Informal Pruning of Hedging Plants

Used as boundary hedging to create privacy and shelter, as living green backdrops for colourful beds and borders, as stand-alone shrubs, to divide garden spaces, or as architectural features and focal points of interest in pots or containers, hedging plants are truly invaluable plants in any garden.

And just like any other plant, they’ll need care and attention to make sure they perform to their very best.

Pruning is key to keeping your hedging plants in the very best condition, and it’s crucial to make sure you prune at the right time and in the right way.

Informal pruning is as the term suggests – an easy way to keep your hedging plants in order. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with a formally shaped hedging plant or an informally planted boundary hedge, our guide to informal pruning explains timing, tools and technique – which means that you can spend less time tending your hedging plants and more time watching them flourish!

Timing and tools

The timing of your pruning can be crucial – to the health of your hedging plants and to the amount of work you give yourself!

July is the perfect point in the season for informal pruning, and will ensure that your hedging is strong and in good shape (in more ways than one!) to face the challenges of the seasons to come.

Don’t be tempted to prune earlier as you risk sending your plants into shock, which will make them more susceptible to pests and diseases such as box blight and conifer aphid. You’ll also stress them out, which will force growth spurts which mean that you’ll need to keep pruning! And don’t forget with larger hedging plants that nesting birds can often have two broods in a season, so they may still be using your hedging plants for shelter and protection for their young.

And remember we’re informally pruning, so get out your topiary and garden shears and leave your secateurs in the shed!

How to prune…

We’ve chosen two examples for this feature and will show you how to informally prune a box ball and a conifer hedge.

A box ball

You can see that our box ball is growing very healthily – which is obviously good. This growing enthusiasm does mean, however, that it’s growing out of the required ball shape – the very feature which makes it such a great focal point!

So no drastic action is required, it just needs a little tidying up to restore the form.

Using pruning shears, lightly trim the excess foliage to regain shape as Marcus shows in the images below. Once you’ve covered the whole plant, brush it over lightly with your hands to dislodge loose pieces and identify any areas which need further attention.


Trim off any remaining foliage as required – and your box ball is pruned!

A conifer hedge

For hedging plants used in the traditional way as boundaries or borders, we’re using long-handled shears (or you could use normal garden shears).

If your hedging is 5ft or less then you’ll be able to trim it standing on the ground, but if it’s any taller then you’ll need to use a step-ladder.

Trim the sides first, reducing the foliage back to the required point as Marcus is demonstrating in the images below. Be sure to angle the sides in slightly from the bottom to the top to form an ‘A’ shape – which allows light into the bottom of the hedging (reducing the risk of baldness), and ensures the top is less likely to splay open.

Once you’re happy with the sides you can cut the top – very flat for a formal finish or slightly rounded for a more informal look.


Whatever hedging plants you’re pruning, remember not to be over-enthusiastic to start with, you can always prune more but never less!

And finally…

Once you’ve finished the pruning and tidied your clippings away to your compost heap, it’s always a good idea to apply a generous mulch around the base of your plants. This helps to restrict weed grow, aids moisture-retention in the surrounding soil and adds nutrition as it breaks down.

If you need a little help to make a perfect pruning job, or you’re looking for new hedging plants then visit us in store NOW!

We have a good range of garden, topiary, pruning and long-handled shears in stock, a variety of mulches and a great selection of formal and informal hedging plants – and of course we’re always happy to offer friendly, expert advice if you need it too!





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