When to Prune a Privet Hedge?

Updated February 21, 2017

A privet hedge is a popular plant for borders and privacy edging on a property line. Many cultivars exist, with a variety of leaf textures and colours. Depending on the cultivar, a privet hedge may grow 4 to 9 feet tall. This hedge is easy to care for, requiring little attention other than pruning, and thrives in a variety of conditions.


Prune a privet hedge in early spring, around mid-March when the hedge is new, or when it does not look full. Prune selected branches of mature hedges as often as needed during the growing season to achieve the desired shape. Privet hedges are tough and hardy, so they can handle aggressive pruning most of the year.


Cut new and spindly hedges down to 4 to 6 inches above the ground to encourage new growth. During the first two years, severe pruning allows the hedge to spread and become fuller at the base, so do not worry about the height of the privet hedge during the early years. After the hedge is established and healthy, allow it to grow to the desired height. Shape the hedge more narrowly at the top than the bottom to allow light to penetrate to the lower branches, and thin the branches on the side that faces the sun to allow light to reach the darker side of the hedge.


Prune a privet hedge to create a specific shape and encourage new growth. Tapering the branches to be narrower at the top allows light to reach the bottom branches, which allows healthy foliage to emerge on these branches. When a hedge is full of bare, woody branches, pruning makes it look new and full again. Whether the hedge is a formal or informal shape, regular pruning will result in a healthy hedge.


Using the right tools makes pruning easier. Use hand pruners to cut away dead or damaged branches. Larger branches more than an inch in diameter may require a curved pruning saw. Lopping shears also work for larger branches, up to an inch in diameter, and these shears have a long handle to reach interior branches. Speciality hedge shears have long blades that help shape the exterior of the hedge.

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About the Author

Chasity Goddard has been writing poetry, fiction and nonfiction since 1996. Her work has appeared in "Backspace" magazine, "Sepia Literary Magazine" and the "Plowman Press." Goddard holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing with a specialization in women's studies from the University of Tennessee.