How-to Guides

How to trim hedges

Read ahead to learn how to trim the hedges like a Husqvarna professional.


Hedge trimmer 327HE3X

Whether you're a full-time landscaper or a first-time home owner, trimming the hedges is one of the fundamental skills required for successful yard maintenance.

Read ahead to discover the best ways to achieve perfect, professional-quality hedges, bushes and ornamental shrubbery (in this guide, we'll refer to all of these plants by the term hedges). We'll address the following points:

When should I trim hedges?

Spring, summer, fall or winter– when should you trim the hedges? The answer to this question depends on two factors:

  1. The type of hedge
  2. The hedge's condition

You should always research the particular hedge you're planning to trim. Some hedges need to be left alone most of the year, while others are hearty and able to withstand frequent trimming. Also consider the hedge's condition– is it in good health? Avoid trimming a plant that looks like it's dying.

But, as a rule of thumb, most hedges do well when trimmed in the winter or early spring, prior to the first budding. There are several reasons why this is the best time of year for trimming:

  • Reduced humidity - The cooler air and reduced humidity kills off many bacterial and microbial pests that could enter freshly cut leaves and branches.
  • Fewer leaves - Fewer leaves means better visibility when trimming a hedge, allowing you to focus on problem areas. Plus, fewer leaves means reduced stress on the hedge, as less water is lost from cuts.
  • Buds haven't yet appeared - When a hedge has not yet produced buds, the energy that would have been focused on growing those buds can be transferred to areas for new growth. This is a great way to get a hedge to fill out.

Deciduous hedges – such as box, privet and viburnum – are hearty plants that can survive a more intense trimming. Begin by performing a deep trim in the late winter, followed by regular trims throughout the growing season. These fast growers are also the perfect choice for creative shaping! 

What do I need to trim hedges?

Before you begin trimming your hedges, prepare for the whole process-- including the cleanup at the end! It's surprising how much debris can be left following a trim, so prepare beforehand to make your job easier. The supplies you'll need include:

  • Sheet or plastic tarp - Place this on the ground as you trim to collect debris and speed up your cleanup.
  • Leaf blower - Blow the hedge as you go to remove loose debris. This also prevents brown, dead leaves and branches from detracting from your hard work.
  • Hard bristled broom - Sweep up leaves and branches that fall beneath the hedge or onto the sidewalk, patio, or hardscape.
  • Heavy-duty trash container - Dump hedge cuttings into a big trash can for easier bagging and disposal. Do this regularly, before the wind can blow debris across your lawn!
  • Clear yard waste bags - Unless you have a compost pile, bag up your debris. Many communities require yard waste to be placed in clear plastic bags.
  • Husqvarna hedge trimmer - Pick up the right Husqvarna hedge trimmer for your needs at a local dealer or retailer or from our online store.

Don't forget: Always wear personal protective equipment!

Trimming the hedges may look like a simple task, but don't ignore the risks. Hedge trimmers are powerful, sharp-bladed tools, so work carefully and methodically. Remember hedge trimmers can send branches and twigs flying, and some hedges may conceal poison ivy or stinging insects.

Always wear the following pieces of PPE when trimming hedges:

  • Heavy-duty gloves -Protect your hands from sharp twigs, branches and irritating saps.
  • Protective safety glasses - Wear safety-rated eye wear that includes UV protection. Remember: Typical prescription glasses will rarely provide adequate protection.
  • Long-sleeved shirt - Wear a long-sleeved shirt to protect your arms– preferably one with anti-cut protection.
  • Long pants - Wear pants, rather than shorts, to protect your legs from abrasions– preferably ones with anti-cut protection.
  • Non-slip boots or work shoes - Footwear with sufficient grip is especially important when you're working from a ladder.
  • Breathing mask - Filter out pollen, dust, mold spores and flying insects.

How to start and use a hedge trimmer

Ready to get started? Watch the video below to learn how to start and use a Husqvarna hedge trimmer. This video focuses on our professional hedge trimmer models, but the same principles apply to our complete hedge trimmer lineup.

How to get straight lines when trimming hedges

As you develop your hedge trimming skills, you'll begin to view your work with an artist's eye. You'll find it's important to get those lines straight! Once your straight lines are in place, maintaining them is easy. Here are three hints used by professionals for maintaining picture-perfect hedges:

Hedgetrimmer Battery 136LiHD45/115iHD45

1 - Understand the shape

For perfect hedge lines, it’s a good idea to aim for a wider base and a narrower top. The reason for this is because the tops of most shrubs grow faster than the bottoms. Attempt a gradual sloping effect, with a 6-inch difference between the top and bottom. This will allow maximum sunlight to penetrate the hedge and make maintenance easier as the top grows out.

