You'll typically have to do a little maintenance trimming in spring and summer.

How to Trim Overgrown Hedges

by Dan Ketchum

As a mom, the little things can creep up on you. Once the busy holidays wrap, spring sneaks up and before you know it, you're looking at a yard full of overgrown hedges. Mercifully, getting those hedges back into shape isn't rocket science; it only takes a few tools and a few minutes, making it a perfect weekend project. Each plant is a little different, but some pruning rules apply to pretty much any hedge.

Carefully wipe the blades of your loppers and hand pruners free of dirt with a clean cloth. Soak the blades in household bleach, rubbing alcohol or household disinfectant for about five minutes, and then wipe them dry. Allow them to air dry completely. This disinfecting process helps prevent the spread of plant disease.

Remove the oldest long canes of the plant, the ones that have grown well above the hedge's typical size and extend out the top of the bush. In some cases, overgrown branches may block your plant's sun intake if not removed. Trace these thick stems down to the base -- which is typically the ground -- and cut them with strong garden loppers. If the cane branches out, cut stems off just above the point where they split, leaving a singular branch.

Cut thinner top branches that have grown to be unsightly with hand pruners. If these stems have joints, make your cuts above the joints. Otherwise, keep the top of your hedge flat and level by keeping your shear's blades parallel to the top line of the hedge. Always cut at an angle to encourage healthy water intake.

Give a little shape to your hedge. Once you've got the hand pruners well in-hand, trim the overgrown side stems so that the bottom of the hedge is wider than the top. This basic shape lets the sun shine through the top of the bush and hit the whole plant.

Place all your clippings in tough outdoor trash bags and dispose of the waste, or add it to your compost heap.

Items you will need

  • Clean cloths
  • Household bleach, rubbing alcohol or household disinfectant
  • Loppers
  • Hand pruners
  • Outdoor trash bags (optional)


  • To make your trimming easier, perform formative pruning and fertilizing of your hedges during their first few years of life. That way, you'll just have to do a little maintenance trimming a few times a year.
  • If you spot thick branches with green new growth near the bottom of the hedge, make your cuts just above the new growth.


  • Never remove more than one-third of a plant's total growth at one time.
  • If you have questions about a specific type of hedge, contact your cooperative extension system office for thorough plant care instructions.

About the Author

Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.

Photo Credits

  • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images