Hedge trimming: how to master hedge trimming

Our guide will show you how to trim hedges correctly. Discover useful tips for different plants, sizes and shapes.

Overview: Trimming hedges 

  • You should only trim spring-flowering hedges after they have flowered

  • Make sure there are no nests of breeding birds in the hedge before performing light shaping in summer (March to September)

  • More severe pruning is possible from 1 March

  • Cut new stems to one third of their length

  • Hedge trimmer for chest-height hedges, long-reach hedge trimmer for tall hedges

  • Create topiary with your shrubs and bushes

Trimming hedges correctly: Hedge types at a glance

Beware of poisonous hedges

Some shrubs and hedges are poisonous. The yew is not suitable for households that include children or pets, because the seeds in its bright red berries are particularly poisonous.


You should only touch freshly cut thuja, cherry laurel and cypress stems when wearing gloves.


Some caution is also required when trimming privet and boxwood. So you should make sure you wear the right protective clothing when shaping and maintaining your hedge.

A woman stretching a piece of twine along a hedge to use as a guide for trimming.

Stretching a piece of twine along the hedge can help to guide a straight cut.

The right approach to hedge pruning

Trim the side growth back by two-thirds and allow the main stems grow to the desired height.  

Only a radical cut can help with an irregular or holey hedge. However, be careful: conifers no longer sprout after you have pruned them back to the wood. This is why you should never cut into the old wood of conifers, even during regular maintenance trims. Only the yew can withstand even ruthless cutting.

Technique for trimming mid-height hedges with the hedge trimmer

Trim your hedge into a trapezoidal shape

Giving hedges a trapezoidal shape – wide at the bottom, narrow at the top – prevents the bottom branches from going bald, as this shape ensures all branches get enough light. In addition, this shape ensures the hedge is not so laden down with snow in winter, as it means less snow accumulates on the top and also the snow can fall off more easily.

Privacy screening hedges: how to eliminate blemishes

There is generally a simple solution for correcting blemishes in hedges: lots of light. Smaller gaps will quickly close if they get enough sun. So you should remove adjacent branches or other sources of shade to ensure sufficient sunlight reaches the gap. Be careful with thuja hedges, as these do not forgive a deep cut into the wood of the plant.

Larger gaps can be closed by crossing adjacent shoots over the open space along a straight stick or bamboo cane. You can tie the shoots of the hedge loosely to the stick to keep them in place.

After trimming hedges, remember to dispose of the cuttings properly. Leaving cuttings on the lawn can inhibit grass growth and cause bare patches to develop.

Gather up the grass clippings with a fan rake or with a cordless blower such as the STIHL BGA 56. Alternatively, you can also spread out a textile underlay such as an old bed sheet before cutting the hedge, to catch the hedge clippings. Doing this will save you a lot of effort, especially when trimming hedges with very small leaves such as boxwood, as it makes the cuttings easy to pick up and dispose of.

A man on a step pruning a tall hedge with the STIHL HLA 85 cordless long-reach hedge trimmer

Tall, wide hedges are no problem for STIHL long-reach hedge trimmers.

Long-reach hedge trimmers

A STIHL long-reach hedge trimmer can also be used to reach particularly tall, long or excessively wide hedges. The optimum angle can be easily selected on the cutter bar, which can be rotated by up to 145 degrees.

Hedge trimmers are suitable for both landscape maintenance professionals and discerning private users.

Woman wearing ear protection and safety glasses trimming a hedge with a STIHL HS 46 petrol hedge trimmer

Hedge trimmers are ideal for hip-height hedges.

Hedge trimmers

STIHL hedge trimmers are designed specifically for effortless, fastidious maintenance of thick and particularly long hedges.

The double-sided cutting blade cuts accurately in both horizontal and vertical positions. STIHL hedge trimmers really shine when used on plants that are hip- to chest-height.

More for garden enthusiasts