Fast growing tall evergreen hedge for privacy that needs no pruning

(Question)

I would like to plant a fast growing evergreen privacy hedge that doesn’t need pruning. My zone is 6 with early morning sun becoming shady. The soil is sand. I would be planting it against a wire fence that is between neighbours. What would you recommend? How long would it take to reach a good height of more than 10 feet? How far away from fence would I plant?

(Answer)

An evergreen privacy hedge would definitely make an attractive ‘fence’ between neighbours. There are a few options for the conditions that you describe. All require good drainage and medium moisture–using an organic mulch such as compost/leaf compost will help to maintain moisture in the sandy loam.

Eastern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) is a fast-growing native tree that is commonly used for hedges. Even though it prefers full sun conditions, it can tolerate part sun. However, the fact that it is ‘fast-growing’ indicates that it would need to be pruned regularly to maintain dense growth that one would prefer in a hedge.

A better low-maintenance choice that will grow very well in shadier conditions would be either an Upright Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata ‘Capitata’) or a Hick’s Yew (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’). Both have dense upright habits. Nevertheless, they will require minimal pruning occasionally to maintain a nice hedge shape once they are established.  Yews are generally slower-growing than the white cedars; attaining a 10-ft. height would depend upon how tall the plants are when they are purchased. And the distance from the fence that they should be planted will depend upon the expected growth width of the plants within a few years.

For further information on plant choices for growing hedges, please see the following guides on the Toronto Master Gardeners site:

http://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/askagardener/hedging-for-toronto/

http://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/askagardener/privacy-hedges/

Evergreens Suitable for Hedging: A Toronto Master Gardeners Guide

Thanks for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.