller jobs you can carry a bucket or pail to put the cuttings in as you go.

Rain and warm weather will produce waterspouts. Waterspouts are small branches that stick out of garden hedges that make the hedge look messy. Those should be removed first.

Next you can remove any suckers (small branches at the base of your shrubs) and dead branches that you don’t want.

Thin out any spots that are really thick or branches that cross each other. You will want to cut back on the branch to just above new growth. 

Each year you will want to remove a third of the plant. This allows the plant to start new growth and fill in holes left from pruning and make the plant look thicker and fuller.


Formal Pruning Tips for the Types of Shrubs in Your Landscape

Looking for a more formal look to your garden hedges?

Here are a few tips you can follow:

  • Do the general pruning first, getting rid of dead, diseased and damaged branches
  • To get a straight edge, you can use focal points on your house or siding, or anything that is vertically straight
  • You can also use some stakes and string. Put the stakes at each end of the hedge and run the string line about an inch or 2 above where you want the finished hedge to be. This way you won’t cut the string when you are trimming
  • If you have a mature and overgrown hedge that you want to trim, cut out the thicker branches all the way back to the base of the trunk
  • You can use pruners for any small branches you want to remove. If the branches are larger and out of your reach, loppers with an extended handle work great
  • Keep trimming until you have the look you want to achieve.


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