Wednesday, February 20, 2013

South Florida Hedge Plants v.I

So you find yourself doing research about what types of plants to purchase for a hedge?  Well, you definitely have stumbled upon the right blog post for you.  Yes, today's post is all about the right type of plant to use for a hedge.  Most of these plants are going to be cold hardy to about zone 9b, maybe even a few for 9a or zone 8, but mostly tropicals for South Florida, Texas and the Caribbean.  
I'm super excited so let's get started...
First...some questions to ponder....
To begin, what type of hedge will this be?  A privacy hedge or a decorative hedge?
     Some plants are better suited for a privacy hedge since they tend to have full foliage.  Some will have thorns to deter wall hoppers.  Others will have a mounding or round shape while others are taller and columnar.  Flowering plants are great for decorative hedges.  Or try layering different size plants; a decorative hedge in the front while the privacy hedge stands tall in the back.  "Wow!", your neighbors will say, "Did you do that?!?"
Second, what is your budget?
      Most people will have some kind of budget in mind for the project.  If you have 150 linear feet to cover as opposed to 20 linear feet then maybe you chose a less expensive plant.  Or if you have your heart set on a particular plant then what the heck, go all out, splurge a little.
Third, where are the plants going to be located?  A small yard or a large yard? A pathway?
      This is another important question, because there is nothing worse than spending time and money on a project for it only to be a disaster.  No one wants a plant that is advertised to "grow only 15-20 ft high max" but then come to find out that it took over your yard and is now 45 ft high.  
Yup, that sucks.
And last, what type of maintenance are you willing to do?  None?  Once a month trimming?
      Now this one is a big deal, probably more important than the budget question.  Because if you decide on an fast growing plant that tends to grow up to 35 ft naturally but you only want to keep it trimmed at 10 ft once a every 6 weeks, well it could become a problem for you and/or your neighbors if you wanted 'low maintenance'.

The overall idea is to pick the right plant for the right place.  A good rule of thumb is to "go native" as much as you can.  Stay away from invasive and exotic's that reap havoc to your native ecosystem. Here are some plants that I find are great for hedges, pro's and con's, as well as an FYI list of invasive's.

Thunbergia or King's Mantle ( thunbergia erecta )
Thunbergia erecta's like to "reach out" with it's branches which needs lots of trimming to keep it a formal shaped hedge.  Though if you have the space you can also let it grow out with a more natural look.  The most commonly used is the purple flower plant though there is a white one too.  On average it grows to about 6 ft tall but can easily be maintained at 2-4 ft high.  This plant does best in part sun/part shade but can handle full sun as long as it has good irrigation.  Good for low, medium and med-high hedge.  Budget friendly.  Do be aware there is a vining form of this plant with different growing characteristics.  
Thunbergia erecta- purple flower
Thunbergia erecta- white flower
This untrimmed thunbergia is at Pinecrest Gardens
in Miami is one of the tallest I've seen, ~8ft  high
This layered formal thunbergia hedge needs
lots of maintenance since they like to grow.

Cocoplum ( chrysobalanus icaco )
The cocoplum is a commonly used native plant with beautiful green and red colored glossy leaves.  An easy plant to maintain and stays relatively within the 4 ft high range but can get up to 6 - 8 ft high.  Like the thunbergia, the cocoplum can be shaped or let grow au natural.  Thrives in full sun but can handle part shade as an understory plant & needs good irrigation.  Good for a low to medium high hedge.  Budget friendly.
Cocoplum in it's natural form
Formal cocoplum hedge

Bougainvillea ( bougainvillea spectablis )
The beautiful bougainvillea has a more unusual growing habit than most plants.  It can grow as a vine or it can be cut back to a more compact form.  As most of you know, the bougainvillea has thorns along it's branches which makes a great briar patch.  Someone will think twice about climbing over your wall.  Though this vigorous grower needs alot of maintenance to keep this plant in check because it will grow wild. Loves full sun, heat and can handle dry conditions. Good for low, medium and trellised high wall hedges.  Variety of prices from affordable to expensive depending on the type of hybrid.
This purple bougainvillea is right on Hillsboro Blvd
in Deerfield Beach & I so want to trim it for them!!
A low bougainvillea hedge in the Caribbean,
though this may be the dwarf variety.
This is my maternal Grandmother, my maternal Great-Grandmother, my paternal
Grandmother and my Mom in front of their fuchsia bougainvillea.

