How to Trim the Hedges


Neatly manicured hedges add formality and a clean, uncluttered aesthetic to a landscape. Hedges are typically evergreen shrubs or bushes with a dense growth habit, although flowering shrubs, including lilac, rose of Sharon, or forsythia make stunning hedges when in bloom. No matter what type of hedge you have, streamline its look by trimming it regularly.

Step 1

Determine where you want the outside edges of your hedge and drive stakes along the line. If you have tall hedges, you'll need stakes long enough to reach within a foot of the top of your desired hedge height.

Step 2

Tie strings from one stake to the other along the hedge. You may have to work them in-between some longer branches to keep them straight. The strings serve as guidelines when trimming. If the hedge is over a couple of feet tall, tie a string every 2 feet or so, for the best results.

Step 3

Cut branches larger than 1/2 inch in diameter with sturdy garden loppers. A lopper has two long handles and a curved cutting tip for thick branches. Snip off these branches approximately 2 inches on the inside of your string-line to keep them from sticking out and marring the look of your hedge.

Step 4

Trim the fine branches and foliage with hedge shears. While power shears make quick work of hedge trimming, you can get by with hand shears if you're patient. Using the strings as a guide, place the flat edge of the shears even with the line and cut the side of the hedge, starting at the bottom and working your way up.

Step 5

Repeat the process on the other side of the hedge to create a box shape on both sides.

Step 6

Tie strings at the uppermost part of the hedge to determine the top line. Use a carpenter's level to ensure that the strings are level.

Step 7

Trim flat along the top guide strings. If the top of the hedge is waist high or lower, you can use power hedge shears, but if it's any higher, use hand shears.

Step 8

Maintain your hedge after the initial shaping by trimming whenever the foliage grows an inch or two outside the desired boundaries. If you trim the hedge often and remove only a small portion of the branches, plenty of foliage will remain, keeping the hedge looking healthy and full.

Tips and Warnings

  • Follow safety precautions when operating power hedge shears, including wearing protective eyewear and making sure no children are in the immediate vicinity. Stand only on a sturdy ladder when trimming the tall portions of hedges.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden loppers
  • Hedge shears
  • Stakes
  • String
  • Carpenter's level


  • AgriLife Extension: Aggie Horticulture
  • Oregon State University: Trim Hedges and Heaths in Spring
  • This Old House:How to Trim Overgrown Hedges
Keywords: trim hedges, evergreen shrubs, manicured landscaping

About this Author

Glyn Sheridan is a freelance writer with published credits in regional and national media. Sheridan specializes in health, fitness, construction and business writing. She is also a past editor of "Kansas Women - Focus on Fitness." Sheridan's education includes marketing and journalism.