Hedge in a hurry: Top fast-growing hedge plants for Sydney gardens
Growing a hedge for privacy is a project that pays back many times over. As well as forming a green screen in several years, hedges add to the greenery in gardens to keep areas cool and add to the garden’s biodiversity. Evergreen hedges provide habitat for birds to nest, insects to feed and their flowers attract pollinating insects such as bees. Hedges usually consist of a planting of a row of one plant variety, so you'll need to make a decision about which one to choose. There are plenty of plant varieties out there that will form a fast-growing hedge.
Here are seven of our favourite hedging plants for temperate gardens such as those found in Sydney. All give fast growth and longevity. Choice comes down to aesthetics – which variety appeals and suits your house and garden – as well considerations around aspect (amount of sun or shade) and maintenance. There are options for both formal and informal hedges.
Flower Power's top 7 fast-growing hedge plants
There are specific varieties of bamboo to grow for hedging as they form compact dense growth and can be clipped. Most are very fast-growing and give the fastest screen. Suitable hedging bamboos include: ‘Malay Dwarf Variegated’, which can be trimmed once or twice a year and kept between 1-4m high; ‘Alphonse Karr’, a golden bamboo 1-3m high; and ‘Boniopsis’, a dark green screening bamboo that tolerates shade. For a tall screen look for tall-growing clumping bamboos including ‘Gracilis’ or ‘Goldstripe’ which are fast, narrow and upright and ideal for a quick privacy screen where there’s only a narrow space. Keep bamboo well watered. Most varieties are frost hardy. Warning: always select clumping and not running forms of bamboo, as these can become invasive and are difficult to manage.
Camellias are very attractive evergreen hedges for sunny to lightly shaded gardens. They can be clipped into formal shapes or allowed to grow informally. Sasanqua camellias have the benefit of white, pink or red often-fragrant flowers from late summer to autumn. To encourage flowering, don’t prune hedges until after flowering or until spring. Named varieties allow gardeners to choose flower colour as well as plant size from 1-3+m.
There are many named lilly pilly varieties (including varieties of both Acmena and Syzygium) that form bright, green leafy hedges for sun or part shade. Keep well-watered for good growth. Lilly pillies flower with masses of white flowers followed by colourful berries if left unpruned in late spring and summer. Many also have flushes of colourful new growth, adding to their attractiveness in the garden. You can train them as low, medium or tall hedges depending on the variety selected. They can also act as a fire-retardant planting.
Murraya is a traditional hedging choice for temperate gardens due to its fast growth and highly perfumed late spring or summer flowers. It grows in sun or shade but flowering is more reliable in a sunny spot with regular water. They can be pruned for a formal look or left to grow in a natural shape and are a good choice for a 2-3m high, fast-growing hedge.
Photinias are excellent, robust hedge plants, which combine fast growth with drought tolerance (once established). The huge benefit of the variety ‘Red Robin’ is the flushes of bright red new growth that follow each pruning meaning a green hedge which colours to red during the year. ‘Red Robin’ forms a dense, reliable, fast-growing hedge 2-3m high and is easy to trim and maintain. Frost tolerant.
There are many forms of pittosporum but the quick-growing light green and variegated forms such as ‘Silver Sheen’ are very popular for fast-growing hedges and screens 2-4+m high. They are best in mild areas with well-drained soil and can be short lived in areas with high humidity. They are drought-hardy when well-established (but water during extended dry periods to reduce plant stress) and tolerate sun or part shade. Frost tolerant.
Several viburnums are grown for hedging. Popular in warm temperate and coastal zones is sweet viburnum (Viburnum odoratissimum), which is a dense, robust dark green hedge 2-4m high. It has insignificant but fragrant flowers especially in summer. For milder areas, tinus is an attractive, lush, fast-growing hedge with clusters of white flowers in winter and early spring. It is frost tolerant.
For more information on planting and growing hedges, see this article.