Orange Plume Flower ( justicia spicigera )
I haven't used the orange plume flower for a hedge before but I think it could work really well.  It is a prolific grower and can spread over a large area pretty quickly.  It gets about 7-8 ft high and does well in all kinds of conditions; full sun, part sun, no water, lots of water.  The oriole's and hummingbirds love the gorgeous pom-pom flowers.  The natural growth habit of the plant isn't super easy to trim but it gets much thicker by growing new shoots from the cut areas.  The orange plume flower is becoming more popular but the pricing can still be a bit on the high side.
You can see two orange plume flower plants in the back
left of our patio, growing like there's no tomorrow.
The orange plume flower has starburst orange flowers that are truly spectacular.

Song of India ( dracaena reflexa )
Absolutely gorgeous plant, though can be a bit on the pricey side, it is well worth it's weight in gold (& green lol).  This is a dracaena so it grows upward but it has some swirling effect to it's branches kind of like an octopus.  The foliage totally surrounds each branch like Carmen Miranda's ruffled sleeves.  The song of India is a slow grower and can eventually reach heights of about 20 ft high.  Though like the orange plume it is not necessarily an easy plant to trim  because of it's branching habit so best to let it do it's thang.  This plant is not only gorgeous but it is practical too.  Winner, winner here!
Song of India at about 12 ft high
This is a Song of India in a 15 gallon bucket

Firespike ( odontonema strictum )
The odontonema strictum has a two colors: cardinal red flower and a striking purple flower version though is typically smaller than the red.  Here we are talking about the red firespike.  The firespike grows to about 6 ft high in full and/or part sun.  It has a very similar structure and growing habit as the orange plume.  The hummingbirds and butterflies love the flowers.  Moderately priced.
My firespike are looking a bit shabby lately so
courtesy of fellow blogger & gardener 'NanaK' who has
one of the nice looking firespikes. Thank you! :)
Firespike (odontonema strictum )

Copperleaf ( acalypha wilkesiana & a. wilkesiana godseffiana )
The copperleaf is one of my favorite plants to use because it's so versatile.  There are so many different varieties that it's mind blowing. So many different color variations, leaf shapes, textures and sizes. They love full sun and part sun, as well as very drought hardy.  They are super easy to maintain and are easy to grow.  Finding the right one for you is the trick, if you want low maintenance then go with a smaller size variety as they are pretty fast growers.  Though their natural form is quite exquisite  There is a size for small, medium and high hedges. Extremely affordable plant.
Copperleaf 'Firestorm'
Copperleaf 'Tricolor'
Formal copperleaf hedge
Informal copperleaf hedge
Copperleaf 'tropical tempest'
Copperleaf 'tiki whirl'
Copperleaf 'bourbon street'
Copperleaf 'ceylon'

Copperleaf 'island sunrise'
Copperleaf 'jungle cloak'
Copperleaf 'halo'
Copperleaf 'inferno'
Copperleaf 'moorea'
Copperleaf 'java white'
Copperleaf 'marginata'
In one of our client's landscapes copperleaf 'java pink'

In one of our client's landscapes
opperleaf 'java pink'
In one of our client's landscapess copperleaf 'java pink'
Copperleaf 'java white'
Copperleaf 'inferno'

