How to Trim Bushes into Shapes


Shaped bushes and hedges make a lovely addition to the garden, and can transform a boring corner into a featured area. Well-shaped bushes do not happen by accident; it takes time, patience and several years to achieve the best shapes. Shape the bush well before it achieves full size, or before it becomes too large for its current location. Always wear eye protection, long-sleeved shirts and gloves when trimming bushes.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand pruners
  • Hedge shears
  • Handsaw
  • Select deciduous shrubs at the nursery that are 1 to 2 feet high and that have multiple stems. Plant it according to the suggested accompanying instructions, in an area that receives adequate light and shade for the plant's needs.

  • Cut the shrub back to about 6 to 8 inches tall, a few days after planting; this encourages low growth and gives the bush a good solid base.

  • Trim off half of the new growth late in the first season, before bud break.

  • Trim off half of the new growth again in the second season.

  • Plan the overall shape you wish to make with your bushes. Texas A&M notes that the best shapes are natural looking, such as slightly rounded or pointier at the top and wider at the base. Bushes trimmed with broad float tops or straight angles require more overall care, and may accumulate snow on the top of the bush.

  • Shape the bush until you achieve your desired overall shape. Use hand shears for smaller branches, hedge shears for large branches, and handsaws for extra thick branches. Step back from the bush from time to time to make sure you are making the desired overall shape, or ask someone else to help you select branches to eliminate. Keep the top portion of the bush a little thinner than the base. This allows light to filter down inside the bush and keeps the overall shape cleaner.

  • Trim the bushes back into shape before growth exceeds your basic shape by about 1 foot.

Tips & Warnings

  • Only use sharp, clean cutting equipment and make clean cuts in the wood. Do not leave stubs or rough edges on the branches, since the bush may develop rot or die.

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