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Tips on Trimming, Cutting, or Pruning Overgrown Privet Hedges

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Hedge trimming
Trav's Tree Services
Trav's Tree Services
August 6, 2018
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Overgrown Privet Hedge

Learning how to hedge bushes properly can help you add privacy and curb appeal to your home. Cutting back hedges that have been neglected is only the first step – maintaining them properly with fertilizer and regular shaping can be very rewarding. At Trav’s Trees, we know trees and shrubbery better than most!

Cutting Back Hedges

Privet Hedge Pruning of Hard Old, Overgrown Hedges

If your privet hedge is vigorously overgrown, sometimes the best option is to start over from scratch! Privet hedges have a dormant period when the weather is cooler during winter, and this type of severe pruning should be done while the hedge is dormant. You can time it close to spring, but if your persistent hedge is already showing new growth, it’s too late to use this method.

Now you can start trimming your hedges way back: cut them down to about 6 inches above the ground. You can then fertilize the hedges and mulch thoroughly to help encourage new growth. When the formerly overgrown privet hedge starts growing again, the new growth will most likely be very dense and need thinning and shaping.

How to Hedge Bushes

Bushes need regular trimming and attention to become proper hedges. Generally, you want to cut them back 6 inches for every 12 inches of growth. You may not do much privet hedge pruning in the first year depending on factors like the time of year the hedge was planted. Hedges are often focused on developing roots in the first year so you may not see much above-ground growth. It takes about three years for a newly planted bush to start maintaining a hedge shape.

Your goal when pruning a privet hedge isn’t just to shape it: you also want to make sure light is reaching the interior and base of the hedge so that the lower branches don’t die off, and encourage the hedge to split off more branches to become denser.

Beyond shaping, here’s what to focus on when pruning bushes and hedges:

  • Try to cut older stems rather than new growth where possible
  • Remove up to 30% of older stems so the interior of the hedge gets enough sun
  • Where stem branches into two, make cuts just above the branching point
  • Flowering shrubs should be pruned at different times depending on when they flower
  • Making cuts encourages new growth around and below the cut, so keep that in mind if you’re trying to make your shrub fill out in certain areas
  • Remove suckers and water sprouts that siphon nutrients away from the hedge

Privet Hedge Care

Knowing your bush’s growing habit and flowering time will help you improve on your privet hedge care. Hedge trimmers are helpful for general shaping, especially when dealing with tall shrubs. Hand pruners are helpful for the pruning tips above. If you have a lot of hedges to deal with, a hedge pruning service can save you time!

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