How To Grow Pleached Trees: Best Trees to Pleach, Types Pleaching Hedge

Drew Spiller author of content at 8 Billion Trees.Written by Drew Spiller

Gardening | February 9, 2024

Woman looks at row of pleached trees planted as a fence after someone learned how to grow pleached trees and the best trees to pleach for pleaching trees as small garden hedges and pleaching fences.

With their precise angles, dignified bearing, and strong architectural appeal, pleached trees are a staple of a modern landscape or garden.

Knowing about pleaching techniques, how to grow pleached trees, and the best types of trees to pleach can set you up to add some eye-catching elements to your landscape or garden.

Whether you want a whole row to create some privacy and division, or simply individual panels to create a visual effect (and maybe block out an unappealing visual element in the distance), pleached trees or hedges are an element worth adding to a garden, yard, or landscape.

This complete giude explains everything you need to know and provides some of the best types of trees to use for this landscaping design.

Pleaching Trees: What Is a Pleached Tree?

Before you can begin to add pleached trees to your garden or landscape, you may need to learn just what a pleached tree is. Pleaching, also sometimes called plashing according to Wikipedia,3 is a horticultural technique involving weaving the branches of a series of trees together to create a hedge with a strong, interconnected wall of leaves with no holes or weak spots.

This interwoven hedge of tree limbs can be a great way to ensure more privacy in your garden without the claustrophobic confines of a wall or fence.

History of the Pleached or Plashed Tree

Derived from the French word for “to braid” (plechier), pleached trees have a long history in European horticulture, one that can be traced all the way back to Ancient Rome. Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul was confounded by the Gallic forces’ use of plashed (another word for pleached) barriers to block enemy cavalry.1

A millennium and a half later, pleached trees are one of many horticultural features to be found in the beauteous gardens of Versailles in France. You can also see a reference to pleaching in Much Ado About Nothing, where Antonio reports on two other characters’ conversations in a pleached alleyway.

Pleached trees never caught on in the early days of colonial America, as the time and detailed work needed to maintain them didn’t fit with the function-over-aesthetic focus of early American gardens.

As the Industrial Revolution led to the rapid expansion of cities and a lack of focus on environmental beautification, this technique fell somewhat out of vogue, but starting in the mid-19th century you could see pleaching make small returns to prominence in select British gardens, spreading from there to be used here and there around the world up until today.

They even eventually made their way over to the US, where they can be seen at the University of Minnesota among other places.4

Pleaching Vs Espalier Vs Topiary

You could hardly be blamed for not fully understanding the meaningful distinctions between the various types of fancy landscaping trees you can find in well-maintained gardens across Europe and the rest of the world.

So it helps to have a brief understanding of the differences between some of the most common and distinctive forms you might see.

Graphic of pleaching vs espalier vs topiary showcasing the differences of pleached trees, espalier trees and topiary trees.

(Pleached Trees Image: RonPorter23, Topiary Trees Image: Daderot24)

Below are the distinctions among pleaching, espalier, and topiary:

Pleached Trees

As mentioned previously, pleaching is the practice of weaving multiple trees’ branches together until they form a solid wall.

This creates a thick, elevated hedge wall that can completely block sight lines.

Espalier Trees

Espalier is another horticultural technique that does have some similarities to pleaching. Both of these practices involve training a tree’s branches to grow out horizontally in a neatly organized manner, but there are significant differences as well.

Where pleaching typically involves a freestanding hedge, espalier trees require a trellis or a wall to provide additional support as the tree grows.

Furthermore, pleaching creates a solid barrier of leaves, while espalier is more about showcasing the structure of the branches, leaving more space between the rows of branches.

Topiary Trees

Topiary, much like pleaching, is more concerned with the appearance of a solid barrier of leaves than it is with showcasing the structural beauty of the branches.

Where pleaching is concerned primarily with creating a barrier of leaves in order to create a private space, topiaries are first and foremost concerned with creating appealing shapes for the viewer, whether geometric or more fanciful.

You may find topiary trees that also create more private spaces, but pleaching will be considerably less imaginative than topiary would be. The University of Florida describes topiaries as decorative,5 while pleached trees are more of an architectural element.

If you want additional information on these and other forms of arborsculpture, The University of California at Davis provides additional knowledge about this field.6

Why Should I Use Pleaching Hedges (Pleached Hedge)?

There are several reasons you may want to set either an individual pleached tree or an entire pleached hedge in your garden. First, there are a number of benefits to using pleached trees for small gardens.

As cities have grown ever bigger and more dense over time, the amount of garden space the average person has to work with has gotten smaller and smaller.

