Pruning Hedges

Are you tired of paying for the upkeep and maintenance of your landscape? Do you wish you could get out in your lawn and do some of the work, but don’t know where to start? It can be overwhelming when you look at all of the tasks that are required by both large and small landscapes. Let’s take one task off of that list - pruning hedges. The good news is that the main principles of pruning are fairly simple and easy to follow. Here are the basics for pruning hedges in your landscape:


Benefits of pruning hedges

  • Encourages development

  • Better looking, healthier plant

  • Not as susceptible to disease

If you don’t prune hedges...

  • Plants can be weak

  • Branching will only occur at tips of stems

  • Hedge won’t be dense enough to support weight

  • Can cause ‘dead space’ in the interior of plant where leaves don’t grow due from being shaded out by external growth

When do you prune shrubs? *these are general rules and may vary from shrub to shrub

  • Prune off one-third or one-half of your young shrub within the first month of planting to ensure proper health and development

    • non-flowering: prune in early spring before new growth

    • summer flowering: prune in late winter or early spring before bud set to encourage heavy flowering

    • spring flowering (flower before June 15): prune soon after flowering so as to not remove buds for the next year

Formal hedges *pay attention to flowering for timing & use lateral cuts

  • Sheared/shaped to geometrical shape

  • Before new growth in spring-during/after 1st growth spurt

    • New leaves cover up pruning cuts

    • Don’t prune late summer (Aug-Sep)

  • Level top & sides

    • Should be in 2nd or 3rd yr of establishment

  • Long formal hedge- use powered hedge trimmers

  • Broad leaf or short formal hedge- use hand pruners

    • Won’t cut wide leaves in half

  • Bottom of plant wider than top

    • light reaches plant

    • Start at bottom, work up & taper sides

  • Use guide for accuracy

    • 1x1s slightly taller than hedge with joint wing nuts to adjust angle

Informal hedges

  • Most can be thinned any time of year (see flowering time if it flowers)

  • Let grow through 2nd season

    • Only rejuvenate

  • Hand pruners/ loppers

  • Thin branches

  • Lateral cuts

    • Allows sunlight to reach plant

Rejuvenating shrubs

  • When a shrub is overgrown

  • Some can be cut 2-3” from ground

    • Holly, spirea, privet, etc.

    • NOT for needled evergreens- will not regrow on bare branches

  • Can do over several years

    • One-third of stems to ground each year

    • Doesn’t look good at the time, but will be best in the long run - plant will look better with time