How to Trim Hedges

Groom your lawn for the season by trimming your hedges and shrubbery

trimming hedges and shrubbery

Hedges are made of multiple shrubs that have been planted closely in a straight row so that they neatly blend together. These can frame the grounds of your home and add a decorative border to your yard. Whether you have a small set of bushes or a larger column of shrubs, trimming them regularly is important for a well-manicured lawn. 

This guide will provide tips on pruning hedges and instructions on how to shape them like a professional.
 

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What You Need

Tools
  • Hedge Trimmer
  • Hand Shears
  • Pruning Saw
  • Loppers
Materials
  • Gardening Gloves
  • Safety Glasses
  • Face Mask
1
Choose a Trimmer
step 1 - choose a trimmer

The first step is choosing a hedge trimmer that fits your needs. Corded and cordless electric varieties are best suited for small to medium-sized hedges, while gas trimmers are designed to accommodate a wider surface area. Whichever style you choose, pick one with blades large enough to cut your hedges efficiently.

For more precise shaping, you will also need the proper handheld pruning tools. Hand shears and loppers can be used for hard-to-reach areas and pronounced angles, or for a more defined finish along the top. Pruning saws are great for making sharp cuts through thicker branches.

Tip: See our hedge trimmers buying guide for a more detailed explanation of the options available to you.

2
When to Trim Hedges
step 2 - when to trim hedges

Non-flowering and evergreen hedges should only be trimmed as needed, but it's important to reshape them before they become overgrown to prevent weed growth. This time frame varies depending on the season, your plant species and the amount of rainfall. Aim for every 6-8 weeks, at minimum, during the warmer months and reduce frequently as the weather cools.

For new hedges and flowering shrubs, trim them early and often to encourage healthy growth and to establish your desired shape.

3
How to Trim Overgrown Hedges
step 3 - how to trim overgrown hedges

• Shear the interior and other obvious problem areas first, then use a power trimmer to refine the shape. 
• Snip overgrown branches and limbs inside each bush. Clear enough space for sunlight and air to pass through and stimulate healthy growth. Make sure to prune the base near the roots as well.
• Position a taut rope or string across the top and bottom of your hedge to establish a guideline. This will help make sure you don't cut too much of the shrub. 
• Slowly run the power trimmer along each side of the bush, little by little. Take frequent breaks to step back and assess the shape. 
• Once you've achieved a clean and even edging, use the hand shears again to make any finishing touches.

4
Hedge Trimming Tips
step 4 - hedge trimming tips

• Leave the bottom part of your hedge wider than the top. Since the lower branches don't receive as much sunlight, they die more quickly. If you don't overcompensate for this fallout, the bush will start to look uneven and eventually grow weak.
• Wear safety gear for your hands and eyes. If you are sensitive to pollen or landscaping debris, make sure to wear a face mask to shield your nose and mouth.
• Do not use dull handheld trimming tools. Keep your cuts as clean as possible to help the branches grow evenly and strong.
• For flat cuts across the top, hold the power trimmer completely horizontal to ensure a uniform shape.