Having some privacy trees in the form of a pleached hedge can help to make your garden feel more secluded and private, even if it’s in a crowded urban setting.

This is also used at times in urban planning, as can be seen in this proposed design for a neighborhood in Pittsburgh.7

If you don’t have the space dedicated to private trees, even an individual panel of pleached branches can be a striking visual element in a space. A single pleached tree, in a good pot or with some nice tree edging around the base, can be a beautiful ornamental element in your landscape or garden.

Knowing how to grow pleached trees can enhance gardens and landscapes in a variety of different settings.

Pleached Trees: How To Make Above-Fence Screening Trees With Pleaching

If you want to set up pleached trees in your garden or landscape, two of the most important things are to make sure you have a clear image of how you want the finished structure of the plants, and that you know how to provide the proper support to make sure the trees are encouraged to grow in the manner you need.

While the final product of your work will be a row of free-standing trees, in order to get there you may require some external support as the plants develop.

In general, the best practice is to use vertical posts to support the trunk, and then connect the trees’ branches with the assistance of bamboo cane stakes or wires.

You should be sure you already know how big you want the pleached section of your trees to be, and plant the trees with that dimension in mind. Depending upon how large you want the trees to grow to be, you should place the trees between four and ten feet apart.

To give a more specific example, if you want your pleached hedge to be ten to twelve feet tall, you should place the trees about eight feet apart.

Place your trees, making sure that the spacing is consistent down the row and (if planting multiple rows) between rows for the best visual effect.

A row of tall pleached trees standing beside a pavement walkway with people leisurely strolling around.

(Image: Stephen Craven12)

If you’re not careful with this spacing in the preliminary stages, you may need to know how to negotiate tree removal later on.

Another key element to consider when planning your pleached hedge is the orientation to the sun. If you plant your row lined up from north to south, one side will get sun in the morning and the other will get sun in the afternoon.

A row from east to west, however, will only get a significant amount of sun on one side (in the Northern Hemisphere, this would be the south-facing side). The side getting all the sun will look substantially better than the side in the shade.

Once you’ve planted the trees in a row, next you need to remove any branches that are below the point where you want to create your screen of foliage. Branches that come out perpendicular to the plane you want to work in should also be taken off.

The best time to do this pruning is in late winter or early spring.

Now that you’ve done this, you need to set up your support structure for the screen. The best way to do this would be to set up vertical poles as tall as the top of the screen you want to grow.

These poles should be set up every 10 to 20 feet along your row, with sticks, wire, or chain link fencing extending from pole to pole. These lateral supports should have one to two feet of space between them.

With the support structure established, identify strong branches on your trees that are already growing out in the directions you want your screen to go. These branches will be core structural elements of your privacy screen.

Tie them to the support structure using twine, raffia, or rubber cord. These branches don’t need to be perfectly horizontal in a pleached hedge, but it’s probably best if multiple branches from the same tree don’t cross or rub against each other.

After the branches have been secured to the support structures, the branches will naturally start to overlap with the branches of the trees on either side. As this happens, weave the branches of the different trees together, continuing to secure them onto the structure.

It’s best to do this training during spring and summer, while the branches are flexible enough to be re-positioned easily without damaging the tree.

The final step you need to take in order to create your pleached hedgerow is to prune off any top leaders growing past the point where you want the top of your screen to be. This will keep the tree within the shape you want and redirect the tree’s growth laterally instead of vertically.

Maintaining Pleached Trees

Once your row of pleached trees has grown in and established itself, the general practice is to go through and prune your trees in late winter.

This is for several reasons; first, because many tree species will lose their leaves in winter so you’ll be able to see the branches more clearly, and second because the tree’s winter survival practices make sure that there will be less tree sap running down the trunk than there could otherwise be.

A row of pleached fruit trees positioned in a lush lawn, with hedges bordering the garden.

(Image: pam fray13)

This is also a good time of year to remove the support structure if the trees are fully grown and pleached. It’s important to remove the training ties from the branches once they’re set up because otherwise, they can choke the growing branches of the tree.

You also want to avoid over-pruning your trees, so be sure if you need to do a lot of pruning that you do it over a span of a few years.

To keep the flat visual aspect of your pleached trees, you can use shears to trim the leaves. It is recommended to use hand shears for this process unless you have a particularly gargantuan hedge.

Wait until the trees have gone into full leaf to save yourself some extra work.

What Are the Best Trees To Pleach?

