How to Cut Shrubs & Hedges


Shrubs can be used to great effect in hedging, creating dense swaths of green and flowers that act as wind breaks, living fences, property line demarcations and as backdrops to specimen plants in garden beds and borders. Shrubs can be pruned into three main styles: to showcase their natural shape and size, to mimic their natural shape but control the size and to prune heavily to create the flat and curvilinear planes of formal hedging. The style of pruning is largely a personal aesthetic preference, but the structure of certain shrubs may take to a certain style of pruning.

Step 1

Maintain the natural shape and size of the shrub hedging by removing only dead, diseased, discolored or otherwise damaged branching and foliage. Inspect the shrub or hedge regularly during watering time and cut out any of these trouble spots. Place cuts back to healthy wood or foliage or back as far as the parent branch or trunk as needed. Use loppers for most mid-size branches, secateurs for those under 1 inch in diameter and a hand saw for branches larger than 2 inches in diameter.

Step 2

Control the height and spread of the shrubs and hedging while maintaining the natural form by removing the tips of branches in equal lengths and following the shape of the shrub. Use long-handled scissor shears or secateurs and cut branch by branch for the most natural-looking finish.

Step 3

Create the flat and curving lines in formal hedging by using long-blade scissors shears or mechanical hedge trimmers with a long flat blade. Start by establishing the desired height and top shape before cutting the sides. Hold the blade nearly parallel with the shrub for flat plane cuts and at varying angles to create a curved surface on the shrub.

Things You'll Need

  • Secateurs
  • Long-handled loppers
  • Hand saw
  • Long-blade hedge trimmers or shears


  • University of Minnesota: Pruning Trees & Shrubs
  • University of Rhode Island: Pruning Hedges Fact Sheet
Keywords: pruning shrubs and hedges, shaping shrubs and hedging, cutting shrubs and hedges

About this Author

An omni-curious communications professional, Dena Kane has more than 17 years of experience writing and editing content for online publications, corporate communications, business clients, industry journals, as well as film and broadcast media. Kane studied political science at the University of California, San Diego.