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The best time to trim a privet hedge

Updated February 21, 2017

A privet hedge requires careful attention to keep it and your garden looking its best. However, pruning a shrub at the wrong time can often have unfortunate consequences. Of course, the best time to prune a privet hedge is frequently different for each gardener. Armed with the proper information, however, you can determine when the optimal time for pruning your privet hedges is with ease.

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New growth pruning

After planting the privet hedge, you need to prune to set the privet shrub's initial shape. Thereafter, to decide the best time to prune a privet hedge that has been freshly planted, you need to monitor the rate of growth and prune whenever the hedge has grown at least 15 cm (1/2 foot), but no more than 20 cm (8 inches). You will want to prune near the previous pruning point, give or take 5 cm (2 inches), depending on the height and width that you desire. It is important to make the final pruning a minimum of two weeks before first frost, if not more, to give the privet shrub time to recover before the cold weather. After the privet hedge has reached its desired height and shape, you may switch to maintenance pruning.

Rejuvenation pruning

For rejuvenation, all stems of the privet hedges are pruned severely back, very near the ground. The purpose of this pruning is to "reset" the privet, encouraging entirely new growth, and it is a solution for when your privet shrub has grown unwieldy and the hedge is overgrown. Since this is a severe pruning, it should be done in early spring to give the shrub the entire warm season to recover.

Maintenance pruning

The best time to prune a privet hedge for maintenance varies with your local climate. In climates where the weather and soil are favourable, the privet grows year round and must be trimmed regularly. This may be up to three or four times each year and depends on the rate of growth. In climates where privet hedges go dormant in the cooler seasons, prune once in early spring, after the last frost but before growth takes off. Prune once more in midsummer.

Tools for pruning privet hedges

When pruning privet hedges, it is important to have your tools in good shape. Shears should be sharp, as a clean cut discourages the infection of the privet hedge by fungal disease. If the pruning to be done is of extensive nature, it would be worthwhile to invest in electric or motorised shears to take much of the labour out of the chore. Luckily, privet shrubs are hardy plants and are will likely be forgiving of errors with tools.

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About the Author

Jean Asta has been a freelance writer for domestic and international clients since 2005. She also acts as a training consultant to businesses and nonprofit organizations in the southeast United States. Asta holds a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit management and a Bachelor of Arts in English literature, both from the University of Georgia.

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