Pruning Tips Index
Hedges Roses Evergreens Shrubs and Vines Fruit Trees Grapes and Berries Shade and Ornamental Trees

Hedges are of two general classifications:

1. Shrubs or trees planted close together in a row to form a wind-break or high screen. These should be allowed to retain their natural form and characteristics. Pruning is confined to heading back for density and removal of broken diseased or dead branches.

2. Formal or “wall of green” type of hedges, such as Privet, Boxwood and Japanese Barberry that take close, persistent pruning and shearing.

New Hedges – In planting a hedge, the plants are usually set out close together in two staggered rows. It is a mistake to allow the plants to reach the desired height before pruning.

With newly planted hedges, begin shearing as soon as they start growing noticeably. Even if you want a tall hedge, don’t wait until it gets high to start training. Several trimmings of small amounts of new growth, each time a little higher will allow it to grow larger gradually while becoming a bushier, tighter hedge.

Mature hedges should be trimmed when they are growing the fastest. When to start and how frequently varies by the type of hedge.

Needle Evergreens – like hemlock, grow early in the season and usually need one spring trimming after new growth.

Broadleaf Evergreens – like boxwood, grow throughout the season and may need to be trimmed several times as new growth emerges.

Deciduous Hedge Plants – like privet, grow all season and will need to be trimmed periodically throughout the summer.

The best guideline for how frequently to trim is simply to do it whenever the hedges look like they need it. The hedge will be thicker and better looking if you cut small amounts more frequently.

The intended use of the hedge determines the shape for trimming. If you are shearing the top flat, be careful to taper the sides in slightly at the top. Hedges that are wider at the top look top heavy and shade the lower branches causing them to thin and die. Hedge A will be healthier than B or C. Where snow loads are heavy, you may want to round the top, D.

For a level, even hedge top use a guide string stretched between stakes the length of the hedge, just below the height you want the hedge. Trim the hedge just above this guideline. Then trim the sides starting at the bottom and sweeping up. Be sure to taper in at the top for the fullest, most uniform growth.

Old Hedges – To rejuvenate an old neglected and “leggy” hedge, cut back to a few inches above the ground in the early spring and then prune like a new planting. This works best with deciduous hedges but is also possible with some evergreen hedges if you leave a few branches with leaves on the plant.