Creating a row of hedges in the landscape requires careful pruning of shrubs. Japanese holly works well as a hedge plant or topiary in the home landscape. This dense shrub needs regular pruning to maintain shape and to control rampant growth. Japanese holly prefers full sun and serves perfectly as a privacy screen planting. Hedging a Japanese holly involves deciding on the preferred shape in relation to available space. This useful evergreen plant can handle heavy pruning to reach the desired shape.
Schedule pruning sessions for late spring to allow time during the growing season for new shoots to establish before the first cold frost. This isn't carved in stone but allows time for the Japanese holly to recover from heavy pruning.
Locate areas of dead or dying foliage and dried branches. Prune these areas using pruning shears for branches smaller than 2/3 inch. Lopping shears cut easily through branches 3/4 to 2 inches wide. Use both to make cuts at a 45-degree angle on the branch to limit wound size. Sharp clippers create less stress to the plant, making cutting quick and easy. Make cuts flush with the nearest branch or bud. Do not leave stubs that will heal slowly or invite diseases or pests.
Thin the plant by selecting evenly spaced, older branches for removal. Cut branches close to the main trunk or near a bud. Do not leave stubs on branches since these wounds heal slowly and invite pests and disease. Removal of older branches allows light into the interior of the plant. This produces thickening through the center of the plant for a dense hedge.
Shear the Japanese holly along the top using the hedge clippers. The top third of the plant should be narrower than the bottom to allow light to reach lower branches. Remember that shearing causes rejuvenation at the point of the cut. Each branch will experience bushy growth that will change the holly's desired shape.
Prune the sides after the top, mirroring the length of the branches on the side. Angle the cuts on the side of the holly shrub to narrow the top of the plant. Don't prune to a point or rounded bump. The bottom foliage of the plant should be wider than the top.