Hedge maintenance | Hedge trimming tips

Hedge Maintenance Tips
Properly maintained hedges are fuller and look better!

A row of shrubs or trees planted closely enough to form a fence or boundary. In most landscaping applications this shrub spacing works out to an average of 3 to 4 feet apart on center.

For some people, the first thought of a hedge reminds them of the neatly trimmed boxwood hedges forming a maze at historic Williamsburg, Virginia, or the privet hedge around their family’s yard during their youth.

Fact of the matter is, a hedge can be comprised of just about any type of tree or shrub, but certain varieties of plants do seem to dominate the selection list. Some woody plants make better candidates for shearing, and some varieties, like privet, tend to be much less expensive and common than say, boxwood.

Bridal wreath spirea: Old-fashioned hedge favorite looks best "natural" without very much trimming.
Bridal wreath spirea: Old-fashioned hedge favorite that looks best in its natural state without very much shaping.
Primary factors to consider when planting a hedge:
  1. What (eventual) height and width would you like the hedge to be?
  2. Is the planting area sunny or shady?
  3. Do you have space limitations?
  4. Is deer browsing going to be a problem?
  5. Will the hedge grow naturally or be sheared to shape?
  6. What tools and capabilities (or limitations) do you have for trimming the hedge?
  7. Should the hedge be evergreen for year-round cover, or would a deciduous hedge be alright?
  8. Will you mulch the area beneath the hedge, and if so, with what sort of mulch?

Sheared Boxwood Hedge

Boxwoods were planted close enough to grow into this lovely evergreen hedge along a front porch
We planted these Boxwoods close enough together (3 to 4 feet apart) to grow into this lovely evergreen hedge along a front porch

Rule #1 – Shape the hedge so sunlight can reach the lower branches. Keep the sides wider at the bottom, or at the very least, keep the sides ‘straight up and down.’ Bottom line: Don’t let the top get wider than the base.


Rule #2 – If the hedge is a flowering variety, trim it within one month of when it finishes blooming. This allows time for the hedge to form new blossoms for the next flower show.

Rule #3 – Mulch the base of the hedge to ease mowing and prevent weed whackers from damaging the bark on the trunks.

Rule #4 – Remove weeds, vines and other plants that attempt to grow up inside the hedge. Maple trees and vines can be tough competitors!

Rule #5 – Be careful working from ladders. Consider keeping the hedge at a height you can trim while standing on the ground.

Rule #6 – If you have trouble cutting the hedge straight ‘by eye’ consider stretching a string line as a guide. Most home centers and hardware stores sell mason’s line that can be stretched taut. Place the line where it won’t get in the way or cut by your trimmers.


Crowd favorite video: EZ clean-up shearing Boxwood

Video: How to shear Privet Hedge