If you’ve decided you want to add some pleached trees to your space, and you already know how to grow pleached trees, the next decision you need to make is to decide what types of trees you’re going to get. This decision should be influenced by a number of factors.

First and foremost, the geographical region you’re in comes with a certain climate, which will help you narrow down what types of trees would be best suited to your garden. Next, you need to decide what types of trees would be the best fit for your garden.

Start with a broad category, and then you can make a specific choice based on your aesthetic preferences.

Pleached Evergreen Trees

If you want your pleached trees to provide privacy and shade year-round, you may want to go with an evergreen tree for your garden or landscape. Several types of trees that fit this category can be trained into a pleached privacy screen.

While you don’t get any edible fruit from evergreens, their abundant, persistent foliage is an excellent way to ensure a thick leafy barrier year-round.

This can be both a good or a bad thing; in the darker winter months, pleached evergreen trees are going to block more of whatever scant natural light is around at that time of the year, so bear that in mind when planning your own arrangement of pleached trees.

1. Pleached Red-Tip Photinia Trees

Red-tip Photinia (Photinia × fraseri) is a great evergreen pleaching candidate, one reason for which is right there in the name. If you want to add a splash of color to break up the green screen effect of a row of pleached trees, this species grows vibrant red leaves in the spring, which can be a stunning visual element to have in your garden.

A Red Tip Photinia tree displaying its red and green leaves, situated beside a pathway.

(Image: Famartin17)

Even as the leaves fade into the summer, the large leaves will persist all through the winter. If you want to keep the greenery through the winter, but don’t want to block as much light, the larger leaves on this plant give the pleached form a bit of a looser look that may let a little bit more light through while still providing reliable greenery.

Cherry Laurel shrubs forming a hedge in a garden.

(Image: Friedrich Haag18)

2. Pleached Cherry Laurel Trees

Cherry or Common Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is another strong evergreen pleaching option. Not to be confused with a Cherry Tree, this evergreen, available as a shrub or a tree, has large, dark leaves that create a dense screen that will guarantee added privacy in your garden all year long.

Common Laurel Trees are hardy, can grow in a wide range of light conditions, and resist drought. They also respond well to pruning, which makes them both resilient and easily adapted into a pleached shape.

This toughness can be a double-edged sword, depending on where your garden is located, however; in some regions, like King County, Washington,8 Cherry Laurel has become an invasive species, so if you live in a region where this is a threat you may want to choose a less hazardous plant species.

3. Pleached Portuguese Laurel

Less invasive (although still considered a problem in Washington and Oregon) than its cousin, the Portuguese Laurel (Prunus lusitanica) is another plant that is very naturally suited to pleaching. While it shares the problem its cousin has of birds spreading the seeds far beyond your garden, the Portuguese laurel also shares its drought-resistance and toughness.

Wide-angle shot of a group of Portuguese Laurel trees in a park with their dense branches and lush green leaves.

(Image: Frank Vincentz19)

Because its leaves have cyanide in them, you may also want to avoid this plant if you have pets or small children, but it can be a relatively low-maintenance pleached tree screen protecting your garden under the right circumstances.

Pleached Fruit Trees

If your interest is not so much in constant year-round leafy foliage and is instead in a multipurpose garden plant that can provide privacy, ornamental value, and further benefits, you may want to look into installing pleached fruit trees instead of evergreens. In addition to the aesthetic and obscuring benefits of any pleached tree, you can in fact use this technique to create a hedge out of fruit trees and still get a significant yield of fruit.

1. Pleached Apple Trees

There is a tradition in the United Kingdom of growing pleached Apple Trees that goes back hundreds of years, so you would hardly be alone in deciding to cultivate Apple Trees using this technique. One of the more common varieties of pleached Apple Trees in the UK is Cox’s Orange Pippin.

An Apple tree with a bountiful crop of apples, surrounded by vibrant green leaves on its branches.

(Image: Hans20)

This variety, a UK original, is noted to produce flavorful, good-sized, and appealingly colored fruit, which might make them a perfect fit for your garden.

This is a hardy variety that can stand up to a British winter, so if you live in a more temperate area you shouldn’t have much trouble with cold. Place your trees in moist, well-drained soil in an area that gets a decent amount of direct sunlight, and you should be able to sustain a robust and healthy set of pleached trees with only some pruning every six months or so.

Once your tree bears fruit, you should be able to pick them off the tree and enjoy them either right on the spot, in cooking or baking, or as the basis for a cider, making Cox’s Orange Pippin a great variety of apple to add to your garden as a pleached hedge.

