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How to Differentiate a Hedge from a Screen

A hedge is usually more formal than a screen and is a design element in and of itself. A screen is often grown in order to hide an eyesore, create privacy or block the wind. Think of a loose row of arborvitae planted between patios of closely built houses with small groups of flowers between each—that's a screen of a kinder, gentler nature that provides privacy without having to erect a wooden fence.


Test Yourself: Is this an example of a hedge or a screen? (Answer at the end of the article!) Photo credit: Shutterstock

A screen often uses more individual plants than a hedge, like the mix of arborvitae and flowers or small flowering shrubs we suggest. The screen can also be made of vines.

A hedge will likely require several trimmings throughout the year to keep it in tight shape, where a screen is more of a low-maintenance installation.

How to Choose Plants for Your Hedge

When choosing plants for either a hedge or a screen, it may sound like we're being Captain Obvious, but consider the growth patterns of the plants, their maintenance needs and the site’s conditions. There's nothing worse than a poor choice of plant that quickly outgrows its space, or on the other hand, which isn't big enough to do the job you ask of it.


Here a loosely spaced row of arborvitae creates a gentle screen. Photo credit: GettyImages

The best choices for a screen will be plants with a naturally tall, compact habit. Fastigiate yews and arborvitae, blue spruce and other pyramidal evergreens, and ‘Sky Pencil’ holly are good examples. The best hedge plants respond well to pruning and have a dense habit.

ANSWER: If you said hedge you are correct!

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2013 issue of Horticulture magazine that you can download here.