Green and Silver Buttonwoods ( conocarpus erectus )
A great native to use for privacy hedge.  Grows in full sun.  The green likes wet feet but can withstand periods of dry weather while the silver prefers a bit drier ground.  The green grows like a wild weed while the silver is much more refined.  Both are easy to maintain though need constant maintenance as they prefer their tree form better. Can be a low, medium or high hedge.  Very affordable.
Green buttonwoods in 7 gallon buckets
Silver buttonwood hedge

Podocarpus ( podocarpus macrophylla )
The podocarpus is an absolutely gorgeous dark green plant with needle like leaves will give you lots of privacy.  Very easy to maintain though a slow grower and pricey.  Podocarpus are typically used as a formal hedge since they create a sharp edge when trimmed due to the small leaves.  Grows in full sun and are very hardy.  Can be a low, medium or high hedge. 
Podocarpus in a 3 gallon bucket
Podocarpus hedge

Wild Coffee ( psychotria nervosa )
Wild coffee is a wonderful native plant to use for a hedge as well as for your landscape.  The wild coffee does best as an understory plant (part sun) but can adapt to full sun as long as it has good irrigation.  An easy plant to maintain, the coffee grows to 4-6 ft high with beautiful deep green glossy textured leaves.  There are a few different type of coffee's here from Jamaica & Haiti so make sure to get the Florida wild coffee.  A small to medium hedge.  Very affordable.
Wild coffee in the foreground
Wild coffee bush that is a natural
attractor for wildlife like birds & butterflies.

Wild coffee
Wild coffee

Green Island Ficus ( ficus macrocarpa )
Green island ficus is found just about everywhere in residential and commercial landscapes.  It is a great low maintenance plant that withstands just about all South Florida weather's & abuse.  Easy low maintenance which can be trimmed for a formal look or let it's natural beauty shine.  It can be on the slow side of growing but spreads out nicely.  Grows to about 5 ft high max, so can be a low or medium hedge.  Very affordable.
Natural form of green island ficus
This is a great shot of three hedges:
green island ficus in the front, cocoplum in the middle
and Suriname cherry hedge in the back.

Surinam Cherry ( eugenia uniflora )
The Surinam cherry is an excellent replacement for the ficus you see around town.  This plant is an excellent moderate grower here in Florida and easy to maintain.  They have been used as hedging here in Florida for a very long time.  Like the cocoplum, the Surinam cherry has beautiful green and red glossy leaves and always seems to have a unique smell to them.  Word to the wise, while it's small fruit are tasty they usually have little white worms in them.  Growing up in Miami I ate them most of my childhood until the day I realized about the worms then forever never, lol!  Surinam cherry's can grow into a tree form though I have never seen one.  They are very hardy and love full sun.  A low, medium or high hedge. Moderately priced.
Here is me & my brother in Miami
& the Surinam cherry hedge in the back
Surinam cherry fruit
Surinam cherry hedge

American Beautyberry ( callicarpa americana )
The beautyberry is such a great native to use for your medium to high hedging needs.  By far one of my favorite shrubs to use and is very striking when full of bright purple clusters of berries. It is a fast & furious grower so I wouldn't advise it for a small hedge.  The beautyberry has soft furry feeling on it's leaves and stems.  When trimmed, the beautyberry has a sweet-n-spicy scent to it.  Easy to maintain but needs constant maintenance.  The beautyberry's in my yard are at about 12 ft high right now which is about a max height for them but can be maintained smaller.  Extremely tolerant of all types of conditions and thrives in full sun.  A medium to high hedge.  Very affordable.
Natural form of the American beautyberry
Natural form of the American beautyberry

Beautyberry fruit that the birds love to eat

This is one of three beautyberry's in our yard.

