A hawthorn hedge is a great and attractive pick for providing shelter and privacy in your garden. Known for its beautiful white flowers during the springtime, Hawthorn hedging is also a terrific way to provide protection to birds and other wildlife and will grow in a variety of soil types. But for your hawthorn hedges to provide this protection, you need to ensure that the plant grows healthy and provides thick coverage all along your border. This can become a particular problem during the winter months when the hedges can become thin and patchy and offer little privacy or protection. Below we will talk you through how to thicken a hawthorn hedgerow during the winter, to ensure that it continues to offer shelter and privacy in your garden over the colder months of the year.

Hawthorn Hedge in November
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Do Hawthorn Hedges Lose Their Leaves in Winter?

Hawthorn hedge plants will lose their leaves as the winter cold approaches, and you will be left with shiny brown branches with thorns that can grow up to 3cm and berry buds. They will remain in this bare state until springtime when they begin to grow their leaves again. Thankfully, there are certain steps you can take to thicken these native hedge plants during the winter so that they don’t look so bare at this part of the year.

How to Thicken a Hawthorn Hedge in Winter?

When looking to thicken hawthorn hedges during the winter, there are certain steps you can take to thicken the area of the hedge row. These include making sure that you cut the plant back to encourage full growth and integrating other plants which will grow within the hedge and provide thicker coverage.

What You Need

  • Sharp Pruning Shears or a Pruning Saw
  • Gardening gloves
  • Hedge shrubs
  • Winter flowering filler plants such as holly, ivy, etc.
  • Reed screening

Step 1 – Hard Prune Your Hawthorn Hedge to Encourage Healthy Growth

Your first step is to make sure that you are encouraging healthy thick growth in your hawthorn hedge by hard pruning the plant.

  • This will encourage thick and robust regrowth next year. A thick hawthorn hedge with no thin patches will encourage a thick even growth, which will allow more coverage even during the winter months when the plant is down to its bare branches and berries.
  • The ideal time to do this is between February and March to encourage robust growth within the spring and summer seasons.
  • You need to make sure that you use sharp pruning shears and protect your hands from thorns by using thick gardening gloves. Cut back the growth to about half and remove all dead leaves and branches.

This is also a good time to take your cuttings.

Note: If you don’t cut back the plant, you will have to deal with the patches and holes each winter.

Step 2 – Feed Your Hawthorn Hedges to Encourage Healthy Growth and Thickening

You also need to make sure that you are providing your hedges with the nutrients they need to grow as thick as possible. You can do this by adding a general fertiliser (Amazon link – opens in a new tab) in February. Although hawthorns are not heavy feeders, this treatment should help to encourage thicker growth in the coming year.

Step 3 – Integrate Companion Plants into your Hawthorne Hedge

Another way to start thickening up the hedge is to plant in more hawthorn or other hedges within the barest parts of coverage. As the shrubs grow, they will become part of the overall hedge, integrate with the other existing hawthorn plants, and offer thicker root coverage during the winter. You can decide to plant shrubs at regular junctions of a thin hedge and also other winter flowering plants at different parts of the growth to ensure a thicker overall coverage. They will help to thicken up the hedge and provide attractive colours with their winter flowers. Some plants to consider include:

  • Holly
  • Ivy
  • Honey Suckle
  • Clematis

There are many other wintering plants you can plant so that they grow within the hedges and fill in patchy parts during the winter months.

Step 4 – Back up Your Hedges with Some Reed Screening

While you are waiting for your planted shrubs and flowers to grow into your hedge rows you can use reed screening to maintain your privacy and protect your garden plants from exposure to harsh winter weather. You can choose between bamboo and reed screens (Amazon link – opens in a new tab) which are both relatively inexpensive, and neat. Some reed screening will offer an attractive way of maintaining garden privacy before you succeed in thickening your hawthorn garden hedging.

Note: Be sure to measure the length which you wish to cover before ordering!


Hawthorn is a natural UK hedging species that can be seen all over the countryside and is a popular pick for a bordering hedgerow. These plants are naturally quite hardy and don’t really require a lot of care throughout the year. However, if you want your hedging to provide a thick row that affords privacy to your garden space and provides protection to wildlife and your plants during the winter months, there are some steps to take to ensure robust and thick growth. The most reliable and effective way to ensure that the hedgerow grows thicker year on year is to ensure that you take the time to do some hard pruning. You can cut the plant back to about half its growth length in February. This will help to ensure thicker growth in the seasons ahead. You can also look at integrating different plants into the hedge row to provide thicker coverage. Planting shrubs or wintering flowers within the hedge will provide a thicker coverage along the hedge, Holly, ivy, and clematis will help to thicken the hedge and provide colourful foliage as well.

Garden Doctor Trev

Garden Doctor Tips

“Only fertilise hawthorns once a year just before the Springtime – they do not like to be overfed!”

“A hard pruning of half may seem extreme and a little brutal, but this will help the hawthorn grow back with vigour!”

“Always ensure your pruning tools are sharp and clean to prevent damaging your hawthorn or even transferring disease from other plants!”

“For best results, keep in mind that thickening a hawthorn hedge as naturally as possible is a long-term strategy that may take a season or 2!”

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you encourage hawthorn to grow?

Hawthorn grows best in moist, well-drained soils in full sun or partial shade. You can encourage hawthorn to grow by watering it regularly during the first year after planting, then gradually reducing the amount of water you give it. Mulching helps retain moisture and prevents soil erosion. Fertilize hawthorn with a balanced fertiliser once a year around February in time for Spring. Prune it immediately after flowering to remove any dead or damaged branches.

Are hawthorn hedges evergreen?

All species of hawthorn are deciduous and will lose their leaves in the winter. The leaves are typically a deep green but can also be a reddish colour. The flowers are small and white, and the fruit is a small red berry. Hawthorn hedges make good shrubs or hedges because they grow quickly and have thorns to keep people out.

When should I trim a hawthorn hedge?

The recommended time to trim a hawthorn hedge is between February and March. During this time, you can cut back the growth by half to encourage vigorous new growth. Make sure to use clean, sharp pruning shears when cutting back the hedges, as blunt tools can damage the branches.

Does holly and hawthorn grow together?

Yes, holly makes a great companion plant to grow with hawthorns. The holly will hold its leaves through the winter as the hawthorn is losing its own and becoming bare. This kind of planting helps retain privacy and keeps gardens looking green.


Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.

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