Hedges will often overgrow their allotted space and need to be drastically cutback. In the northern United States and Canada, the best time to perform this type of severe pruning of a hedge or other shrubbery is early spring, usually in March. Branches should be left on through the winter months since shrubs store energy in their wood, and removing it in the fall would deplete the reserves stored in branches.


Heavy pruning done early in early Spring allows time for new growth to emerge from adventitious buds on the branches - buds that you can't see. This type of severe pruning should not be attempted during other seasons of the year, especially mid- to late-summer. There is always some risk involved when removing all the foliage from an evergreen, but your odds of recovery greatly improve if your timing is right.




Boxwood hedge in early Spring (early March)

Even with aggressive annual trimming, this Boxwood hedge had become overgrown. It began 'flopping open' with any snowload and was crowding the plants next to it, making access for maintenance very difficult.
Boxwood hedge crowding other plants
The hedge had also gotten too tall and was blocking the view of the rest of the garden from the picture window in the living room.
Early March had arrived, so it was time to do some major cutting back of this overgrown Boxwood hedge.
The hedge is too tall and the top is getting too wide
We decided to begin pruning the sides of the hedge first, beginning with the outside. Some people like to use a stringline to stay straight, but that isn't much help on a curved hedge like this one. Therefore, it was necessary to judge the cutting depth by eye. Cutting back the sides of the Boxwood hedge first


Severe pruning should be done in early spring in the northeastern United States and Canada


As the pruning progresses we see more wood...

Heavy wood like this would be difficult to cut with electric hedge trimmers, and may even damage lightweight models. Our gas powered Echo trimmers were the right tool for the job. Branches inside the hedge become visible after removing the foliage
After trimming the outside edge, it was time to trim the inside edge. Reducing the height of the hedge was the third step. The final step was going back over all the stubs to make sure the cuts were clean. Hand pruners work well for that job. Cutback hedge with both sides and the top reduced in size
Finished look of the hedge with our gray Echo trimmers at the top of the photo. Without gas powered trimmers, a person would have to use loppers and hand pruners to accomplish this same job. Next comes the clean-up work... Finished hedge trimming with our gas powered shears in background

Hedge and shrub trimming pages:

Pruning Rhododendrons

Renovating Privet Hedges

Trimming Holly



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