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.
- Important: read up on local regulations about trimming hedges
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.
- This will give your shrubs the most chances of bouncing back lush and dense.
- Example: cutting back thuja shrubs by a lot
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.
- Go for green all year-round and start an evergreen hedge.
- Or create a flowered hedge that blooms as seasons fly by.
- Attract birds with berry shrubs.
- Learn to create mixed hedges which are great barriers against diseases and parasites.
Here is a video on how to plant hedges
Read more about pruning:
- Laws about trimming hedges
- Guidance on pruning shrubs
- Ornamentals: pruning boxwood, hydrangea, roses
- Fruit trees: pruning grapevine and other fruit trees
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!
Can I prune a male Spotted Laurel, Aucuba japonica in the fall, Sept. or Oct? It doesn’t get berries so I’m one concerned about cutting them off.
Yes, you can definitely prune male cultivars of spotted laurel in Fall (Autumn). As you say, it won’t bear berries so nothing will be lost. The earlier in the season the better, since this will give the plant more time to heal and cure its pruning wounds.
You are advocating trimming your hedge in April and May, when bird nesting is in full swing. This is very bad advice. You make no mention of it being an illegal to disturb nesting birds – which is highly likely to happen if your advise is followed. Hedges should not be trimmed between mid Feb and into August. If you absolutely must trim between these times you should very carefully watch and then examine the hedge first. PLEASE AMEND YOU ADVISE.
Thank you for your tip about the base being trimmed wider than the tip of the shrub so that light gets to all parts of the hedge. I just moved to a house that has a large hedge out front, but I have never had to maintain one before. This article was super helpful, but I think I just don’t want to mess up the plant so I will have a professional come and help me with that.
Yes, that’s a tip that not many of us are aware of. It really makes a hedge look nicer since the bottom isn’t sparse.
Professionals will definitely know how to go about trimming best, but it’s actually easy enough. Making un-fixable trimming mistakes is actually pretty hard!