When To Trim Your Hedges: The Complete Guide

A woman trimming her green hedge with shears

Trimming your landscape hedges will not only keep them looking beautiful but it also helps their growth form over time.

A hedge is a naturally trimmed shrub planted in line to form aesthetic living fences. These all-natural borders create privacy and establish boundaries.

There are multiple options when creating a hedge. An informal hedge is low maintenance, while the formal hedge requires heavy pruning of shrubs, as seen in most traditional gardens.

There is no exact rule of when to trim your hedge. However, knowing what type of trim it needs will allow you to determine when the perfect time will be and how to do it. After all, providing good care will make your hedge the best hedge it can be.

So, let’s learn how and when to trim your hedges.

When Should I Trim My Hedges?

Newly trimmed hedge.

Keeping your hedges in good shape requires a few simple steps. One important aspect to keep in mind is what are you trimming? Is it a newly planted hedge, or are you trying to reform the aging established bush? If so, when to trim will be entirely different in those two scenarios.

Also, knowing the perfect time to trim bushes depends on the plant you have. Cutting back species like forsythia is done annually to maintain shape. In fact, these branches spread like a beautiful perimeter for your spring designs.

Slow-growing shrubs like viburnum require pruning every five years, which is why only prune when necessary. Climbing roses, on the other hand, need pruning when roots are fully established after three years.

With that being said, do your pruning when you see dead and diseased branches or when plants have overgrown and are out of shape.

Formative Pruning

Newly trimmed ball-shaped young boxwood.

The primary goal of formative pruning is to control the future shape of the plant and develop a balanced structure and an equal spread of branches and foliage.

  • Newly Planted Hedge

New hedges need formative pruning to keep the plant in shape while the roots establish gradually.

This type of pruning is usually done in early spring or winter before plants are actively growing in summer or the fall.

Trimming newly planted hedges before the buds break or before the plants go dormant, will encourage a more developed branching and a more compact shape when it resumes growth in the spring. Besides, it will take less effort to shape and maintain the plant when it reaches maturity.

  • Deciduous Hedge

Maze garden hedges in the park.

Most deciduous hedges like hawthorn and hazel are best cut in June and September. However, trimming beech and hornbeam should be no later than mid-July if you want the persistent winter leaves. Pruning projects when the plants go dormant give better results, so avoid cutting back plants during a dry summer.

Barberry shrubs hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9 only require light heading to maintain the height and width.

Pruning in the spring to eliminate broken and overgrown branches can keep these hedges healthy and compact and remain attractive throughout the summer.

  • Evergreen Hedge

Wooden planter and a bench painted in white located on the roadside, with a lush hedge backdrop.

Evergreen hedges are vigorous plants you can trim at least twice a year. But frequent pruning may result in a denser hedge.

Trimming in late spring or early summer gets your project done quickly by targeting the new growth branches using shears or a powered trimmer.

Cutting later in summer needs a more time-consuming cut with pruners because of a looser hedge.

  • Flowering Hedge
 Colorful flowering hydrangeas hedge in the park.
Image by: diynetwork.com

Flowering hedges are delicate, and pruning at the wrong time can prevent them from producing flowers the following season. Flowering shrubs like camellias hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9 require spring pruning.

Trimming the plants that produce new buds on old wood right after they finish the season blooming will ensure plenty of flowers to carry the following display.

Maintenance Trimming

Trimming the boxwood hedge with a gas-powered trimmer.

Maintenance trimming helps to keep the balance between healthy growth and beautiful shape, this is quite essential. Usually, trimming happens about three times over the entire summer.

However, you should not cut back more than 25% of the growth and a depth of 1 to 3 inches on your hedges to avoid damage. Unnecessary extensive trimming can likely cause a detrimental condition to your borders.

Maintaining specific shapes like balls in your shrubbery requires an initial trim in early summer and is best done with multiple attempts the entire season.

Topiaries and hedges in Japanese gardens receive a simple trim while they are young. It helps train an attractive tree in several shapes.

An old hedge can receive a new form with more modification to its shapes, and with regular trimming maintenance.

But remember to observe the weather impacts upon your topiary. Calculate your heading approach frequently to prevent adverse consequences on your shrub foliage due to over trimming.

  • Maintaining a Formal Hedge

Tidy and neat formal hedge with round and rectangular shape in front of the house.

