Unveiling The Wonders of Plant Physiology

Hedging plants and trees not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of our gardens and landscapes but also serve as natural boundaries, privacy screens, and windbreaks. Have you ever wondered how these plants maintain their dense foliage and stay looking trimmed year after year? The answer lies in the fascinating world of plant physiology. In this article, we delve into the intricate mechanisms behind hedging plants and trees, providing valuable insights for garden enthusiasts and green thumbs alike.

Structure of a leaf - Shutterstock

Contents of This Article

The Power of Pruning

Pruning is a crucial aspect of maintaining hedging plants and trees. It encourages lateral branching and results in a dense, compact form. When plants are pruned, their apical dominance (the inhibition of lateral bud growth by the terminal bud) is disrupted. This stimulates dormant buds along the stem to develop into branches, giving hedging plants a fuller and more bushy appearance. Regular pruning also helps maintain the desired height and shape, ensuring your hedge remains aesthetically pleasing.

Pruning a Hedge - Shutterstock

The Phenomenon of Phototropism

Phototropism is the tendency of plants to grow towards a light source. This phenomenon plays a significant role in the development of hedging plants. When grown in proximity to one another, they compete for light, resulting in upward growth. To counteract this, gardeners employ a technique called “backing,” where plants are regularly pruned or trimmed on the sunny side of the hedge. By selectively removing the upper foliage, the lower parts receive more light, promoting lateral growth and creating a dense hedge from top to bottom.

Example of daily phototropism - Shutterstock

The Role of Hormones

Plant hormones, such as auxins, cytokinins, and gibberellins, play vital roles in the growth and development of hedging plants and trees. Auxins are responsible for apical dominance, allowing the plant to focus its growth on the main terminal bud. By selectively removing or pruning the terminal bud, you can encourage lateral bud growth and create a denser hedge. Cytokinins, on the other hand, promote cell division and lateral bud development, aiding in the formation of a bushy hedge. Understanding these hormone interactions can help gardeners manipulate the growth patterns of hedging plants to achieve desired results.

Plant Development - Shutterstock

Root System Development

The health and vigor of hedging plants and trees greatly depend on their root systems. A well-established and extensive root system ensures optimal nutrient uptake, water absorption, and overall plant vitality. To encourage robust root development, it’s important to provide adequate irrigation, especially during the establishment phase. Deep watering promotes downward root growth, making the plants more resistant to drought conditions and stabilizing the hedge structure.

Root Systems of Plants - Shutterstock

Photosynthesis and Leaf Structure

Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert sunlight into energy. The structure of leaves in hedging plants and trees plays a crucial role in maximizing photosynthesis efficiency. Plants with broad, flat leaves capture more sunlight and perform photosynthesis more effectively. This is why many hedging plants, such as privet (Ligustrum), boxwood (Buxus), and laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), have dense foliage with broad leaves. By selecting appropriate hedging species with efficient leaf structures, you can ensure a healthy and vibrant hedge.

Close up of a dense privet hedge - Shutterstock


Hedging plants and trees not only provide functional benefits but also contribute to the beauty and allure of our outdoor spaces. Understanding the mechanisms of plant physiology behind their growth and development empowers gardeners to create and maintain stunning hedges. By employing techniques like pruning, capitalizing on phototropism, manipulating hormone interactions, promoting root system development, and selecting suitable species, you can create thriving hedging plants that transform your landscape into a natural masterpiece. So, go ahead and explore the wonders of plant physiology as you craft your own hedging paradise. Happy gardening!