Crab apples can also be great pleached trees, although you probably won’t enjoy biting into one fresh off the branch much. In particular, the Evereste Crab Apple is naturally more compact than other varieties, which makes this a good fit for smaller gardens.

They can handle a wide range of soils as long as the soil is adequately drained, and this variety is also known to grow beautiful white blossoms in the spring.

These blossoms then give way to abundant fruit, which although they may be too tart to eat as-is, are great for cooking and turning into jellies. The fruits are also colorful, adding an additional layer of visual stimulation to your privacy tree fence.

Then, once the fruits have been harvested, the leaves take on a beautiful golden yellow hue as autumn sets in, which provides another look your garden might benefit from.

Several Pear trees showcasing blooming white flowers and lush green leaves.

(Image: Hans21)

2. Pleached Pear Trees

Pear Trees are also naturally suited to these sorts of detailed horticultural techniques.

A number of ornamental Pear Tree varieties are used as pleached trees, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you want pears you can do more than look at in your tree fence.

A particularly well-suited variety of edible pear you can use in your pleached hedge is the Conference Pear.

This is another variety of plants that is very hardy and can adapt to a wide range of conditions. As long as it’s planted in a sunny spot with rich soil, the conference pear is a hearty plant that resists a large number of infections, particularly a fungal infection called scab, according to Wikipedia.9

In the spring, small white blossoms emerge from the branches, which become very popular with pollinators.

Moving into the summer, thin, elongated fruits will emerge, growing until you can harvest them in the later portion of the fall. They can then be kept and ripened until as late as January provided you keep them in a cool, dry place.

The sweet, soft fruit can be a great contribution to the bounty of your garden.

3. Pleached Plum Trees

If you want your pleached privacy plants to produce plums, prepare to ponder procedures for producing such pre-prunes.

A great choice for pleaching would be the Victoria Plum.2

Several Victoria Plum trees in full bloom, displaying white flowers, under the daylight.

(Image: Cultureel Gelderland22)

Another British variety, the Victoria Plum is also very hearty and can survive sub-zero temperatures as long as the soil is well-drained. It also doesn’t grow too terribly tall, although it does grow heartily.

They are also self-fertilized and popular with pollinators, which means that you’ll have a much easier time getting them to produce fruit than you might with other varieties of pear.

Other Types of Modern Pleached Trees

There are plenty of other types of trees that are well-suited to pleaching as well.

As long as a plant responds well to pruning, has limbs possessed of a decent degree of flexibility, and has reasonably resilient growing habits, you can probably at least make an attempt at pleaching it.

1. Pleached Lime Trees

In spite of the familiar name, the best Lime Tree species for pleaching aren’t the citrus trees you may be most familiar with. The most commonly pleached Lime Trees, according to Swarthmore College,10 are known by that name in Great Britain and Ireland, but in other parts of the English-speaking world may be more commonly known as Linden or Basswood Trees.

An avenue bordered by perfectly aligned rows of pleached lime trees.

(Image: Jeff Buck16)

These deciduous trees are known to grow quickly, which makes them very popular in large-scale landscaping.

As long as they have well-drained soil and direct sunlight, these trees will grow robustly, resisting wind, cold, pollution, and other environmental factors. This makes them especially well-suited to urban environments, so if you are in an urban space with limited acreage to work on, pleached Basswood Trees might be the best possible choice for you.

Just don’t expect them to help you fight off scurvy.

2. Pleached Ash Trees

The European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is another tree that takes to pleaching exceptionally well. Found all across their namesake continent (and has spread around the world over the years), these trees are related to the Olive Tree and have a long history of being used in land management and horticulture.

The Ash Tree is commonly found in nurseries around the world, making this an easy tree to source for your pleached tree wall. As long as they’re planted in direct sunlight, in well-drained soil that’s kept moist, you should be able to grow a row of Ash Trees to pleach without too much trouble.

A garden pathway bordered by neatly trimmed hedges and pleached trees.

(Image: Stanley Howe14)

3. Pleached Beech Trees

The Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is another popular choice for pleaching that has been found to be a natural fit for this technique. It is a relatively fast-growing tree variety, and it can also provide a changing color scheme over the course of the year.

This variety grows bright green leaves in the spring, which darken as the summer comes in, and in the fall they take on a beautiful orange or copper hue. They can also hold onto their leaves through the winter, allowing you to keep the privacy effect in place year-round.

Definitely consider conferring with experts before you choose to use Beech Tree for your pleached landscape feature. Beech Tree bark is unfortunately prone to a number of different maladies, so you need to make sure that you’re ready to take adequate care of them.

