There's a narrow belt of land - a couple of metres - between a path and our land about 50m long and I'd like to grow a barrier. However since we're in woodland I would like it to be more natural - more of a thicket than a formal hedge - even if screening isn't perfect it will keep people on the path.

I was considering things like Holly and Beech as both grow wild here and keep their leaves, but the area is fairly shady and not wonderfully rich soil. Currently a few birch and willow trees are dotted along and are surviving though not thriving. Laurel is another obvious choice though not quite so authentic. I had considered laurel/holly a nice mix as it's evergreen, provides great screening AND even before it provides a visual barrier the spiky leaves will deter anyone from walking right up to us!

What will grow in a shady environment though in the UK? Is there something I've missed?

3 Answers 3


Native, reasonably shade tolerant species to consider include yew, holly, privet, box, hawthorn, guelder rose and hazel. No matter what you go with it's essential you keep the base of the hedge (say a strip 60 to 100cm wide and as long as the hedge) weed free until the plants are established. Either hand weed or spot treat with Roundup every two or three weeks throughout the growing season. And water as necessary until established as well. There's an RHS link here for native, partial shade tolerant hedging plants.


I am a fan of doing what works; what grows well in you woodland and gives the result you want? When visiting in UK ,I was impressed by how well yews grew . I would put yew at the top of the list. Holly ( American) wants to be a tree not a shrub, English holly seems similar. A low shrub very similar to holly is leather leaf mahonia but I don't know if it is available in the UK. Camelia sasanqua is a slow grower but some varietys are vigorus growers and heavy bloomers in the fall; get to 8 ft tall and have foliage to the ground. I think a few would add interesting variety.

  • Yew is lovely but quite slow growing - other than that it's about the perfect hedge in my opinion. Both Holly and Yew are naturally large trees but can be hedged, although holly can get very messy in my experience when growing wild.
    – Mr. Boy
    Oct 1, 2020 at 17:19
  • 1
    Mahonia species are available in the UK. I have a short hedge of M. japonica but I wouldn't recommend it for hedging. It naturally grows too wide, and it is much too spiky to make keeping it under control a pleasant job. The yellow flowers look pretty in winter, but it is boring (except for the blue berries) for the rest of the year.
    – alephzero
    Oct 1, 2020 at 20:44
  • @alephzero for my 'thicket' that might not be too terrible, maybe in a mix with others?
    – Mr. Boy
    Oct 2, 2020 at 9:22
  • That is the mahonia I have . It's thorny leaves ,like holly, discourage any one from passing through. Oct 2, 2020 at 16:30

I live in the Pacific Northwest in the US, and there are sometimes weeks at a time with literally zero minutes of sun. One plant native to the area that's evergreen is a fern. There are so many types, and there are ways to make them look quite tidy. Many of them will likely be pretty tolerant of soil that isn't very rich, and once they're established, they require little (if any) supplemental water.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.