How to Trim Trees & Bushes in Landscape


Overgrown bushes, unruly trees and rampant vines lead to an unkempt look. Visitors form an opinion that you're sloppy and don't care about appearances. Trees with wayward branches are also a safety hazard as the limbs brush up against roof tiles or window panes. Trimming trees and clipping hedges is a big job but with the right equipment and some patience you can have a neat and tidy landscape in a weekend or two.


Step 1

Clear away any underbrush, dead branches and rubbish from underneath the bushes.

Step 2

Remove dead, weak or straggly branches first. Clip as close to the main trunks of the bush as possible.

Step 3

Decide how high and wide you prefer the hedges and bushes to be. Straight edges are not natural looking. It's difficult to keep the line even as you trim the hedges. Aim for a rounded contour both at the top and sides. Trim no more than one-third of the bush. More than that and it could go into shock.

Step 4

Start at the bottom, trimming off six inches of length at a time. Work your way up to the top on the sides of the bushes. Stop and step back every so often to check that your trimming is even. Continue trimming six inches at a time until the bush is the height and shape you like.

Step 5

Trim the bushes so they are slightly narrower at the top than at the bottom. The top branches block sunlight to the lower branches. Narrowing the top allows more light to reach the bottom.


Step 1

Study the tree to determine which branches will be removed.

Step 2

Saw underneath the branch being removed to a depth of one inch. Start the cut on top of the branch two or three inches further out on the branch than the undercut. This prevents the weight of the branch from ripping off the bark down the trunk when it falls.

Step 3

Remove suckers, those long spindly branches that grow up from the ground, not from the trunk of the tree.

Step 4

Prune dead and dying branches as close to the trunk as possible. Remove branches that crisscross each other.

Step 5

Open up the center of the tree by selecting three to five main branches and removing other smaller branches.

Step 6

Clip any downward reaching branches. The exception would be if the tree's natural growth habit is for branches to reach downward like a weeping willow.

Step 7

Stop and check your work to make sure the trimming is even around the tree.

Tips and Warnings

  • Tree branches are very heavy. Make sure you know where the branch will land when it falls and that it won't cause damage. Sharpen all tools before beginning. Wear gloves and safety goggles. Don't cut branches over your head with a chain saw.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand saw
  • Chain saw
  • Clippers
  • Pruning shears
  • Hedge trimmers
  • Gloves
  • Goggles


  • The Country Garden; Charlie Ryrie; 2003
  • Gardeners Net: Pruning

Who Can Help

  • Aggie Horticulture: Pruning
Keywords: trimming bushes, clipping hedges, trimming tree branches

About this Author

Brian Hill's first writing credit was the cover story for a national magazine. He is the author of three popular books, "The Making of a Bestseller," "Inside Secrets to Venture Capital" and "Attracting Capital from Angels." Among his magazine article credits are the March 2005 and June 2008 issues of "The Writer." His interests include golf, football, movies and his two dogs.