Commonly used hedge plants can usually grow much taller than the hedge if left unpruned. Luckily, they are tolerant to heavy pruning, making it easy to maintain them as a short and compact mass of leaves. Still, you may have seen bigger hedges and became curious as to how tall hedges should be in residential areas.
Hedges should be at most ½ of the total height of the house to provide the homeowners with privacy and ample view of the street. Currently, no federal laws limit how tall hedges should be in front of a house in the US.
Further in this article, we will discuss the recommended height of hedges in front of a house based on functionality, aesthetics, community considerations, and any social issues. Read on!
Recommended Height of Hedges in Front of a House
Hedges are important agricultural designs developed for a wide range of purposes. Gardeners often plan their hedges meticulously to serve their purpose. Most of the time, choosing a hedge involves careful selection of plant species based on growing characteristics such as the following:
- Speed of growth
- Maximum height
- Maximum spread
- Effect on wildlife
- Drought or salt tolerance
These factors, along with the purpose of growing a hedge, are essential pieces of information gardeners need to consider to avoid or reduce any problems in the long run.
In residential areas, the recommended height of hedges in front of a house depends on the following reasons:
- To maintain privacy
- To establish a boundary
- To block or attract wildlife
I will go into further detail about how these reasons affect the ideal height of hedges in front of a house.
To Maintain Privacy
Hedges are natural and effective barriers to help maintain privacy in the neighborhood. Their dense foliage can provide the house with enough coverage to keep your lawn activities invisible to cyclists and passersby.
The compact arrangement of hedge shrubs results in overlapping woody branches that make it challenging for humans and pets to cross, making it an effective barrier to keep strangers out.
For privacy, you can grow your hedge as tall as you want. There are no federal laws that prevent you from doing so.
However, some municipal guidelines may set some limitations. It is generally acceptable to grow your garden hedge to your preferred height, as long as it does not obstruct the view of drivers and pedestrians of structures like street lights or traffic signs.
From a gardening perspective, it is best to keep your hedge, at most, half the height of a one-story house. Typically, single-story houses or bungalows have ceilings that are 9 – 10 feet (2.7 – 3 m) tall. If you add roughly two feet (0.6 m) for the roof, the house height adds up to approximately 12 feet (3.6 m).
A 6-foot (1.8 m) tall hedge should be enough to block most drivers’ and pedestrians’ view of your lawn and whatever you want to do in front of your house. It can also effectively cancel out noise from traffic or parties in the neighborhood. Conversely, it can prevent the noise in your home from reaching the streets beyond the hedge.
For houses with two or more floors, you can keep your hedge at 6 feet (1.8 m) tall so you can still get a good view of the street from your second-floor windows or balcony.
To Establish a Boundary
If you want taller hedges to line the sides of your front garden, note that some communities set a six-foot (1.8 m) limit. Be sure to check the zoning ordinance in your municipality.
However, if you want to grow a hedge as a living boundary between your property and your neighbor’s yard, a three-foot (0.9 m) border should suffice. It can effectively mark your territory while allowing occasional interaction with your neighbors.
An essential advantage to keeping a lower hedge for territorial purposes is that you can conveniently prune it on both your side of the property and your neighbor’s side. Remember that hedges need to be pruned regularly.
Extra Tip: If you have enough space on your front lawn, leave a 6-inch (15 cm) allowance on the part of the hedge outside your property. This can help reduce issues with your neighbors during the pruning season and give you enough space to clean up debris.
To Block or Attract Wildlife
Hedges can block or attract wildlife, depending on what kind of plants you use. Home gardeners should have enough knowledge about this to prevent unwanted encounters with wildlife and the problems they can present to homes.
Blocking Farm Animals and Wildlife
It is common to install fences in residential areas surrounded by dairy farms or near forests to keep animals off your lawn. Growing hedges in front and around a house can also serve the same function. However, some hedge plants can be poisonous to horses, cows, and other farm animals.
As a physical barrier to prevent animals from entering your property, you can grow your hedges three to four feet (1.2 m) tall. This should be enough to keep most mammals away.
For urban residential areas, growing hedges with evergreen, non-flowering shrubs won’t attract bees to your garden. However, some shrubs like boxwood may attract leafminers and other insects, such as flies. It helps to choose resistant cultivars to avoid attracting unwanted insects to your garden.
Attracting Birds and Butterflies
Conversely, hedges can also attract animals to your garden. Fruit-bearing and flowering shrubs can attract birds and butterflies. However, they are likely to attract bees and other pollinators, too.
If you don’t mind having some insects in front of your house, you can grow hedges with beautiful blooms and tiny fruits.
A hedge roughly three feet (0.9 m) tall should be enough to enjoy watching birds and butterflies at eye level while relaxing on your porch.
On the other hand, taller hedges attract birds because they can build a nest within the overlapping branches while staying safe from predators like house cats and dogs.
Other Factors To Consider for the Height of Hedges
In addition to personal reasons for growing a hedge, there are other factors to consider when deciding the height of hedges in front of your house. These factors include the overall aesthetics and impact on the community. Let’s check them out below:
Some neighborhoods have set standards on how houses and front lawns should look. As surprising as it may seem, your neighbors can even report you for breaching these standards. That’s why it matters that you know and understand zoning policies in your neighborhood.
Ensure that you follow the municipal guidelines and limitations on the height of hedges. This includes abiding by the rules regarding pruning and proper maintenance.
Meanwhile, in communities that provide leeway to residents about how they want their front lawn to look, hedges can be as tall as the homeowners desire.
Some owners with old houses that need repair tend to grow tall hedges to keep their houses beyond the sight of passersby. For this purpose, you can keep your hedges up to 10 feet (3 m) tall. However, remember that taller hedges need more extensive pruning.
To keep a balance between aesthetics and management, I recommend keeping your hedge between 5 and 6 feet (1.5-1.8 m) tall.
If you are growing your hedges in front of your walls, it is best to keep them below your windows. It provides a neat appearance to your house and protects your windows from potential damage.
Impact on the Community
The size of a hedge can have several impacts on the community that can sometimes be challenging to deal with and may cause issues with your neighbors. Here are some of them:
- Water contamination. Taller hedges have more nutrient requirements, making regular application of fertilizers necessary. However, these fertilizers may leach underground and contaminate underground water lines and sewer systems.
- Wildlife problems. Fruit-bearing and flowering shrubs used for hedges may attract wildlife that may be no problem for you but can be bothersome for the neighbors. Taller hedges are also likely to be turned into nests by birds, resulting in increased bird waste in the community.
- Waste and debris. Dried or pruned leaves and other plant debris can be visually disturbing for some members of the community. Taller hedges tend to have more of these that can be blown by the wind to your neighbors’ properties.
- Damage to underground structures. Large hedges tend to have deeper and larger roots that are necessary to support their growth requirements. These roots may damage underground wiring, cables, and pipes, affecting the entire community.
While you can grow your hedges as tall as you want, you must consider several things to avoid potential maintenance problems or issues within your community. Specifically, you should pay attention to the following factors:
- Zoning policies in your neighborhood
- Wildlife in your area
- Infrastructures like street lights, traffic signs, water pipes, and more
Keeping these in mind and promptly addressing any issues that may occur will help you enjoy your hedges without worrying about complaints from your neighbors.
If you are currently planning out your front yard, you might be interested in my other article on how many plants you need for a hedge: How Many Plants Do You Need for a Hedge?