A hedge can give you privacy, wind protection, a living fence or food. But the best hedging plant in the US or UK isn't always a great choice for Aussie gardens. You'll need a species that stands up to the harsh Australian climate.
The Best Australian Hedge Plants
When it comes to the best Australian native plant for hedges, there are two standout candidates that tie. There's the lilly pilly and westringia.
Lilly pillies are evergreen, flowering, Australian natives with smooth, glossy leaves that suit formal and relaxed garden themes. Importantly, they have a dense, bushy habit that makes them perfect for hedges. They're very hardy plants that prefer well-drained but moist soil, but one of the best things about them is that they'll grow well in full sun or shade, so they're incredibly versatile. Their colourful new foliage and edible fruit are a bonus.
- Acmena smithii is probably the best lilly pilly for hedging.
- Eugenai, Acmena and Syzygium species are all suitable hedging plants.
- Syzygium australe is another particularly excellent choice.
Westringias are hardy, long-lived, flowering Australian natives that make wonderful hedges. The leaves are dark green with a fine covering of short hairs that lend the leaves a beautiful silvery tint. This plant makes an excellent screening plant in costal areas as it withstands salt spray.
Westringia fruticosa, or native rosemary, is one of the best species to choose for a hedge.
Best Box for Australian Gardens
Arguably, the box makes the quintessential hedge.
- For most areas of Australia, the Japanese box is the best variety. Its foliage is glossy, dark green, and dense, and it's a nice hardy species. It tends to tolerate warmer climates than other box varieties.
- If you live in a cold area, however, go for the English box, Buxus sempervirens, as it's more frost tolerant.
- Both species are also good for topiary if you'd like to complement your hedge with some interesting shapes.
Best Fast-Growing Screening Plant for Australian Gardens
Leighton green, Cupressocyparis leylandii, is a fast-growing conifer that makes a great hedge, privacy screen or wind break. It's drought tolerant and frost hardy, so it's suitable for most areas of Australia except the tropical north.
- If you garden in the tropics or sub-tropics, viburnum 'Dense Fence' is an excellent quick-growing plant that's been bred specifically for hedging.
- If you need a fast-growing hedge for your coastal garden, a pittosporum hedgerow could be the perfect choice as pittosporums are tolerant of salty air and are still both drought tolerant and frost hardy.
Best Colourful Australian Hedge Plant
With their vibrant, fiery red new foliage, photinias are the best option for a colourful Australian hedge. The photinia is a popular ornamental shrub that produces white flowers and red (inedible) berries that add interest once the new foliage has turned dark green. With 60 species, photinias offer plenty of variety from which to choose from. They're hardy and easy to care for too; growing is pretty much every soil type and Australian climate. And they grow quickly, so they can allow you to have a beautiful hedge in no time.
Best Fragrant Australian Hedge Plant
The orange blossom, Murraya paniculata, produces white flowers with a truly gorgeous scent making it a great choice for a fragrant hedge. It prefers a full sun or partly shaded spot and well-drained soil. You can sometimes find it in nurseries labelled as orange jasmine.
If you live in a cooler area, go with the choisya, or Mexican orange blossom, which is very similar but more cold tolerant, coping with light frosts and temperatures down to -5ºC. As with the orange blossom, choisyas will grow in full sun and partial shade, but they'll produce fewer flowers under the latter conditions.
Best Low-Maintenance Australian Hedge Plant
If you live in the topics, you can't go past the blueberry ash, Elaeocarpus reticulatus, for a low maintenance hedge. It's a small tree, indigenous to south-eastern Queensland, and it only needs maintenance work every 3-4 months. Blueberry ashes produce pretty flowers and small blue berries, new growth is red and then the leaves turn dark green with a white leaf margin. This means they'll add interest to your garden all year round, which is pretty good for a low-maintenance plant.
If you garden elsewhere in Australia, the sasanqua camellia is a stunning evergreen shrub that makes beautiful low-maintenance hedges. These camellias put on a brilliant show with white, pink or red flowers in autumn and their dark green foliage is beautiful when the plants aren't in flower.
Best Bird-Attracting Australian Hedge Plant
If you're looking to attract birds to your garden and also want a bit of privacy or structure, a callistemon hedge can serve both purposes, no matter where in Australia you live. Callistemons cope with lots of pruning, adapt well to climate extremes and are native to Australia. And their flowers are a magnet for all kinds of birds, especially native birds. Plus there's a variety that will suit your garden no matter what soil type you have.
If callistemons aren't your thing, one of the many grevillea species would also be a good choice. With so many flower colours, there's bound to be a grevillea to suit your preferences. Some grevillea species also tend to be a little more frost tolerant than callistemons too.
Best Special-Purpose Australian Hedge Plant
If there was a prize for the best hedging plant that can serve another special purpose, it would easily go to the acacia for their ability to form relationships with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. If you're struggling with low soil nitrogen in your garden, and you want to plant a hedge, choose one of the many acacia species. As a bonus, many acacias are native to Australia, and you'll likely be able to find one that's endemic to your local area.
What You Need to Know Before You Plant a Hedge in Australia
Before you get too excited about planting your hedge, it's important to know there are laws surrounding where you can plant a hedge and what species of plant it can contain. In particular, if you're planning a tall hedge, be sure to check the legislation that governs your area. For example, if you live in NSW and you have a hedge that's at least 2.5 m tall, it must not block sunlight from a neighbour's window. There are also rules around obstructing your neighbours' view. Local councils sometimes have additional rules about hedges too. It's also a good idea to check what's under the ground before you start digging, in case there are water or sewage pipes or electrical cables.