How to trim a box hedge – expert tips to neaten up your hedges this summer

The experts also reveal when to trim your box hedge and how to support future growth

Box hedge in garden
(Image credit: Future PLC)

If a box hedge is your chosen way to divide your garden over other fence ideas or garden edging ideas, you might have noticed that your hedge have gone through a growth spurt thanks to the summer rain and sunshine and is overdue a trim.

‘Box hedges are one of the most traditional hedging plants. Being a slow-growing hedge species means that they are great at keeping their shape but require slightly more maintenance than an informal hedge,’ says Gtech’s Gardening Enthusiast Lucy Rhead.

‘Box hedges look amazing, but are often difficult to look after without expert knowledge or advice,’ reveals Steve Chilton, garden expert at LeisureBench. Because of this many look to professionals to help trim their box hedges and other shaped topiaries. However, you can do it yourself.

William Mitchell, owner of Sutton Manor Nursery, echoes this sentiment. ‘It is possible to cut box hedges with either shears or a hedge trimmer. Avoid using secateurs as they are slower, and it’s harder to keep the hedges level.’

While Paul Hicks, Product and Marketing Manager at STIHL GB, reveals ‘getting the perfect shape is much easier when using the right technique.’

So, here is our step-by-step guide for trimming a box hedge.

Box hedge in garden

(Image credit: Future PLC)

How to trim a box hedge

‘While it may seem daunting, maintaining a hedge is fairly straightforward, as you only need limited tools,’ Lucy reveals.

‘A good pair of hand shears will help you to trim the smaller untidy shrubs and branches within your hedge. When it comes to electrical tools, a lightweight hedge trimmer is best. This will ensure you can easily reach up to the top of the hedge and that you can cut in wide sweeping motions without your arms tiring.’

It is important, however, to keep whichever tool or tools you plan to use sharp and well-lubricated, ‘as a dull blade will not only leave a frayed finish to your hedge but can also be dangerous to use,’ Lucy adds.

Box hedge in garden

(Image credit: Future PLC)

What you’ll need

Step-by-step guide

1. Measure and determine the height of your box hedge

‘Nobody wants a wonky hedge on their drive or in the garden, so it is super important to know how to mark the desired shape of your hedge before starting,’ Lucy proffers. You'll also want to make sure that you protect your eyes and hands when trimming your box hedge, which is why we recommend putting on safety goggles and gloves before you begin.

Once you’ve determined the desired height for your hedge, ‘a top tip is to put wooden stakes into the ground and attach a piece of string to them about a centimetre below your desired height. Then simply take your hedge trimmer and cut, keeping the blade parallel, above that line,’ Lucy explains.

Using this method will ensure a straight and even cut to your hedge.

Box hedge in garden

(Image credit: Future PLC)

2. Start at the top of the hedge

‘It’s beneficial to begin trimming at the top of the hedge, using the string as a reference point to maintain a consistent height,’ clarifies William.

‘Make slow and steady cuts if you aren’t as confident with the equipment and task at hand, moving along the length of the hedge. Trimming small sections slowly will help you to ensure control and accuracy.’

3. Move onto the sides

Once you’ve successfully trimmed the top of the hedge, you can move onto the sides as well as the front and back of the box hedge.

‘Use the existing shape as a guide or create a new shape by cutting at an angle and make sure the sides are slightly narrower at the top, allowing sunlight to reach the lower branches and promote even growth,’ William recommends.

Trim the front and back to give the box hedge a neat and uniform appearance. Much like how you started with the top of the hedge, when you go to trim the sides start from the highest point and work your way down. Take your time to ensure your box hedge is the correct shape.

It’s also worth stepping back to check your progress as you trim. Much like at the hairdressers, it’s always easier to take more off but you won’t be able to put it back on once it’s been cut.

Box hedge in garden

(Image credit: Future PLC)

4. Remove all the clippings

Once you’re happy with how your box hedge looks, don’t forget to sweep up and remove all the trimmings as ‘dead ends, if left, could spread fungal diseases in the future,’ Lucy affirms.

‘Use a broom or a rake to gather and remove the trimmings, and disposing of them in a compost pile will maximise their natural use,’ says William.


When is the best time to trim a box hedge?

'Depending on how dense you want the hedge, will depend on how often you trim it, trimming the hedge more often will give you a denser look and vice versa,' says Lucy.

‘You can continually trim a box hedge throughout summer in order to keep it even and neat. However, some of the most important times for upkeep include the end of May/beginning of June, and the end of September,’ according to Steve.

‘These times generally mark the beginning and end of summer, and it's important that you trim the hedge after the final frost of the winter, and before the first frost of the coming winter.’

‘Trimming it at the end of September should help you maintain a neat, even hedge throughout the winter with little to no maintenance required,’ Steve concludes.

It is worth noting, however, that trimming box hedges during very hot or dry periods is not advisable. ‘If the weather is extremely hot, just wait for it to pass before trimming to give your hedge the best chance of staying healthy,’ affirms William.

‘Choose a dry but cloudy day to trim your box hedge. Cutting it in strong sunlight can increase the risk of leaf scorch while damp conditions can promote the spread of box blight,’ suggests Fiona Jenkins,’s gardening expert.

How to support future hedge growth

Even though you’ve just trimmed your box hedge, it is still important to focus on its overall growth.

‘Don’t forget to occasionally give your hedge and surrounding soil some attention, just as you do with the other plants in your garden,’ says Lucy. You can do this by clearing away dead leaves, weeds and broken branches which may have accumulated under your hedge over time. 

‘To encourage new growth, add some compost or fertilisers to the soil underneath your hedge. While making sure it is being regularly watered, especially during the summer months.’

Should I water a box hedge?

Fiona asserts, ‘with so many small leaves a box hedge can lose a lot of moisture through transpiration, so they need to be watered regularly. However, don’t overwater as the soil should be moist, not saturated.’

‘Watering box hedges should be done at the roots with care taken not to get water on the foliage. This can create a breeding ground for diseases and pests. As box hedges are evergreen, they will need watering in the winter too.’

Ellis Cochrane

Ellis Cochrane has been a Freelance Contributor for Ideal Home since 2023. She graduated with a Joint Honours degree in Politics and English from the University of Strathclyde and between her exams and graduation, started a lifestyle blog where she would share what she was buying, reading and doing. In doing so, she created opportunities to work with some of her dream brands and discovered the possibility of freelance writing, after always dreaming of writing for magazines when she was growing up.

Since then, she has contributed to a variety of online and print publications, covering everything from celebrity news and beauty reviews to her real passion; homes and interiors. She started writing about all things homes, gardens and interiors after joining Decor & Design Scotland as a Freelance Journalist and Social Media Account Manager in 2021. She then started freelancing at House Beautiful, Country Living and in Stylist’s Home team. Ellis is currently saving to buy her first home in Glasgow with far too many Pinterest boards dedicated to her many design ideas and inspirations.