9 Tips for Trimming Hedges Properly


A crucial part of the American dream is having a neatly manicured lawn and professionally trimmed greenery outside your home. Trimming your own hedges doesn’t have to be difficult, and it’s easy to do yourself if you follow some basic guidelines. Here are 9 tips to help you get the most out of your lawn.

Make Sure You Have the Right Equipment

Making sure you have the proper tools on hand is a great first step. We recommend making a checklist for the following:

* Thick gloves: Preferably sturdy leather or some other form of heavy cloth. The first time you avoid snipping off the tip of a finger you’ll thank us for the reminder.

* Sturdy tarp: Laying a bit of tarp down underneath the planned trimming zone can make cleanup a lot easier. This isn’t a strictly mandatory step but it does help if mess is a concern.

* Safety goggles: Wood tends to fly all over and in the strangest ways while trimming hedges – Even if just using a hand clipper make sure to keep your eyes protected, as accidents during yard work are common place and can have dire repercussions.

* Hedge trimmer: A sturdy electric or gas-powered hedge trimmer is great for getting some general shaping done, or reaching those hard-to-get spots; just make sure to exercise the appropriate safety measures while in use.

* Hand clipper: Get something with a good grip that feels natural in your hand – If you aren’t comfortable holding or using your clippers you’ll develop blisters much more quickly than with a pair you find easy to grip.

Time your Trimming Appropriately

In order to encourage your hedges to grow back optimally after trimming, it’s important to time your maintenance accordingly. When you trim depends on the plant so do a little research before you start hacking away. Generally if you follow these simple rules you’ll be good to go:

  • For plants that flower in spring time, trim after they have finished blooming
  • For plants that flower in summer time, trim in the tail end of winter or in early spring
  • For non-flowering plants, trim after any new growth looks to be fully formed, which varies for most plants.

Light trimming throughout the year using hand shears is acceptable and in many cases recommended, but you just don’t want to do any major shaping. Use hand shears for this and be sparing.

Shaping is Important

When pruning your bushes it’s important to bear in mind the size and purpose of your plant – Particularly for thick shrubbery, such as those used in a hedge wall, shape can help determine overall thickness and density of foliage. The more air and light that is able to reach the interior of the plant the thicker growth will be; for this reason most professionals trim hedges with a slight pyramid-shaped slope, exposing more of the bottom of the plant to sunlight.

If you want or otherwise need to be particularly formal about your trimming job we recommend setting up some rope guidelines to help keep your lines as straight as can be. At each end of the hedges to be trimmed set out a wooden post, tying a line of string between the two and repeating multiple times. If you need to be super duper extra formal about it consider busting out a level measure to make sure your guidelines are completely straight – The last thing anyone wants is to get halfway done and find out their row of hedges now has a 25* angle to them.

Also consider: If you live in an area with a lot of snow, consider a rounded surface for your trimmed hedge – This will help keep snow from piling on its top. This isn’t vitally important for the plant’s health and well being but it is a good aesthetic detail to keep in mind.

Speed up Clean-up

Here at ShedHeads, we’re all about working smart, not hard. Before you get started, an awesome way to eliminate your clean up time is to lay down a tarp or two around your trimming subject. As the hacked off branches and leaves fall they will settle on top of the tarp. When you’ve finished the job you can just fold up the tarp collecting all of the waste you’ve generated!

Use the Right Tools for the Right Job

As mentioned above try to use hand trimmers when working on the interior of your shrub, and make your cuts as close to the base of the branch as you can – The closer you are to the branch the better the scar will heal over. Likewise, place any foliage to be removed as deep within the cutting mouth of your clippers as you can, and apply firm pressure as you clip; this helps ensure a clean cut, which is also important for promoting healing of the plant.

Powered hedge trimmers are unsuitable for the delicate work of pruning the interior of a plant but can be a great time saver when it comes to roughly shaping a shrub or otherwise removing a large amount of growth. Though an electric trimmer will rarely be as precise as a hand-trimmed job it’ll get the broad strokes taken care of quickly, leaving you more time to get up close and personal with the detail work inside your hedge.

Start with Hand Shears

Now that you’re ready to get to trimming your shrubs and hand shearsbushes, the best way to start is with hand shears. Take a look at your blank canvas (overgrown plant) and first picture the shape you want to produce. Remember to always try and leave the base of your plant a little wider than the top.

4. Remove Overgrown Outer Branches

Start by thinning out any thicker areas on the outside of the plant, cutting close to the main stems. Cutting near the top of the branches will just encourage new growth near the top, but cutting the branch near the base of the stem it is attached to will promote growth all the way along the branch.

5. Thin Out the Interior

Next, go a little deeper into the plant and start by removing any dead or broken branches. Continue to thin out the interior to promote airflow and reduce any chance of mold or other pathogenic growth. Don’t get carried away here, you never want to remove more than 1/3 of the plant’s growth in order to not harm it.

6. Use the Best Cordless Hedge Trimmer

If you’re going to be doing any major rework of a larger area, it’s best that you start with a cordless hedge trimmer to make the job easier. The right tools will make the job MUCH easier, but it’s important that you read our buyers guide so that you can get the model that best suits your individual needs.

7. Use Straight Lines as Guidance

Look around you for straight lines to guide you when cutting your hedges with the trimmer. The siding on your house, street signs, your neighbour’s hedges… whatever it may be. Having something to guide you will keep your hand steady and eye on point. Again, this will take some practice so don’t feel too bad if it doesn’t look too good the first time.

8. Using Strings For Guides

Another great way to get nice straight and clean edges on your hedges is to use strings. Stick four stakes intostring guide the ground at the four corners of your target shrub, slightly outside. Run string from one stake to another using a level to make sure the strings are nicely levelled. Then, use your trimmer with the strings as guide. Just don’t cut the strings by accident because then you’re really out of luck.

9. Be Patient & Practice

We mentioned this already, but trimming hedges is something that takes practice to get good at. This is just one of the reasons there is an entire industry for landscaping. It really is hard to do! But the more you do it, the better you will get. Just be patient and you’ll get better. Just remember: Shape and size all matter, but it’s using the right tool for the right job (at the right time!) that makes all the difference in the world. We hope you have fun in your yard no matter the season, and that our guide has given you a few new tips on how to keep your greenery looking tidy and clean. Happy trimming!

James Kennedy