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Trim a hedge correctly: timing, shape, and tips for hedge care

You have decided to add a little more privacy to your home with a beautiful hedge. A fence just wasn't right for you; something nice and green should be. You've already planted the hedge; now it's time to think about hedge care. When can you cut the hedge? What steps are required, and how does the hedge get nice and thick? You can find answers to all of these questions in our guide.

The topic at a glance

In which months am I allowed to trim a hedge?

Hedges shouldn't be trimmed at will. Although the ideal time to trim hedges is in spring, Section 39, Paragraph 5 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act (Bundesnaturschutzgesetz, BnatSchG) has stipulated nationwide since 2010 that hedges, bushes, living fences, and other trees cannot be cut from March 1st to September 30th. This means that cutting the hedge is only permitted between October and February, at least when it comes to pruning.

However, according to the Federal Nature Conservation Act, gentle shaping and care cuts that eliminate growth are permitted between March and September. It is therefore allowed to cut off the tips of a hedge, but radical pruning may not be carried out.

When should I trim my hedge?

Autumn and spring are the best times to trim the hedge. The period from October to February is ideal for cutting back plants. However, it is important to pay attention to temperatures. Hedges can be cut up to a temperature of minus 5 degrees, but it should not get any colder. The colder it gets, the higher the likelihood that there will be bruises on the branches rather than clean cuts. The result is that the resulting wounds on the hedges heal much more slowly. Ideally, cutting should only be done on cloudy days. This prevents the ends of the cut branches from drying out too quickly. The general rule is: large cuts or radical pruning from the beginning of October to the end of February, light topiary from March to September.

When to cut hedges?

When do I have to trim my hedge?

Many people don't care much about trimming their hedges and simply let them grow wild. However, this can lead to problems because, under certain circumstances, the owners of the hedge can be obliged to trim it. This is the case, for example, when the growth is particularly rampant and, as a result, ends up in local public transport areas. Passers-by or traffic can then be hindered or endangered by the hedge. In such cases, it is likely that the owner of the hedge will be obligated to trim it.

What tools do I need for hedge trimming?

Electric hedge trimmer cutting a green hedge

Of course, a good hedge trimmer is required for hedge trimming. In addition to simple manual hedge trimmers, which are more suitable for very small hedges, there are also motorized hedge trimmers for larger hedges. Motorized hedge trimmers can be used with gasoline or electricity, but models with batteries are also available. However, there are other aspects that need to be taken into account. The height of the hedge, for example, plays a role. If the hedge is very high, you need to consider how to work at that height. Ladders can be a good choice, but there are also telescopic hedge trimmers that allow you to work at greater heights. For small corrections and cutting out dead wood inside the hedge, secateurs or pruning shears should be available. Additionally, you need the right protective clothing.

How do I trim my hedge correctly?

A general distinction is made between two types of pruning: topiary pruning and radical pruning. During topiary pruning, branches that are growing out are corrected, whereas radical pruning involves trimming the hedge back very drastically or placing it on the stick.

  • Shape or Maintenance Pruning
    The hedge should be regularly trimmed to ensure it is as evenly closed as possible. New shoots that grow very strongly are shortened to maintain an even surface. Topiary pruning can be carried out all year round, but the best time for it is early summer, at the end of June. For most evergreen hedges, one trimming per year is completely sufficient. Deciduous hedges should be trimmed twice a year. A hedge trimmer with a small blade spacing is entirely sufficient for topiary cuts because the branches are young and thin.
  • Cutting Back (Radical Cutting)
    Radical pruning is particularly necessary for older hedges. It ensures that they not only grow upwards but also appear less misshapen and holey at the bottom. The branches are cut back heavily, a practice known in expert circles as 'putting it on the stick.' This involves cutting the hedge back to a height of approximately 15 to 20 cm above the ground. The plant can then form new shoots, growing back into a hedge. It is then possible to redefine the shape of the hedge. Radical pruning is recommended for hedges that have not been maintained for many years and are therefore completely out of shape.

Can hedges be trimmed in summer?

Yes, hedges can be trimmed in summer, but only shape or maintenance pruning is permitted. Pruning or radical cutting is not allowed in summer, as there may be breeding birds in the hedges from March to the end of September, and they could be disturbed by such activities.

What should I consider when caring for a hedge?

Of course, it is important not to perform any radical pruning between March and September, only trimming the hedge into shape if necessary. When caring for the hedge, the height should definitely be taken into account. Depending on the federal state or municipality, the maximum hedge height can vary greatly, but it is usually between 1.80 m and 2 m.

If hedges are completely out of shape, we recommend radical pruning within the permitted period. The bushes are cut back drastically to a height of 15 to 20 cm. This makes it possible for the hedge to grow back denser, and the shape can also be determined.