Keeping a well kept and tidy look of formal hedges adds style and aesthetic value to your property. However, a well-shaped shrub is no accident. It was trained carefully since the beginning of the plant’s life.

Regardless of the type and species, new hedges should undergo formative pruning in their early years to form shapes and make them healthy. And then, low maintenance is necessary when hedges are fully established.

Maintaining overgrown and poorly shaped hedges is time-consuming and requires proper techniques. So, let’s not have our hedge get to that point.

Regular pruning is essential to achieve the desired shape and you must keep the top of the hedge narrower than the bottom section, this will help in shaping your hedge the right way.

Hedges are often shaped with flat tops and vertical sides, but these shapes aren’t always successful. Rounded and pyramidal shapes are found to be the most flourishing in shaping hedges.

Sunlight is essential to keep these plants healthy, and the pyramid shape allows the lower branches and foliage to receive an adequate amount to produce a denser hedge.

Knowing the natural growth habit of your hedge species is also a factor you have to consider. Getting plants that grow fast and require frequent pruning to maintain the height you prefer is exhausting and can be very frustrating.

  • Pruning Large Leave Hedges

 A landscaper with powered-trimmer on top of a ladder, pruning the top section of the hedge.

Broad leaves, camellias, azaleas, pyracantha, and hollies require slight pruning to remove weak and old stems. These plants flourish with very minimal pruning to keep them neat.

Over-trimming of the hedge will cause lesser flowers the following season. But cutting back about 6 to 8 inches from the ground, when the plant is old and misshaped before the spring growth begins will encourage fresh shoots.

Some gardeners prefer to prune ⅓ of the branches and retain the general shape of the plant, and this technique is effective short-term. In the long run, overgrown broad-leaved evergreens are best to be removed and replaced.

Properly trimmed hedges are not only attractive, but they are lush and healthy. Cutting back recent shoots can make the living fence dense and crisp, and these are possible upon using the right trimmers.

Best Plants For Hedges

Hedges are borders used for centuries to mark boundaries and protect your property from intruders. A well-manicured barrier generates a positive impression for a tidy and neat property while creating a backdrop of privacy for the homeowner.

  • Boxwood

Ball-shaped boxwood hedges.

Some bushes have species that grow densely, and you can shape them into round or square shrubs such as boxwood. However, when trimming and sculpting your plants have no rules. You can let your imagination run wild and create a hedge with the shape you desire.

  • Beech
A stunning hedge of beech plant on the roadside.
Image by: groupon.co.uk

Beech is a deciduous hedge often regarded as a semi-evergreen with leaves that linger on the branches the entire winter after a light pruning in August.

  • Whitethorn

Whitethorn flowers in bloom.

Whitethorn is a deciduous shrub that spreads quite broadly with a dense top. It has dull brown bark with vertical orange cracks.

It blooms with moderately fragrant white flowers that have numerous red stamens. The younger stem has sharp thorns, and the plant is also known as hawthorn.

  • Laurel

Cherry laurel in bloom.

Cherry laurel is a large hedge plant that has large, thick, and glossy foliage. It is efficient in providing privacy screens that lessen the wind while passing through the dense hedge structure.

Portuguese Laurel is a classic evergreen hedge with rich-green foliage and dynamic red-pink stems. It develops pointed leaves and white fragrant flowers in the spring and grows small red-purple berries at the end of the year.

  • Griselinia Hedging
L-shaped Griselinia hedge.
Image by: johnstowngardencentre.ie

Griselinia is an evergreen hedging plant with glossy, leathery leaves. This impressive hedge can reach 8m in height and is typically used for seaside exposure.

The plant originates from New Zealand and responds well to trimming. It also establishes quickly.

  • Privet Hedging

Flowering Privet.

Privet hedging is a semi-evergreen hedge plant with dark-green foliage that is popular due to its multiple benefits. It corresponds well to trimming and can tolerate pollution.

This quick-growing shrub is ideal for garden screening, soundproofing, and noise reduction.

This plant that boasts gorgeous white creamy flowers during the summer months is the popular choice for many homeowners, particularly in urban areas.

Tools To Use When Trimming Hedges

Trimming a hedge to achieve the specific look you want requires several tools. Tall hedges might also need you to use a footstool or step ladder to remove spent clippings.

Tools for trimming hedges not only vary in size, shape, and quality, but they are also innovative and ergonomic. These tools offer convenience and ease of use and make pruning jobs much easier to complete.

