The best low-maintenance hedge plants – 9 picks for backyard boundaries

Natural green boundaries will bring a lush aspect to your backyard

Plant border in early May a Choisya hedge and varieties of tulip by the akebia and ivy trellis
(Image credit: Elizabeth Debenham / Alamy Stock Photo)

Despite what you might think, hedges don't have to be hard work as easy-care plants will pretty much look after themselves while creating shelter, absorbing noise and adding precious privacy to your outside space. 

Not all hedges are equal, of course, and while some do require a careful routine of pruning and plant care, there are plenty of varieties which, once established, really do need only minimum attention. 

Most hedge-related chores relate to the trimming back needed to keep the branches and foliage in shape and under control. Although it is tempting to choose a fast-growing variety to ensure the quickest possible coverage, slower growing hedges will create less work in the long run. 

Evergreen shrubs, which do not lose their leaves in winter, are more straightforward to care for than their deciduous counterparts, so keep this in mind if you're searching for hedging plants

Idyllic springtime patio in Italian garden with small wrought iron table and chairs against dark laurel hedge.

(Image credit: Rosmarie Wirz / Getty Images)

Cut down on gardening tasks with the best low maintenance hedge plants

Get a garden boundary that requires minimal upkeep with our top choices for the best low-maintenance hedge plants. From classic evergreens to options that are covered in pretty flowers in spring, there's something to suit every size and style of yard. 

Once you have chosen a suitable hedge for your garden or backyard, even the most low-maintenance varieties must be watered for the first few months as the roots establish. Once that has happened, it is time to sit back and enjoy the many advantages of a soft and leafy green hedge for wildlife

1. Euonymus japonicus

Euonymus japonicus Aureo-Marginata with variegated green-yellow leaves a good low maintenance hedge plant

(Image credit: Marina Denisenko / Getty Images)

When it comes to low-maintenance shrubs, this is a great all-rounder for any plot as it suits every site and situation. It is a bushy shrub with neat, evergreen leaves which tolerates exposed sites, coastal locations, a sunny or shady position and any kind of soil. It is also rabbit-resistant. 

Give it a light trim after it flowers, but other than that, it’s a fuss-free privacy hedge. We like Silver King Euonymus at Nature Hills for USDA zones 6-9. 

2. Choisya 

Choisya hedge in flower with white blooms

(Image credit: Botanic World / Alamy Stock Photo)

Also known as Mexican Orange, this is another of the best low maintenance hedge which grows in most light and soil conditions. ‘Aztec Pearl’ and ‘Sundance’ to his clients. 

A drought-tolerant plant, choisya has narrow, glossy aromatic green leaves and sweet-smelling spring flowers, which return in the fall. It grows to between 5-6.5ft tall and is suitable for zones 7b to 10 in the US, preferring milder winter locations. 

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3. Thuja smaragd 

Close-up of green texture christmas leaves of Thuja occidentalis Smaragd

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An evergreen conifer with upright, fan-like sprays of leaves. Some varieties of Thuja make very fast-growing hedges and are tall, which means they need careful watching and pruning, but Thuja smaragd takes 10-20 years to reach its ultimate height of about 8ft, yet it still offers a dense, attractive screen of bright green all year round. 

It is a popular choice for screening ideas in the US. 

4. Cherry laurel

A cherry-laurel hedge defining a backyard with shed in the background and lawn in front

(Image credit: blickwinkel / Alamy Stock Photo)

Whether you use it as a windbreak, or plant it to mute the sound of noisy neighbors and improve your garden privacy, cherry laurel is a trooper of a hedging plant, and it’s attractive, too. Try Otto Luyken Cherry Laurel at Fast Growing Trees.

Another evergreen, it has neat, glossy leaves which will form a dense screen, with white flowers in spring and bright red berries in winter. It grows in full sun or shade and just needs one annual cut back. So trim evergreen bushes in late winter or early spring. 

The ultimate height is around 16ft, but it can be easily trimmed to size. This plant is also known as ‘English Laurel’. 

5. Yew

Garden path by a trimmed yew hedge, shrubs and flowers in bloom in a summer garden

(Image credit: Yola Watrucka / Getty Images)

One of the best low-maintenance hedge plants for creating a more formal, classic look, yew is a bushy, dense and evergreen tree with berries, with fine, needle-like dark green leaves. 

