How to Shape a Box Hedge

With proper care and pruning techniques, it's quite easy to shape a box hedge into a number of interesting configurations. Whether you're just looking to maintain a perfect edge along the top of your hedge, dabble in the art of Bonsai or even attempt a topiary animal, a level and a pair of pruning shears will take you far.

Wait for consistent, steady new growth on a box hedge before you attempt to shape it. New growth is usually marked by a lighter color of green along the outside edges of the plant. It indicates that the box hedge is healthy and ready to respond to pruning.

Shape a box hedge by keeping all individual plants approximately the same size throughout the growing process. You can use a smaller pair of pruning shears when the box hedges are young to reduce trauma to the plant.

Use two sticks and a string to mark the horizontal limits along the top of the box hedge. Use a pair of sharp pruning shears to snip along the line of the string, using a level to keep it taut and straight between the sticks.

Trim the sides of the box hedge by eye, holding the pruning shears vertically. Even if the sides of the hedge aren't perfect, they will be much less noticeable than an uneven top. Trimming the sides of the box hedge will allow the bottom to fill in more consistently.

Cut the box hedge at least twice per season to shape it correctly and stimulate new growth. Cut once in the spring after the last frost has passed, since new growth can be very susceptible to cold weather. Shape the box hedge once more in the fall when growth has slowed and the plant is ready for the winter.

Experiment with different shapes once your box hedge is stable and thriving. You can trim your box hedge into a variety of interesting shapes, such as pyramids or even topiary animals. The trick is to examine the trunk structure of a mature hedge to determine what is possible, and then slowly trim the hedge into the desired shape over a couple of seasons.


You may not see a lot of growth during the first season of a newly planted box hedge. Simply water the plants at least once a day, trim the hedges to the same size and prepare for a growth spurt during the second season.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Sticks
  • String
  • Level
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