Hawthorn is a common shrub or small tree that is often used to create hedgerows around the UK. It has clusters of creamy-white flowers in spring followed by dark red berries in the autumn. Some have beautiful autumn colour to the foliage as well. Hawthorns are fantastic additions to wildlife gardens, wildflower meadows, informal cottage gardens and as hedging or screening for exposed sites. The berries are not only attractive to wildlife but can also be used in jams and other preserves.

Growing hawthorn:

Hawthorns can be planted in full sun or partial shade. It can survive in an exposed or a sheltered spot and it is tolerant when it comes to soil type and pH. Hawthorn shrubs like a moist but well draining soil. It is hardy and does not mind a frost.

A full grown hawthorn can get to 4-8 metres high and it will reach its ultimate height when it is between 20 and 50 years old. But most of us will trim and contain the bushy habit of this shrub, meaning that we rarely see it reach its full size in home gardens.

Hawthorn produces blossom in May-June and red berries (technically pomes, though they look just like berries) in the autumn. Hawthorn is propagated by seed – collected when it has fully matured in autumn. Hawthorn seeds must go through a period of cold in order to germinate so they must be left outside over the winter in a pot of well-draining but moist compost. They should then germinate in the spring. You may have better germination rates if you clean seeds and put them in water to check for viability before planting.

Hawthorns do not usually require serious pruning but can be trimmed back once it is fully mature in order to keep it in shape. Be careful not to prune an immature hawthorn as this could stunt growth – a hawthorn should only be trimmed once it is 4-6ft high. Pruning of mature hawthorns should be done when the shrub is dormant during the winter.

Why grow hawthorn in the garden?

Hawthorn can give excellent shelter, privacy or division in the garden, as well as providing structure in the mid-layer between trees and ground plantings. Due to the fact that it is so versatile and resilient it can be a good choice for a whole range of gardens.

Hawthorns are known for attracting wildlife, including beneficial pollinators who need all the help they can get and so can be a good choice for wild, wildlife gardens.

The pomes, or berries as they are commonly mistakenly called, are commonly used in jams, jellies and syrups. The young leaves are also edible and when very new in the spring are a lovely addition to a salad.

Hawthorn wood is a strong, hard wood. It has been used to make tool handles though it is very hard and tough to work. As a firewood it is highly valued – giving out a lot of heat.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Crataegus monogyna