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How to trim a conifer hedge

You will need

  • Conifer hedge
  • Electric or petrol-powered hedge-trimmer
  • Safety goggles, gloves
  • String line and canes
  • Secure ladder and/or work platform for tall hedges
Do it: May - September
Takes just: 15 minutes per metre run of hedge


The easiest way to trim established conifer hedges is by using a powered hedge-trimmer to give a regular, even finish. Quick-growing conifers will need about three cuts per year during the growing season, at roughly eight week intervals.

Inspect your hedge thoroughly before trimming it to ensure there are no birds nesting within. It is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built.

How to do it


Use long bamboo canes to mark the top edge along one side of the hedge. Push the canes down into the hedge.


Tie strong string between the canes to mark a straight edge as a guide to cut to. Check the string line is taut.


Trim the top of the hedge by holding the hedge-trimmer horizontally with both hands and using the string line as a guide. Wear protective goggles and gloves and make sure you have a firm footing on a ladder or a platform for tall hedges.


Clip the sides of the hedge using the string as a guide. Hold the hedge-trimmer vertically and make long sweeping strokes to ensure an even finish.


Remove the canes and string line before using the hedge-trimmer to tidy up the top edges. Hold the cutting bar at a 45-degree angle.

Our tip

Test any ladders and platforms to make sure they are stable before getting on them with a hedge-trimmer. Make them more secure by tying them in to the hedge with a strong rope.

Discuss this project

Talkback: How to trim a conifer hedge
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raca 13/01/2012 at 16:03

Hi, if the conifers are very tall and they are cut to the desired height how much of the out lying branches can be cut back to create a manageable hedge, ie if trimmed back to far will it still grow back?

Doobles 08/08/2013 at 18:38

We have just moved house and in the garden there s a conifer hedge about 8ft thick. Cutting back will take it to the brown undergrowth. Will this sprout green again or stay 'dead' looking? Is it best to remove and put in a fence???

James Kelly3 28/08/2014 at 21:00

Hello Adam,
Your advice and tips are very useful for the future. I've only trimmed my conifer hedge once and regrettably killed off a couple of previously health growth. What have I done wrong ?

Best wishes
Jim Kelly

nutcutlet 28/08/2014 at 21:03

Hi Jim, If you cut into old would it won't regrow