When trimming the hedge, ensure that the cut is as trapezoidal as possible. This means that the hedge should be wider at the bottom than at the top. If the opposite is the case, the hedge shades itself, which can result in bare spots at the base.

To achieve a straight hedge, stretch a guide line along the crown of the hedge at the desired height. This serves as orientation.

When trimming the hedge with a hedge trimmer, it is also recommended to move from your back. The arms should not be moved too much.

How do I achieve a dense hedge?

If you desire a dense hedge, it is crucial to make the right choice when purchasing hedge plants. Evergreen hedge plants are well-suited for this purpose as they maintain their beautiful green and dense foliage throughout the year. However, since no hedge plant naturally grows in the desired straight block shape, care also plays a major role. A certain amount of pruning is always necessary to maintain the dense shape. The ideal pruning time can vary from plant to plant. Older hedges can be stimulated to produce new shoots by radical pruning, which can then be shaped into the desired form.

Man on ladder cutting a hedge

Am I obligated to trim my hedge on my neighbour's side?

JYes, if the hedge is planted on their own property, the owner must also trim the hedge on the neighbor's side. According to the law, items that are firmly attached to land are essential parts of a property. This includes hedges. According to Section 94 Paragraph 1 Sentence 2 BGB (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch), when a plant is planted it becomes an essential part of the property for which the property owner is responsible. This means that the person on whose property the hedge is planted also has to cut it, from both sides.

When is it advisable to radically cut a hedge?

Radical pruning is always appropriate when a hedge has completely lost its shape. However, radical pruning is only permitted between October 1st and February 28th or 29th.

What can I do about gaps in the hedge?

Gaps often arise in the hedge because too little sunlight reaches the affected areas. It is often enough to simply cut back adjacent branches that cast shadows on the hedge. This allows sunlight to return to the spot, and the hole can close again.

Larger gaps can be closed by placing two adjacent shoots over the hole. Two bamboo sticks are used for this, simply crossed, allowing the shoots to be placed across the hole either diagonally or horizontally. To close the hole, the tips of the shoots should be shortened slightly to encourage renewed branching. The hole usually closes itself

If no shoots of sufficient length are available, the only option left is to replant. Hedge plants that are the same height as the existing hedge are ideal for this; otherwise, it could take too long for the new plant to grow and close the hole.

How high can I let my hedge grow?

Tall hedges with paths in between

It is unfortunately a misconception that the height of the hedge only plays a role in allotment gardens. However, there is no universally valid statement regarding hedge height. The reason for this is that the maximum hedge height is determined by the federal states and is therefore regulated differently. In most federal states, however, the following guideline values apply: hedge height 2 meters, distance to the property line 0.5 m. To avoid problems with the authorities, it is recommended to inquire at the city's public order office to determine which values are applicable.

How often should I trim hedges?

How often a hedge needs to be trimmed depends primarily on the type of a plant. Deciduous hedges should be trimmed twice a year, while for evergreen hedges, once a year may be sufficient. However, it is recommended to trim hedges twice a year to ensure healthy growth and a consistently beautiful shape.

How long does it take for a hedge to achieve density?

The duration can vary greatly and depends on the type of hedge. There are fast-growing hedges that grow between 30 and 40 cm per year, while others only grow up to 15 cm. The faster a hedge plant grows, the quicker the hedge becomes dense. This emphasizes the importance of choosing the right hedge plant. However, regular care should also be taken into account, as the hedge can only become nice and dense through consistent trimming.

Useful tips for hedge trimming

  • Cords are tensioned for even height
    A string is a good tool to achieve a uniform height. It should be stretched at the desired height, for example, between two piles. Any type of cord is suitable for this, such as bricklayer's cord. This allows for cutting the hedge to an even height and achieving a clean finish.
  • Long-sleeved clothing and gloves for personal protection
    Although motorized hedge trimmers are very thorough, they can also be dangerous. It is important to ensure you have good protective equipment. While protective clothing can be somewhat inconvenient, especially in the warm season, it should not be neglected. Long-sleeved clothing, protective gloves, and sturdy shoes ensure the hedge can be trimmed safely. To protect your eyes, it is advisable to wear protective glasses.
  • Drop hedge section onto cloth for easy cleaning
    To facilitate the disposal of cut branches and shoots, a cloth should be placed under the work area. The hedge cuttings then fall onto this cloth and can be easily disposed of without having to laboriously sweep everything up with a rake or a broom.


Hedges are a natural privacy screen that is particularly beautiful to look at, but only if the hedge is maintained regularly. In this case, regular trimming is essential. If necessary, you should also consider subjecting the hedge to radical pruning. Always pay attention to the time of year: topiary pruning can be done all year round, while pruning is recommended only between October and February. It's up to you whether your hedge becomes a piece of jewellery or an eyesore.

Created: January, 11 2024