Hedges: pruning times

Hedges require formative pruning on planting, plus maintenance trimming to keep them within bounds. Pruning times vary depending on the type of hedge.

Different hedges are best trimmed at different times of year. Credit: RHS/Advisory

Quick facts

  • Prune new deciduous hedges in winter
  • Prune new evergreen hedges in spring
  • Prune established hedges annually to keep them looking good

When to prune hedges

Timing of pruning should take into account the potential for nesting birds (see 'Problems' section below). However in general, these are the optimum timings for pruning hedges:

Deciduous hedges

  • Formative pruning: In winter, just after planting, and for the first two years after planting
  • Maintenance pruning: Each summer

Evergreen hedges

  • Formative pruning: In the spring after planting and for the first two years after planting
    Maintenance pruning: Each summer

For advice on pruning techniques, see hedges: trimming.

Trimming guidelines for popular hedging plants

Formal hedges

Evergreen

Buxus sempervirens (box): Twice or three times during growing season
Ilex aquifolium (holly): Once in late summer
Ligustrum (privet): Twice or three times during growing season
Lonicera nitida: Twice or three times in growing season
Prunus laurocerasus: Prune twice during growing season

Conifers

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (Lawson cypress): Twice, in spring and summer
× Cuprocyparis leylandii (Leyland cypress): Twice or three times in growing season
Taxus baccata (yew): Twice, in summer and autumn
Thuja plicata: In spring and again in early autumn

Deciduous

Carpinus betulus (hornbeam): Once, in mid- to late summer
Crataegus monogyna (hawthorn): Twice, in summer and autumn
Fagus sylvatica (beech): Once, in late summer

Informal and flowering hedges

Evergreen

Berberis darwinii: Immediately after flowering
Cotoneaster lacteus: After fruiting
Escallonia: Immediately after flowering
Lavandula (lavender): Immediately after flowering
Pyracantha: Late summer

Deciduous

Berberis thunbergii: Immediately after flowering
Forsythia: After flowering, remove some older stems
Fuchsia magellanica: In spring, remove old stems
Rosa rugosa: In spring, remove thin twigs

Problems

When undertaking work on garden hedges check that there are no birds nesting, as it is an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 to damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built. The bird nesting season is usually considered to run from 1st March to 31st July (though it may last longer for certain species or multiple broods so always check if in doubt).

With conifer hedges, make sure you do not trim them after August, as this can encourage bare patches to develop in the hedge.

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