How to Prune a Private Hedge


Private hedges form a barrier very similar to a fence. Hedges can block unsightly A/C and heating units as well as pool equipment. Hedges also function as a natural fence between yards. Pruning a private hedge involves regular maintenance to keep the bushes full and leafy from the base of the plants to the top. Traditional hedges have flat tops and sides since the gardener controls the overall growth of the plant. Less formal private hedges grow to the plant's natural shape with light pruning to control expansion.

Step 1

Evaluate how much time has passed since the last time you pruned the hedge. Hedge trimming should be performed the season after planting to control growth and encourage filling-in of the hedge. Pruning neglected hedges requires some patience and multiple instances of trimming to achieve the typical hedge look. Your goal lies in creating a bushy hedge that affords privacy, with many branches and abundant leaves.

Step 2

Clip off any overly long or damaged sections of the private hedge. Angle your cuts with pruning loppers (for branches between 2 to 3 inches) at a 45-degree angle to the branch. This angled cut allows for quick healing of the wound.

Step 3

Thin out 1/3 of the bush each season to encourage additional fullness to the bush. Complete this task by choosing individual branches and pruning with the 45-degree cut close to the parent stem to prevent leaving stubbed branches. Thinning lets sunlight into the bush to fill in bald spots on the hedge. Perform thinning every year by removing 1/4 to 1/3 of the older branches of the hedge to create a full-looking plant.

Step 4

Round the top slightly using the hedge shears. Rounding allows sunlight to reach the inner portions of the hedge to encourage branch and leaf growth. The uppermost portions of the hedge should be smaller than the lower part of the plant. Hedges can become leggy with few to no leaves on the bottom portions of the bush. Creating an inverted U-shape to the bush allows sunlight to reach the bottom branches of the plant. Flat topped hedges will eventually thin out and look scraggly if you simply lop off the top of the bush.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears (electric or manual)
  • Pruning loppers
  • Pruning clippers


  • University of Arizona Cooperative Extension
  • University of Rhode Island
Keywords: prune hedge, hedge pruning, pruning private hedges

About this Author

S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with over three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various websites and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.