Well-kept shrubs and landscaping are an essential part of keeping up your home’s curb appeal. The quickest, most efficient way to trim rows of bushes or to style detailed landscaping is with a powered hedge trimmer. The best hedge trimmers for your yard should provide a clean, even cut that's easy to maintain. This guide will help you understand gas vs. electric hedge trimmers, blade sizes and trimmer features so you can find the best hedge trimmer for your project.
Hedge Trimmer Uses
What is a hedge trimmer?
A hedge trimmer is a gardening tool used to prune hedges and bushes. Trimmers can be manual or powered. Manual trimmers, also called hedge clippers, are large shears with long handles for reaching over the tops of bushes. Manual trimmers are low-cost but often labor-intensive. They can be a great option for when you only need to occasionally trim tree branches.
Power hedge trimmers have a motor that is powered by gas, electricity or battery and cut in both directions with a long, toothed blade called a cutting bar. To trim bushes, you simply turn the trimmer on and move the cutting bar over the bush in slow, steady movements. This guide will primarily focus on powered hedge trimmers, which are the best hedge trimmers for large and intensive landscaping jobs.
Best uses for a hedge trimmer:
- Trim and shape hedgerows, medium-to-large bushes and deep, hard-to-reach bushes.
- Prune perennials, grasses and ground cover.
- Any branches that fit between the teeth of your trimmer’s blade. Branches larger than that will need to be cut with either a larger blade attachment or with other outdoor power equipment, like a chainsaw or a brush cutter.
- Cut down large weeds and overgrowth, but only when they are dry. A more efficient way to cut most weeds is to use a string trimmer instead.
Before deciding on a new hedge trimmer for your yard, there are a few things to consider:
- Your yard size
- The amount of landscaping you have
- The height and depth of your hedges and shrubs
- Gas vs. electric powered
- Whether your trimmer needs add-on features
Tip: Tackle more jobs by choosing versatile attachment-capable hedge trimmers.
Gas vs. Electric Hedge Trimmers
When buying a powered hedge trimmer, first decide whether a gas vs. electric hedge trimmer is better for your needs. Whichever you choose will depend on your yard size, the cutting capacity and ease of use of the trimmer.
- Less power than gas-powered models but weigh less.
- The best electric hedge trimmers are lightweight, economical and have an easy startup.
- Quieter than gas hedge trimmers.
- No emissions.
- Doesn’t require fuel but does require an outdoor-use extension cord. Has a somewhat limited range for this reason.
- More amps mean more cutting power.
- Ideal for small and medium-sized lawns.
- Cannot be used in wet or damp weather.
- More powerful than electric units but also heavier.
- The best gas hedge trimmers cut faster than electric trimmers and can be used in damp weather.
- Portable, not limited by a cord.
- Require gas and oil mixture.
- Require larger up-front investment.
- Ideal for large lawns that require a lot of heavy-duty trimming and commercial applications.
- Lightweight and easily portable.
- Easy startup with no emissions.
- Quietest type of hedge trimmer.
- Battery must be charged.
Safety Tip: As with any power tool, always wear protective eyewear and gloves. Hearing protection may be necessary for some gas trimmers.
Decide on Blade Size
Choosing the right blade size will help ensure quality cuts as well as proper balance. Trimmer blades are flat metal plates with teeth lining the edges. Their sizes can vary greatly, with the range generally running from around 13- to 40-inches.
The distance between the blade teeth, known as the blade gap, determines the size of branch the tool can handle. Professional or commercial-grade trimmers may have a blade gap of one inch or more, but trimmers designed for residential use will work fine with a gap between 3/8- to 3/4-inches.
Blades may be single or double-sided. Single-sided blades are somewhat safer, as you can always make sure the teeth are cutting away from your body. Double-sided blades are more common and cut in both directions, helping you to work more efficiently.
- 16-inch or smaller blades are ideal for small and average-sized hedges.
- 18-inch blades are ideal for average and larger-sized hedges.
- 20-inch and larger blades are the best hedge trimmers for thick branches and ideal for large, established hedges.
- Left-handed users may find it easier to operate double-sided blades.
- Longer blades make it easier to trim hedges evenly but may have trouble with small precision tasks.
Safety Features to Look For
There are a number of safety features and attachments to look for when selecting a trimmer. Tooth extensions, models that cut power to the blade, dual switches and front-handle shields all will improve your operation while keeping you safe.
- Tooth extensions help prevent your legs and other body parts from coming into contact with the teeth, minimizing the chances of getting cut.
- Look for models that cut power to the blade as soon as you release the trigger to reduce the possibility of an accident.
- Dual switches require two-handed operation for safer use.
- Trimmers that lock in the "off" position prevent children from accidentally activating them.
- Front handle shields prevent your forward hand from connecting with the blade.
- For easier handling, look for antivibration hedge trimmers.
- Get better reach and avoid straining with extendable hedge trimmers.
Other Features to Consider
Features such as wraparound handles, high-carbon steel blades and extra battery packs can help you customize your hedge trimmer to meet your exact needs.
- Wraparound handle: Wraparound handles enhance comfort by allowing you to maintain a relaxed yet secure position no matter your angle.
- High-carbon steel blades: Not only will high-carbon steel blades last longer and provide more effective cutting, they can be sharpened to prolong life.
- Lock on: If you're undertaking long, difficult tasks, a lock-on feature will help reduce fatigue by enabling you to keep cutting without having to depress the trigger.
- Translucent fuel tanks: Gas-powered units with translucent fuel tanks allow you to closely monitor fuel levels to make sure you don’t run out in the middle of a job.
- Pigtail: A pigtail is a short length of cord that connects to an extension cord. Having one on the end of your corded electric trimmer will make it easier to plug in and unplug the extension cord while minimizing the chances of an accidental disconnection.
- Poles: If you need to trim hard-to-reach areas that are high up, a pole extension will give you the length you need to get the job done.
- Kits: In addition to functioning as a hedge trimmer, some kits allow you to convert the tool to a string trimmer, patio broom or other useful device for added versatility.
- Extra battery packs: If you select a cordless electric trimmer, extra battery packs will provide extended runtime for larger jobs.
With the right hedge trimmer, maintaining your landscaping can be a quick and easy job. Taking the time to learn about the available power sources, blades and additional features will help you pick the best hedge trimmer for your needs. Ready to get a trimmer or other outdoor power tool? The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them.
If you need some extra help trimming your shrubs, consider renting trimmers with our hedge trimmer rental to get your project done. Use once, then bring it back - no maintenance required.