General Advice

Pruning Hedges

Tony Matson - Friday, March 16, 2018

Hedges are very popular as they not only can provide a formal element to your garden design, but provide privacy and screening from your neighbours.

When to Prune?

There are lots of times during the year when you are able to prune - during the dormant season, all the way to spring.  Pruning promotes new growth.  You don't want to prune in Autumn - reason being is that it will promote growth and the winter temperatures will damage the new growth.

How Often?

Most well established hedges should only require pruning twice a year, once at the beginning of Spring, when the plants are showing new growth, then once again at the beginning of summer to maintain shape.

Newly established hedges do require a bit more attention in their first few years.  Tip-prune all the plants regularly in the first few years before they have reached their final height.  This encourages thick healthy growth and is important to establishing an attractive formal hedge.

Tools required:

Hand shears are the best choice for the home gardener.  They allow much better control and allow a closer and cleaner cut without the noise.  You will not get shredding or burning that some motorised hedgers will give.

Secateurs - recommend a ratchet or normal pair of secateurs to cut larger branches which are too big for hedging shears.  

Rule of thumb is that you shouldn't cut branches which are bigger than a 'lady's little finger' in width with hedging shears.   This will preserve the scissor type cutting action of the shears.

Pruning Saw - can also be used for the woody sections of a hedge if cutting right back.

String and 2 stakes or poles to create a straight line as a guide to pruning.

Motorised hedger if hedges are extremely long.

How to Prune?

  1. Prune out dead or diseased branches first
  2. Set up your stake and cord to get your height/ line
  3. Start at the top - flat along the top.   Decide if straight or round/ curved edges are required
  4. Trim back new growth by tip pruning, work down sides
  5. Feed and mulch after hedging plants to encourage healthy and vigorous new growth
Ref:  Angus Stewart, "how to prune a hedge in 7 simple steps"