How to Trim Hedges With an Electric Trimmer – Beginners Guide

Have you recently purchased a hedge trimmer and are a bit unsure of how to properly use it? Perhaps you have concerns about safety and doing the job right, so your hedges and shrubs will have the neat, manicured look you desire. This guide will show you the best practices and techniques for trimming hedges with an electric trimmer.

Start at the bottom

When trimming hedges or shrubs, your best bet is to begin cutting near the bottom and slowly work your way up. There’s no need to rush or push the trimmer too hard. Take you time and do the work at a relaxed though steady pace. Also, it isn’t necessary to cut too deep, as you run the risk of cutting off too many branches, which will make the hedge look uneven and an eyesore. It is recommended that you cut off just a few inches at a time.

If you aren’t sure about your cutting technique, I recommend reading this article – here I detail some of the cutting methods that can potentially result in healthier shrubs.

Cut at an angle

Because hedges are wider at the bottom narrower on the top, it’s wise to trim the sides at an angle. By doing this, you’re allowing sunlight to reach the root system of the shrub or hedge.

Here is a video by Home Depot that shows you what I’ve just talked about:

Best time of the year to trim hedges and shrubs

Experts say that you shouldn’t trim your hedges in the early spring because birds are still nesting. Late spring, summer and early fall are all ideal times for doing this work. Here’s another professional tip: I recommend trimming hedges either in the early morning or afternoon. Trimming during the heat of the day in the summer months enables the sun to scorch the ends of branches that have been cut.

Cutting the top of a hedge

Here’s another tip many professionals suggest doing if you want your hedges looking just right: when cutting the top of a hedge flat, hold the trimmer level and slowly guide it back and forth to the left and to the right. Again, concentrate on what you’re doing, and cut only a few inches at a time.

What size are your hedges and shrubs?

For small-to-medium-sized hedges, you should be able to trim then to the desired height working freehand while standing on the ground. But when it comes to long hedgerows, the best piece of advice I can give you is to stretch a line that is tied to two wooden stakes along the hedgerow to cut in in place. Once this is done, you can guide your trimmer along the line in a straight fashion, so the hedge is cut even.

Once you’ve trimmed a good portion of the hedge, turn off the trimmer, set it on the ground and use a leaf rake to remove the severed branches and leave that have accumulated inside. Take a good look at the hedge to ensure that it looks the way you want it to. If not, make some finishing passes.

Tall hedges

For hedges and shrubs that are tall and not so easy to gain access to, I recommend using a hedge trimmer that has extended – reach capabilities. Not only is this convenient, it’s also the safest way to trim tall hedges. What exactly is an extended-reach trimmer?

It’s a specialty tool attached to a long, adjustable shaft. This is great for people who don’t like to or don’t feel safe standing on a ladder.

Other tips for trimming perfect hedges

It may seem painfully obvious, but you should do regular maintenance of your shrubs and hedges. They do grow quickly and – if not trimmed regularly – will look unkempt and ugly. Finely manicured hedges can enhance the value of a home if you’re trying to sell yours.

Moreover, you need to keep your trimmer blades sharp. If you cut hedges with a dull blade, they can easily snag on the hedge, which will only serve to cause you more aggravation. Either sharpen your blades in your garage, shop, or take them to an approved dealer.

Like chainsaws, hedge trimmers also need to be kept clean. Sap builds up on the blades. Remove these with resin solvent.

Safety concerns you might have

Like any power tool, hedge trimmers are safe if used properly. Always remember to wear steel toe boots that will protect your feet in case the trimmer accidentally falls on them. Eye goggles and ear protectors are also a must. Keep both hands on the trimmer and watch where your fingers are at all times. Another safety tip is to never hold a branch in one hand while using the other to cut it. The trimmer is designed to be used with both hands.

Additionally, before you even set out to work, take account of your surroundings. Ensure that all potential obstacles have been cleared and that there are no hidden wires, hoses, etc.

Electric hedge trimmers compared to cordless and gas – powered models

There are many advantages to using an electric hedge trimmer. Because the trimmer is plugged in, you don’t need to worry about battery power fading. But the cord can also be this type of trimmer’s Achilles Heel.

If you need to move around a large property, unless you have a really long extension cord, it isn’t going to happen. Also, keep in mind that in the past, users who weren’t paying attention accidentally severed their cords. When this mishap occurs, not only do you have a destroyed cord, the machine also doesn’t work.

The three basic types of hedge trimmers are gas-powered, corded electric and battery-powered models. While the electric trimmer has many good things going for it, it doesn’t quite stand up to its gas-powered counterpart in terms of sheer engine power as well as the ability to have free movement on a large property with heavy shrubs and hedges.

If you opt for buying a gas powered model, you can check out my top recommendations here.

Battery – operated hedge trimmers also allow free movement but have a distinct disadvantage in terms of the user having to frequently change and charge batteries.


I hope you will find these tips to be useful. They are designed to save you time and to ensure that your hedges are the neatest they can be. It can feel awkward and a bit unnerving if you use a hedge trimmer for the first time. But relax and follow these tips and you’ll get along just fine.

Peter Toth

Hi! I'm Peter, the owner of BackyardGadget. Working around the house has always been a big part of my life. I've created this site to share my experience, and to help people choose the right tools for the job. Thank you for stopping by!

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