Firebush ( hamelia patens )
Another favorite of mine, the firebush, is awesome native shrub to use for a hedge.  It's spectacular bright red-orange flowers bloom all year round.  An easy plant to grow as it likes fun sun, part sun, dry, hot, cold...not a picky plant by any means.  Can grow up to 15 ft high and spread out about 10ft but it very easy to maintain.  There is also a dwarf version for a small hedge that gets about 4-5 ft high max.  A small, medium and high shrub.  Very affordable.
This firebush is actually two plants, lol, go figure
though it looks like one.
All kinds of wildlife just love the native firebush
This is the dwarf firebush, so beautiful!

Invasive & Exotic Plant Species
Please be aware that just because someone or a large "box store" sells a plant, it doesn't mean that it either does well here or belongs here.  So to help you be a wise gardener here are a few links to educate yourself on what species are invasive and exotic.  For example, ficus....ugh!  This plant should not be available for sale.  Ficus are trees that by their genetic nature want to grow up to 80-100 ft high in the South American rainforest not a 10ft hedge in South Florida.  Plus their roots systems are very destructive to your house's (and your neighbor's) foundation and the spiraling white flies just love them.

Well, I truly hope you had a great time today at hedge class 101, lol!  
So enough planning, get out there and start planting.

Happy Gardening and Best Wishes,


  1. This is a GREAT post, very informative. Thank you ~ FlowerLady

    1. Thank you Lorraine, glad you like it! I was considering it too long but when I research plants for my own projects I definitely appreciate a well informed website. Especially helpful for people who are just getting their feet into fresh dirt & looking to learn more, lol. Hope you have a wonderful week!

      Best wishes,

  2. What a great selection. Quite a few of those are popular and do well in our climate in Australia as well. A friend had a bougainvillia hedge along her back fence. It was like purple flowering razor wire - as you said - quite the burglar deterrent.

    1. Thanks Missy! Wow, I had no idea some of those grow there, pretty cool! Gosh I soooo wish I could visit Australia and see your beautiful land first hand! I think I have been in love with Australia and the people since I was in junior high. Yes, I believe I am dating myself lol. Hopefully one day I will be a traveler there! Yes, it's amazing how beautiful yet vicious bougainvillea can be :) Wishing you a great week!

      Best wishes,

  3. Thanks Sheri. I love your post and appreciate the great advise.I am considering putting a hedge bordering a large sitting area in my backyard.
    I love the native firebush, but you stated that "all kinds of wildlife love it". Can you be more specific? I noticed in the pictures it attracts butterflies. Does "wildlife" also include bees and/or worse...cockroaches???

    1. Hi there and thank you! The firebush attracts all kinds of pollinators (like bees, butterflies, moths), dragonfly's, ladybug's and birds. I really haven't ever seen any kind of spiders, cockroaches or other creepy crawlies anywhere around firebush plants, lol. Though remember, things like cockroaches and lizards can be found almost everywhere here in Florida, but no, firebush plants do not "attract" them per say. The good thing is that birds and lizards just love to eat cockroaches. I can handle every insect on the planet but cockroaches are my kryptonite, lol. I hope this helps. If you have anymore questions please feel free to ask! :) Wishing you a wonderful week!

      Thank you so much and Best wishes,

  4. Wonderful post and timely for me! I found this via Google search...really great info in one place. Adding a hedge to create a new space in my landscape. I had not considered firebush or copperleaf for this project, but are great options! I'm using cocoplum in another area, but was looking for something different for this particular spot. Bravo on a post very well done!

    1. glad you found us & welcome! That's so sweet of you and thank you for the compliment. Well, that's what blogging is all about, right, to help others with the information one has. It makes me happy to hear that just one post was worth it to I get to brag to my boyfriend hee hee. He still has yet to be won over about blogging. Good luck with your new space, I am sure it will look incredible! Would love to see it. Have a great week!

      Best wishes,

  5. Thank goodness for this post. Very useful! You're a great help!

    1. You are most welcome and so glad to hear it was of use to you. Thanks for leaving a comment! Wishing you a great week.