2 - Cut from the ground up

When trying to get perfect lines, it's easier to cut from the ground up. Using a gliding, back-and-forth motion, make your way from one end of the hedge to the other, cutting from ground level to about a third of the way up the hedge. Next, move along the hedge while cutting the middle portion, gently tapering your work toward the top. Lastly, trim the top third of the hedge, blending it with the middle third while again tapering toward the top.

3 - Touch up and take a little off the top 

Once all the sides have been cut, stand back and inspect the hedge, touching up areas as needed. The final step is to cut the top. Place the trimmer horizontal to the hedge and gently cut away from yourself, moving from the front to the back. Ensure you don’t place too much pressure on the hedge trimmer when cutting away from yourself to avoid unsightly dips or accidental cut-outs.

4 - Keep your equipment in good condition

Be sure to maintain your tools for a superior cut. Regular lubrication and sharpening will help prevent dull blades from damaging your hedge. A common cause of hedge damage is dull tools that create blunt, ragged cuts in the hedge. The sharper your tools, the cleaner your cuts.

How to sculpt a hedge

Sculpting a hedge allows you to express some creativity with your yard work. Read below for some of the most popular hedge sculpting designs and how to achieve them.

Pole hedgetrimmer 536LiHE3

Rolling waves

Rolling wave-style hedges are hedges with straight sides and a gently rolling top that resembles ocean waves or a line of hills. Achieving this elegant effect is actually quite simple! Once you've trimmed the sides of the hedge, stake tall bamboo canes at equal distances along the hedge's length. Spread the stakes farther apart for gentler waves or closer together for more peaks.

Once the canes are in place, begin at one end of the hedge and cut upward toward the first cane (it will look best if the ends of the hedge slope downward). Maintain a gentle cutting angle! After you reach the first cane, cut downward to the next cane to complete your hill. Repeat this rhythm along the entire length of the hedge.

Castle top

A castle top hedge is a dramatic style that will give your hedge a uniquely formal appearance. This style is achieved by cutting out box shapes from the top of the hedge. If you love a symmetrical finish with straight lines, this style is the one for you. To start, you'll need a tape measure, string, black marker and bamboo canes.

  1. First, stake a bamboo cane in the ground next to the hedge approximately every 12 inches.
  2. Once the canes are in place, measure 10 inches from the top of the hedge and mark this spot on the cane with a black marker. Do this along the entire hedge.
  3. Tie the string between each cane at the black mark.
  4. Using a hedge trimmer, cut vertically down to the height marked on the first and second cane. Then cut between them horizontally to cut out the box shape.
  5. Do not cut between the second and third canes! This part of the hedge will form one of the castle tops.
  6. Move on to the third and fourth canes and repeat the process from step 4. Continue like this, skipping every other set of canes, along the hedge's entire length.

That's it! The newly cut sides of the castle top may look bare for a few weeks, but this will quickly grow in. Maintain the hedge with a gentle trim every 6 weeks during the warmer seasons to help the hedge maintain its shape.

What about topiary?

Topiary is a great way to introduce a beautiful, fanciful or elegant new look to your yard or garden. In fact, topiary is perhaps the most imaginative way of all to express your creativity outdoors!

Grass and hedges

However, there is more to topiary than imagining a shape and creating it with a hedge trimmer. There are a few items you'll need before beginning your next work of backyard art. These include:

  • A small-sized shrub with compact leaves and strong growth
  • A wire or wooden frame built into the desired design
  • Cable ties to control branch direction and growth
  • Adequate light and water conditions
  • Hand clippers
  • A Husqvarna hedge trimmer

When starting out with topiary, avoid complex designs and instead aim for geometric shapes. Buy or build a simple ball or cone topiary frame. These shapes add an air of class and elegance, and will help you learn the ropes of topiary.

Now that you've assembled your supplies, here's the general process:

  1. Plant the shrub in an appropriate area of your yard or garden for its growing conditions. Make sure to read the shrub's label carefully!
  2. Give the shrub a hard cut back to encourage new growth.
  3. Install the wire or wooden frame over the shrub. This will be left in place as the shrub grows over the months and weeks ahead. The shrub will begin to grow around and through the frame and begin to take its shape.
  4. In the first year, gently trim the shrub with hand clippers to remove stray branches. For the first year, avoid major cuts, allowing the shrub to fill out
  5. By the second year, you should be able to use your hedge trimmer, following the frame as a guide to create the desired shape. Depending on the variety of the shrub, you may need to trim annually or every season.
  6. Once you've achieved the desired shape, you can remove the frame. Or, if the frame is concealed by the leaves, you can let it remain part of the structure of the plant. 

Congratulations, you've created your first topiary! Maybe someday you'll be ready to attempt the masterpiece shown below.

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