How to Trim a Tall Hedge

Updated November 21, 2016

Tall hedges can provide privacy and noise control for your home. A tall hedge can replace a privacy fence. Some hedges may grow higher than 20 feet without proper maintenance. To keep your hedges at a manageable height, trim your hedges at least twice a year. The main cut should be made in the winter when the hedge is not actively growing. A second cut may be done in August. Small trims can be made throughout the summer when the hedge becomes unruly.

Set up the platform ladder close to the bushes, if needed, to trim tall hedges. This will allow you to move alongside of the hedges.

Measure the desired height. While your partner holds the ladder, use the tape measure to determine the height you want your bushes. Use the spray paint to make a hash mark 1/4 inch above the desired height.

Repeat every 2 feet. Move down about 2 feet and measure the hedges again. Make another hedge mark at the correct height. Continue this until you have marked the entire row of hedges. Depending upon the length of your hedges, move the ladder as needed.

Connect the hashes. Use the spray paint to paint a line going the entire length of the hedges.

Trim the top. While standing on the platform ladder use the hedge shears to trim at the bottom of the line. Do this across the entire length of the hedges. Cut out all of the spray paint from the hedges.

Trim the sides. Use the shears to trim the sides of the hedges. Start at the bottom of the hedges and cut up toward the top. Always cut at an angle. The lower branches should be wider than the top branches. This allows for the lower branches to receive sunlight.


A string can be tied across the bushes as an alternative marker to the spray paint. Be careful not to cut the string when trimming the bush.


Never stand on a high surface with a sharp object without a partner to help steady you.

Things You'll Need

  • Platform ladder
  • Person to hold the ladder
  • Tape measure
  • Spray paint
  • Hedge shears
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