4. Pleached Chestnut Trees

Chestnut Trees can also be shaped with pleaching techniques to create a privacy fence for your garden. Not only that but if you choose to cultivate the American Chestnut Tree, you can also make a contribution to ongoing conservation efforts.

During the 20th century, blight wiped out huge swathes of the American Chestnut population. They are currently listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Before you get too fired up about doing your part to help this species out, be aware that there are still significant parasitic and viral threats to the health of these trees. You would benefit from conferring with tree doctors or other experts before you commit to using American Chestnuts, to make sure you’re aware of what steps you can take to support these plants fully.

5. Pleached Hornbeam Trees

The American Hornbeam Tree (Carpinus caroliniana), a member of the birch family, is another notable pleaching candidate.

It grows quickly and favors shady surroundings with moist soil.

A grass pathway in between neatly pleached Hornbeam trees in a garden.

(Image: Stuart Logan15)

In nature, they are commonly found along the edges of swamps and rivers; in your garden or landscape, you could place them near a pond or other water feature.

Because of their hard and flexible wood, and the way they can be trained to hold their leaves through the winter, pleached hornbeams have often been used as the base plants for a botanical privacy screen. More information on the American hornbeam is provided by the city of Seattle.11

As urban living grows more and more confined, creating and enjoying both green spaces and privacy has become more and more valuable. As this has happened, some gardeners and landscapers have taken inspiration from European castle gardens where space is used efficiently and horticulture reached a height of artistic endeavor.

Pleached trees can help you do both, creating a verdant green barrier above your fence to make your yard, garden, or landscape feel more removed and secure.

While they do take a bit of work to set up and will need regular maintenance, if you know how to grow pleached trees you will be well on your way to adding ornamental, practical, and (depending on the type of tree you choose) edible value to your space that will pay off for years to come.


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3Wikipedia. (2022, September 12). Pleaching. Wikipedia. Retrieved August 4, 2023, from <>

4University of Minnesota Urban. (2023). UFOR Nursery. University of Minnesota Urban Forestry Outreach and Research. Retrieved August 4, 2023, from <>

5Hansen, G. (2019, September 26). Arbor, Trellis, or Pergola—What’s in Your Garden? A Mini-Dictionary of Garden Structures and Plant Forms. University of Florida IFAS Extension. Retrieved August 4, 2023, from <>

6University of California. (2008). Arborsculpture. University of California, Davis Department of Environmental Sciences Landscape Architecture Program. Retrieved August 4, 2023, from <>

7Studio for Spatial Practice. (2018, January). South Highland Avenue Public Realm Study. Retrieved August 4, 2023, from <>

8King County. (2021, February 17). Cherry laurel identification and control. King County. Retrieved August 4, 2023, from <>

9Wikipedia. (2023, February 21). Conference pear. Retrieved August 4, 2023, from <>

10Coceano, J. (2011, July 19). I Say Linden, You Say Lime. The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College. Retrieved Augusut 4, 2023, from <>

11City of Seattle. (2023). American hornbeam. Retrieved Augusut 4, 2023, from <>

12Hall Place, pleached trees by Stephen Craven. (CC BY-SA 2.0). Resized and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from <,>

13Photo by pam fray. (CC BY-SA 2.0). Resized and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from <,>

14Another ‘pleached’ beech arbour by Stanley Howe. (CC BY-SA 2.0). Resized and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from <>

15Pleached hornbeam at Hidcote by Stuart Logan. (CC BY-SA 2.0).Resized and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from <>

16Pleached Lime Avenue at Arley Hall by Jeff Buck. (CC BY-SA 2.0). Resized and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from <>

17Photo by Famartin. (CC BY-SA 4.0). Resized, Cropped and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from <,_Fairfax_County,_Virginia.jpg>

18Friedrich Haag / Wikimedia Commons / “003 2018 05 11 Hecken” / CC BY-SA 4.0. Resized and Changed Format. Retrieved from <>

19Frank Vincentz. (CC BY-SA 3.0) . Resized and Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from <>

20Photo by Hans. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

21Photo by Hans. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

22Photo by Cultureel Gelderland. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from <,_Netherlands).jpg>

23Photo by RonPorter. Cropped, Resized, Changed Format. Pixabay. Retrieved February 10, 2024, from <>

24Topiary – Haddon Hall – Bakewell, Derbyshire, England – DSC02973 Photo by Daderot / CC0 1.0 DEED | CC0 1.0 Universal. Cropped, Resized, Changed Format. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved February 10, 2024, from <,_Derbyshire,_England_-_DSC02973.jpg>