Fast-growing bushes and shrubs planted as a hedge create a living fence, a dynamic barrier providing privacy and protection from noise and wind. Understanding the growing conditions of your specific location, along with your landscaping goals, helps you select the best plants to meet your needs. Although many fast-growing bushes tolerate dry soil, you can grow your hedge faster by irrigating with 1 inch of water each week and fertilizing with a high-nitrogen fertilizer, such as 18-6-12, after two to three years.
Fast-Growing Evergreen Shrubs
A broadleaf evergreen, holly makes a dense hedge, giving privacy during all seasons. Growing up to 3 feet per year, Nellie Stevens holly (Ilex 'Nellie R. Stevens') is low-maintenance and adapts to almost any soil type, although it grows best in slightly acidic, moist, well-drained organic soil in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 9. This holly accepts pruning or shearing. Without pruning, it reaches a height of 15 to 25 feet with a 8- to 12-foot spread in full sun or partial shade. Red berries add fall and winter interest.
BigfootTM Cleyera (Cleyera japonica 'Sotall') grows up to 15 to 20 feet tall with a 5- to 6-foot width in full sun or partial shade in USDA zones 7 through 10. Plant cleyera in moist, well-drained soil. Bronze-tinted young foliage adds spring and early summer interest.
Multi-trunked, medium- to fine-textured evergreen myrtles (Myrica spp.) grow in full sun where they tolerate a wide variety of growing conditions, including salt spray, wet or drafty locations. Pacific wax myrtle (Myrica californica) grows 10 to 30 feet tall and 10 to 12 feet wide in USDA zone 7. Southern wax myrtle (Myrica cerifa) grows 10 to 20 feet tall in USDA zones 7b through 11.
Southern Indica azaleas (Azalea indica) quickly form a 7- to 10-foot-tall hedge when planted in filtered light in USDA zones 7 and 8 in moist, well-drained soil with a pH of 5 to 6. In spring, Southern Indica azaleas bloom heavily with large, showy blossoms. Azalea indica 'Formosa' bears bright magenta-pink flowers; Azalea indica 'Mrs. G.G. Gerbing' blooms with white flowers and Azalea indica 'George L. Tabor' has orchid-pink flowers.
'Green Giant' arborvitae (Thuga plicata x standishii) creates a tall, dense hedge, with needled foliage that bronzes only slightly during cold months in USDA zones 5 through 7. Low maintenance 'Green Giant' grows up to 3 feet a year until it reaches its mature height of 60 feet with a 12- to 20-foot spread. Plant 'Green Giant' in full sun or partial shade. Withstands snow and ice. One-half-inch-long green cones turn brown in winter.
Fast-Growing Deciduous Shrubs
Deciduous myrtle, like its evergreen cousins, grows rapidly to form a hedge. Northern bayberry (Myrica pennsylvanica) grows in full sun and reaches 6 to 12 feet tall with a wider spread in USDA zone 4b. Aromatic, glossy green leaves drop in fall, exposing clusters of BB-size, wax-coated, blue-gray globose fruits growing in clusters along the stems if there is a male plant to pollinate the female shrubs.
Flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) provides a barrier to intruders due to its thick, twiggy growth and long thorns. Pink, white, red or yellow flowers bloom in early spring on this 6- to 10-foot-tall plant with a 6- to 10-foot spread. Quince tolerates wind and grows in dry or moist, well-drained slightly acid soil in full sun or partial shade in USDA zones 4 through 8.