It will grow tall, up to around 49ft, so it is suitable for larger backyards, although it can be kept under control with hard pruning in spring or summer. It copes well with sun or shade. 

Yew berries and foliage are toxic, so take care in gardens with young children or pets. Yew is native to Europe, Turkey and Iran. It does well in cooler, northern areas of the US, but it can be trickier to grow well in hot and dry climates. 

6. Pyracantha

Pyracantha coccinea (Pyracantha coccinea).

(Image credit: Tetiana Mykytiuk / Getty Images)

If you want a low maintenance hedge which will also deter intruders, this spiky plant is a great choice. Try ‘Mohave’ which has dense, small green leaves, white flowers in summer and thick clusters of red berries in the fall. 

It can be cut into shape in the spring and early summer (make sure you have a thick pair of gardening gloves to hand for the job) or just leave it alone for an informal wildlife-friendly hedge. 

Its prolific nature means that pyracantha is classed as invasive in certain parts of the US. But if it's ok for your area this makes a vibrant front yard hedge for privacy.

7. English holly (Ilex Aquifolium)

brick wall and holly branches with red berries

(Image credit: EvgeniiAnd / Getty Images)

A slow growing evergreen, with spiny leaves and delightful red berries in winter, holly makes a sturdy, thick and secure hedge which needs little more than a trim in the summer to keep it happy and healthy. 

There are many different types of holly, with both solid green and variegated leaves, but generally this plant has flexible needs, tolerating full sun and part shade and any kind of moist, well-drained soil. 

In rural areas, holly plants may require a rabbit guard around the trunk as they get established, particularly if you're already struggling with how to keep rabbits out of your yard. 

It thrives in US growing zones 7-9, but American holly is a good substitute for gardens outside these areas. Try American Holly at Fast Growing Trees

8. Photinia

Photinia x fraseri ‘Louise’ Christmas berry Louise – maroon leaf shoots, budding flower clusters and dark green leaves with cream edges,

(Image credit: thrillerfillerspiller / Alamy Stock Photo)

Just because a plant is evergreen does not mean that it stays the same boring color all year round, and this pretty option for the best low-maintenance hedge plants certainly rings the changes. 

Try Photinia X Fraseri ‘Louise’ which shifts through red to olive green to a dark gray green as the seasons turn. It is a spring flowering shrub where white flowers appear, followed by red berries. It will thrive in sun or partial shade, in moist, well-drained soil. 

Minimal pruning is needed, just a light trim in spring and summer (avoiding the height of summer). It is a popular choice for gardeners in Australia and will grow in the US, zones 7-9. 

9. Osmanthus x burkwoodii

Osmanthus X Burkwoodii evergreen hedge with white flowers

(Image credit: BasieB / Getty Images)

An evergreen shrub with leathery, sharp leaves which have a similar shape to holly, Burkwood Osmanthus, as it’s also known, is a very hardy, easy going hedging plant, which will tolerate full sun or part shade. 

It is a well behaved slow-grower, and only needs pruning if it gets too big for the plot. This is best done in late spring, after the display of starry and superbly scented white flowers (the botanic name actually means ‘fragrant flower’). 

It’s a good choice for a small backyard and it grows well in USDA zones 7-10. 


Which low maintenance hedges will stay green all year round? 

Any hedge which is described or labeled as a hardy evergreen will keep its color and its leaves through every season of the year. But it is important to choose a species that will not grow too big for your space as some can become dominant in record time. 

Which low maintenance hedge plants are best for shady areas?

For areas which hardly get any sunlight, opt for shade plants such as a holly (ilex) or a Japanese laurel (Aucuba japonica), as both will tolerate lower light levels.

Hedges don't only add permanent evergreen interest and structure to your backyard, they can also work as plants for home security as break-in deterrents.

Fiona Cumberpatch

An experienced freelance journalist, editor and columnist writing for magazines and websites, Fiona now specializes in gardens. She enjoys finding and writing about all kinds, from the tiniest town plots to impressively designed ones in grand country houses.