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Advice on evergreen screening plant for dry area - thank you !

Hi there - I hope you're all well and had a lovely Xmas.  We live in South London / Kent area and need advice about an evergreen hedge/screening plant to plant in our garden.  This is a dry area as our neighbours have huge leyandi trees near by which create a 'rain shadow' on this flowerbed.  It would be a lovely south facing spot but unfortunately the leyandi trees dry out the soil and block the rain.  Please can you suggest something for us to plant here as an evergreen screening plant / hedge - preferably something fairly quick growing.   Unfortunately we have spent quite a lot on some thujia plicata for this area which haven't been able to tolerate the dry conditions so we need to take them out and replace them with something else.  Thank you so much for any advice (pruning the leyandi is not an option unfortunately!)  Best wishes.


  • What about winter box? Not too big and can be pruned to the height you want. Everygreen and a fabulous scent in winter.
    Info from

  • thank you for the suggestion - i'm not familiar with this so i'll try to find out more.  best wishes
  • Sorry to hear the Thuja didn't work. I'd recommend starting with smaller plants, which require less water and are less likely to die of sudden shock. This is also good news because they are cheaper.

    I agree that Sarcococca are a good genus for this purpose, and also you could try Nandina domestica, which is used in California as a shade shrub. But you don't say what effect you're aiming for. Neither of these will make more than a low hedge. For a taller one, you could try yew (Taxus baccata), Aucuba, or perhaps Lonicera nitida. I think in your shoes I would be tempted to try Aucuba.

    Even with those, though, you wouldn't want to bung them in and just leave them without help. It would be a good idea to prepare the site by digging in plenty of organic-rich compost, and then mulching your young plants after planting. After that, you will still need to water them all through their first year. Giving them a good soak every few days, so the water gets right down to the roots, is what is needed--you don't want to give them a dribble every day, they need to get a bit dry so they put their effort into growing a root system large enough to sustain them. Also, check on them, particularly in hot weather, and if they look miserable, up the watering frequency.

    By the second or third year they will have developed a root system sufficient for the purpose. Be aware that you won't see much top growth while they are doing that. But once established they should grow well and suit your purpose.

    There's a more labour-intensive method that would minimise the Leylandii problem--you dig a fairly deep trench along the line of the Leylandii, then line one side with plastic to prevent the Leylandii roots creeping in. Then you backfill your trench with good quality topsoil and plant your hedging plants in that.

    However, even for this method, using young plants is definitely better. Within about 3 years they will be a much healthier, and faster-growing, hedge than one planted using mature specimens. 
  • Hi CambridgeRose - thanks so much for your msg.  Lots of useful advice and plants that I can research.  I'm planning now so I can get ready to plant some replacement plants in the Spring.  I think you have a good point about the more mature plants that I used as a 'quick fix' (for screening - I'm aiming for a hedge about 2m high) being a false economy and that I would be better off using smaller plants and waiting for them to mature.   I'll enjoy researching these plants you suggested as there are some there that I am not familiar with.  Best wishes
  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,699
    Take a look at Elaeagnus x Ebbingei. I think they may do well based on the descriptions.
  • Thanks Borderline 
  • If nothing can be done about the leylandii I would put a decorative fence alongside the tree line and grow things in large pots until the leylandii die. If the trees are big enough to throw a rain shadow, nothing will thrive as they take all of the nutrients in the soil as well as the moisture. You would be watering and feeding the leylandii if you try to grow shrubs etc. near them.
    Keep your fingers crossed the trees do not have many years left before they die naturally as they are not long lived compared to many other trees. Councils have banned leylandii from being planted because they grow so tall and cause so many problems between neighbours.

    If you are desperate to grow plants near the trees perhaps have a look at desert plants such as aloe and cactus type plants, as well as Mediterranean plants  which like impoverished, hot dry arid conditions. Some are quite spectacular and can grow to several feet in height and spread.
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