How to Prune a Hedge in 5 Steps

If you’re like many hedge owners, you probably get out your hedge trimmer every few months and lovingly fashion your hedge into a specific shape. If you’re expecting your hedge to eventually look like those you see encircling ye olde English cottages, but it actually looks like a balding chicken, you may be wondering what you’re doing wrong? Don’t worry – you’re definitely not alone. It can be quite difficult to maintain a hedge and keep it looking great, but this quick guide will hopefully help you out.

Best time to Prune

It’s difficult to determine the best time to prune, as it’s different depending upon the species of plant. A general guide is to prune during Winter or early Spring for non-flowering plants and plants that flower in Summer,  or if you have plants that flower during early Spring, prune them just after they bloom. For hedges and shaped shrubs, you can do very light maintenance pruning throughout the year, but be careful, as pruning incorrectly can damage your trees.

Why to Prune

A good pruning job strengthens trees and shrubs by removing damaged or diseased limbs, distributes weight in a healthy way, stimulating healthy growth and allowing air and light to penetrate inner sections.

How to Prune a Hedge

  1. For this step, we’re going to assume your shrub is a species appropriate to hedging. Firstly, it can be helpful to lay a plastic sheet or tarp down under the hedge in order to make cleanup easier. Before making the first cut, step back and have a good look at your hedge or shrubs in order to determine which shape would suit them best. You may choose a rounded, natural look, a boxy formal look or if you’re feeling adventurous, even the shape of an animal or similar.
  • If you’ve decided on a boxy shape, you can set up a guide along the edge of the hedge using stakes, strings and a spirit level. Just don’t set it too deeply into the hedge. You can also be guided by your eye, using your house and other elements to help you determine when your hedge looks straight. For all other shapes, you’ll need to use your artistic ability; however, try to avoid making the top of the hedge wider than the base as this can limit sunlight and cause stress on the plant due to excess top-weight. It’s best to limit your hedge pruning to about 1/3 of the overall shrub annually.
  • Using a good, sharp pair of hand pruners, start cutting away the growth that obviously needs to go, like longer branches sticking out. Begin to gently fashion the hedge into the shape you want, cutting along the inner parts of the branches above where new growth is forming or at the shrub’s base. By doing this, you’ll promote growth from within the shrub, which will cause it to become lush and shapely; whereas, just trimming along the outside of the bush will instead cause the regrowth to grow from there, meaning more trimming, more often and a patchy hedge.
  • To finish your hedge off, trim the tops and gently trim the sides of your hedge with a hedge trimmer. Now that you’ve got the shape you want, you can go over the hedge and trim watersprouts (which are small shoots growing vertically along the larger, dominant limbs) and suckers (the small offshoots growing at the base of the trunk) as doing so will increase the availability of nutrients to your hedge. Also, have a look for any dead limbs – especially near the base – and remove them
  • Step back and survey your work. Fix up anything that looks misaligned and that’s it – you’re done!

Alternatively, if you don’t have the tools to trim your own hedge, if you have a very large or tall hedge or if you just don’t feel like doing it yourself (and we don’t blame you!), you can bring in a professional arborist to do the job for you. To ensure you have the best looking hedge in the street, give the talented team at Canberra Tree Lopping a call on 02 6188 6019 for a free quote.

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