      Best wishes,

    2. hi I need to find out about some hedge plant s name ... I have spent so much time on the computer but nothing... I ll really appreciate any help

    3. Not sure how to help but if I saw a picture of the plant you are trying to identify maybe I could be of help. Good luck in your search!

      Happy Gardening and Best Wishes,

  6. congratulations guys, quality information you have given!!! garden hedge

    1. Hi Depra, I am so glad you think so and thank you so much! Just love your plants and nursery at Hopes Grove Nurseries...keep up the great work! Wishing you a wonderful week!

      Best wishes,

  7. Great article! I am researching privacy hedges to block the view of my neighbors unsightly back yard. Your article is very informative! I did not see Odoratissimum (Sweet Viburnum) on your list. What is your opinion on this plant? I am looking for fast growing, hardy and dense hedge. I would be happy with something that we could maintain at 6 feet.

    1. Hi there,

      Thank you for stopping by and so glad to hear my post helped in your search! I know when I first started in landscaping there wasn't a whole lot of information out there and found it very frustrating. So I thought this would be a big help for those like ourselves. Yes I agree, the sweet viburnum is a hardy hedge plant that grows thick and full, very easy to maintain, relatively low maintenance, resistant to most pests, moderate grower but some of the plants have a tendency to smell like stinky feet, lol. We have some on a few property's we maintain and have used them in some of our client's landscapes. There are so many cultivar's to choose from it just depends on where you live. Some good ones for So Flo are the Walter's viburnum (viburnum ovobatum), the sweet viburnum you mentioned, viburnum suspendsum and viburnum odoratissimum awabuki. All are average priced and pretty affordable. It is such an under rated plant, I will definitely have to put viburnum's on the list! Thanks for the suggestion.

      Two of my favorite easy hedge plants are:
      Copperleaf's (acalypha) are great hedge plants that max out around 6-10 ft depending on the cultivar. Lots of color, texture and personality. Eugenia myrtifolia's are awesome full bushy hedge plants, super easy to maintain, pretty bright Kelly green with a sometimes reddish blush and easy on the pocket. Hope this helps, good luck and let me know how it goes! Feel free to email me with any questions you may have. Wishing you a wonderful Autumn!

      Happy Gardening and Best Wishes,


  8. Hi Sheri,

    Thank you for your amazing informaiton on hedges! I notice that you didn't mention the trinettes (Arboricola), which is see all over South Florida and which appear to be a decent colorful plant that's highly trimmable. Just wondered what your opinion was. I am lookng for about 250 linear feet of a trimmable hedge (6 feet high and neat looking) for a privacy fence around a backyard pool area. Any suggestions? Chris.

    1. Hi Chris, thanks for stopping by and glad to hear you were able to find use of the information I posted. That's what it's all about...sharing our experience to help others, even if it is "what not to do" lol. I do use trinette in some of our landscapes though not often because in my opinion it is overused. Like you said, it is everywhere all over South Florida. Plus there's just soooo many more cool options to choose from now a days. If you are looking for height the trinette will take a long while to get to be 6ft plus it can get "leggy" while you are waiting for it to grow. Try looking at some alternative hedge plants like eugenia myrtifolia which is very pretty, clean, trims up nicely & holds it's cut shape or if you like a natural look it grows somewhat columnar yet it has a nice fullness/fluffiness to it. Here is a good representation of it's natural look at Lychee Tree's website It's a very easy hedge plant to keep up with. Some others are the silver and green buttonwood's, any of the stopper family like simpson, white, red, or spanish (but they can be a bit pricey), then there is myrsine, ligustrum, Florida privet, wax myrtle and red cedar (if you have a lot of space for it to grow wide). You could also go a different route and use natives shrubs like the firebush, beautyberry, wild coffee (if shady), fiddlewood and thunbergia. They will easily get to the height you need and super easy to maintain. Well hope this helps you along your hedge quest! If you need any additional information and/or have any questions you can always send me an email at Keep me posted as to how it turns out! Wishing you a great week.

      Best wishes,