How to Trim Hedges

by Mark Wolfe


The Value Of A Hedge

Well trimmed hedges add a subtle crispness to the landscape, often going directly unnoticed, but leaving a clear impression: “these people really take good care of their yard.” If you want that kind of clean-cut look, it’s important to know when and how to trim hedges the right way. Understanding a few basic rules allows you to competently coach your yard guy to do the job properly, or save both money and anxiety by doing it yourself.


The Plants

Because of the intensive management involved in creating and maintaining great looking, healthy hedges, it’s important to remember that these are living things. Arranging for their biological needs ensures that hedges will grow strong and healthy with beautiful foliage. From a plant biology perspective, the two basic issues involved in proper hedge trimming are: 1) natural proportions of the plant in question, and 2) the plant’s light requirements and tolerance.

The natural height and width dimensions of the plant in question relate directly to how easy or difficult your hedge will be to maintain. For instance, if your space requires a three-foot hedge, and the plant of choice naturally achieves six-feet, you’ll find that you trim much more often than if you choose a plant that naturally grows to the three to four foot range. Likewise a plant that prefers sun will only keep its density in full sun, becoming thin and “stringy” with more shade; shade loving plants will suffer in the sun.


The Process

Beginning after the first flush of new growth in spring, hedges should be trimmed often enough to maintain the desired dimensions. Frequency of trimming varies greatly by species and variety as well as with weather conditions, so begin with a monthly inspection to see how the hedges are growing. If they begin to look shaggy or to overgrow their allotted space, it’s time to take action. To avoid cold damage to tender new growth, stop trimming hedges for the season at about six weeks prior to the first fall frost.

For long-term health, a hedge should be broadest at the base and taper toward the top. This allows sunlight to reach the lower branches and avoids the appearance of bare branches at ground level. For regular maintenance, simply follow the existing contour and trim the overgrown branches and foliage back to a plane that is slightly lower and narrower than the “maintenance” size. By going back a bit further than the desired size, it allows the soft new shoots to grow out and cover the cut ends of branches and leaves for a fresh, clean, more natural look.


The Tools

Three indispensable tools for hedge maintenance are handheld bypass pruners, branch loppers, and a power hedge trimmer. The pruners and loppers are used for removing individual branches due to branch dieback, or for the purpose of annual thinning which allows light to penetrate to the interior of the plant for a deep, dense canopy. The power hedge trimmer is the tool for sculpting the desired shape, and is the most frequently used tool for hedge maintenance. A cordless, electric model, like the WORX 56V MaxLithium cordless 24” hedge trimmer, allows for freedom of movement, lots of power and run time comparable to a tank of fuel in a gas powered model, but with no fumes to breathe in. Keep all cutting edges sharp and moving parts oiled, and your tool investment will last decades.

Give your home’s curb appeal a subtle edge with well groomed hedges. Healthy plants, proper techniques and quality tools will do the job perfectly.

Learn more about the WORX line of cordless and electric hedge trimmers at

Category : How To, Lawn & Garden
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