  • Pole Hedge Trimmers
Hedge trimming with a pole hedge trimmer.
Image by: telegraph.co.uk

In the past, magnificent hedges that create privacy from an outdoor space would require a ladder to climb with pruning shears in hand. Today, pole hedgers make the pruning task less dangerous.

While your feet firmly planted on the ground, innovative shears can now reach up to 10-feet high or more to shape wall gardens. The pole trimmers articulating head will allow you to trim even the top flat and at different angles.

  • Hand Pruners

Hand pruner with red and gray plastic handle.

For trimming low hedges, tools should run conveniently between hands, whether corded, cordless, or gasoline-powered.

Convenience matters most when trimming a hedge, whether large or small. Pruning jobs can tire your hands quickly, and if you happen to have carpal tunnel or arthritis, go for ergonomically designed tools. They have features that reduce hand pressure and offer a stress-free wrist while in use.

The bypass, anvil, and ratchet are hand pruners that can make a nice and clean cut. Each feature has impressive functionalities and getting one that best suits your needs will help make your pruning tasks easy.

Regular pruning about three to four times throughout the growing season is essential if you prefer a thicker branching growth. Also, a demand to trim also depends upon the plant and climate.

  • Power Hedge Trimmer

Achieving a tidy and neat hedge finish requires work, and you can do the job by hand. However, a powered hedge trimmer can do the work and will save you time and energy.

A hedge trimmer can get your hedge into shape the correct way, and this tool will pay long-term returns, no matter the scale of your task.

You can cut the vertical sides of the hedge, or use an upward or downward motion as you work with your trimming. This tool can do wonders in making your shrub tidy.

But don’t forget to use protective clothing and follow safety instructions when using the powered hedge trimmer.

  • Hedge shears

A pair of red hand shears in front of a green hedge.

Image by: healthyhandyman.com

Hedge shears are devices that look like scissors with either wood or metal handles covered with rubber grips. Blades built in various designs can be straight-edged, curved, serrated, or wavy.

Each design features impressive functionalities to get the job done depending on your needs. Curve and serrated blades are perfect for giving smooth and clean cuts.

Some models, ergonomically designed, feature a rubber bumper system at the pivot point of the tool. This feature absorbs the shock of both handles operating together, giving your hand and wrists a stress-free trimming experience.

Properly trimmed hedges are not only attractive, but they are also lush and healthy. Cutting back fresh shoots can make the living fence dense and crisp, and these are possible upon using the right trimmers.

Final Thoughts

All hedges in every landscape require seasonal maintenance, whether it be bushes or shrubs planted together to create a fence-like barrier. Different varieties need different techniques, tools, and timing to trim hedges and achieve tidy borders.

Overgrown bushes and shrubs are an eyesore, but regular pruning can keep your property looking tidy and beautiful.

Do not wait until all the branches of your bush look wild. With that being said, tame the stems and spread the branches while the plants are young to achieve the optimum shape you want your hedge to be.

Knowing the right tools to use when trimming your hedges is essential, and every homeowner should know what type of trim they want so that you can choose the right tools.

A neglected shrub can lose its aesthetic value which will lessen the aesthetic appeal of your property. So, take good care of your hedge plants as they can either bring out absolute beauty or unpleasantry.

Flowering shrubs in the early spring should be pruned right after the blossoms fade. Doing so will encourage more blooms during the following production next year.

And cutting back shrubs that bloom in the summer when they’re dormant in early spring or winter will develop denser foliage and plentiful blossoms.

Removal of damaged and diseased branches is necessary as soon as you find them regardless of the season.

Well, there you have it! You now know all the information on when to trim your hedge, how to trim it, and what tools to use. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask below.



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About Benita Abucejo

Hi there! My name is Benita Abucejo. What can I say? I truly love spending my days in the outdoors, specifically in the garden. Gardening has always been a strong passion of mine since I was a little girl. It has brought me so much joy and happiness that it is definitely safe to say that I will be a gardener for life. For a period of time, I was able to work with people who are into home gardening and I found it to be quite beneficial to my physical health, as well as my mental well-being. Here at Seasonal Preferences, I am going to share with you my experience and ideas so that you can fulfill yourself with the same satisfaction and happiness. Of course, if you have ideas, I would love to hear those as well! Being creative in the garden can really be quite fascinating so let's share our experiences and be the best gardeners we can be. With that being said, thank you for dropping by and please leave me a comment on one of my posts if you would like to get in touch!

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