Trimming hedges, the right time

A woman kneeling timming a boxwood topiary hedge.

When should a hedge be trimmed, what is the right timing, and how should one go about it best?

Often used to mark property boundaries, or simply to fence out special portions of the garden, a hedge usually requires little care: at most, trimming once or twice a year.

Follow our advice to get nice hedges all year round.

The right time to trim a hedge

Hedges are usually grown from shrubs that have two vegetation phases within a year, one in spring and another at the end of summer.

Best is to wait for these growth periods to slow down, so that the shape you give them will stay for a longer period of time.

  • Consequently, from the shrub’s point of view, hedges need trimming in April-May and September-October.

However, in spring, this overlaps with bird nesting periods.

  • As a result, you should prune much earlier in spring: early March and even February are ideal since birds aren’t nesting yet.

To control growth more precisely, hedges can be trimmed more often. Topiary is one such example of when trimming has to be very frequent.

As for flowered hedges, wait for the blooming to be over before pruning.

When to cut a hedge back

If you need to drastically reduce the size of your hedge, it’s best to do so very early in spring: end of February or first half of March.

Techniques to trim a hedge

Trimming a hedge well helps maintain it over the years, ensuring sufficient density to remain opaque and optimizing hedge growth.

  • The base must be trimmed wider than the tip.
    This helps give light to all the shrubs that are part of the hedge.
  • Use an electric or gas-powered hedge trimmer for hedges longer than 16 feet (5 m) long, for better accuracy and especially easier workload.
  • Use pruners for the larger branches.
  • Shears are more accurate, which helps for lower hedges.

Shrubs that make for good hedges

There are a great many hedge shrubs, but some are particularly well suited to hedges because they cope well with pruning.

Indeed, strawberry tree, wild privet, weigela, cypress, camellia, photinia, and flowering currant are perfect for hedges.

Here is a video on how to plant hedges

Read more about pruning:

Smart tip about pruning and trimming hedges

Try to get a hold of a long roll of burlap or a tarpaulin, and lay it on the ground near the hedge.

Trimmings will fall onto it and picking them up is easy. You’ll save a lot of time and the result will be perfectly clean!


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Trimming time ! by Ronald Porter ★ under Pixabay license