Trimming beech hedges

Beech hedges are popular, easy to trim and thick-growing. Find out more about the best time to trim beech hedges and how to maintain them.

A man wearing protective equipment trimming a beech hedge with a STIHL HLA 66 cordless long-reach hedge trimmer
Beech hedges are very easy to trim.

Overview: Trimming beech hedges 

  • Beech hedges should be trimmed twice a year 
  • We recommend doing it in February and at the end of June 
  • Beech hedges are particularly easy to trim, and you can even cut into old wood without causing lasting damage 
  • Observe the hedge trimming regulations set forth in the German Federal Nature Conservation Act  
  • As a maintenance measure, you should fertilise hedges and water young beech hedges regularly 

When is the best time to trim a beech hedge? 

The question of when to cut a beech hedge is easily answered. As beech hedges grow quickly, it is best to cut them twice a year, once in early spring and once around Midsummer’s Day. February is a good time for cutting a beech hedge back hard if necessary, because at this time you will not disturb any breeding birds and new growth hasn’t yet begun. 

Distant view of a man wearing protective equipment while pruning a beech hedge with a STIHL HLA 66 hedge trimmer

Hedges cannot be cut at all times of the year.

From a legal point of view, you should avoid using a hedge trimmer after the end of February, as Section 39(5) of the German Federal Nature Conservation Act prohibits dramatic pruning of beech hedges from 1 March to 30 September – this legislation is intended to protect breeding birds.  

However, you can always make light shaping and maintenance cuts to your beech hedge once you have ensured that no birds are breeding in it. An additional maintenance cut around Midsummer’s Day (24 June) is a good idea. 

With regular hedge trimming your plants will remain beautifully shaped and grow back densely – but note that in autumn, hornbeams gradually lose their leaves and so become less sight-obstructing. Hornbeam hedges initially turn yellow at this time of year, while copper beech hedges take on a bright orange-red colour. Both copper beech and hornbeam hedges can be treated in the same way.

How to trim beech hedges correctly

Whether your hedge is a European beech or a hornbeam, to trim a beech hedge correctly there are a few things you should take into account to ensure your hedge will grow back healthy and dense. We explain how to trim your beech hedge correctly.  

Cutting a beech hedge back hard  

Trimming a beech hedge is a rewarding task for beginners, as beech tolerates cutting so well you can’t really go wrong. You can significantly trim your beech hedge in both height and width, and it will grow back densely. You can rejuvenate an old beech hedge by cutting it right back: before spring starts, use an electric chainsaw to saw off all old branches above the ground, so that only the central stem remains with side branches about 10 centimetres long. Trim all non-branching stems with the hedge trimmer. Mechanical secateurs are ideal for finer work.

Trimming beech for dense growth

Around Midsummer’s Day on 24 June, it’s a good idea to give your beech hedge another gentle trim so that it becomes dense with new growth. Please bear in mind that harsh pruning is prohibited during this time to protect breeding birds. Keep a close eye out for birds’ nests when you start cutting your beech hedge into shape.  

Carefully remove all new stems that have not yet branched, as well as any unsightly extra-long protruding stems. You should also look out for old and diseased stems to remove them. However, be sure to leave in place a third of the new growth from the current year. 

Neatly cut, well-maintained trapezoidal beech hedge beside a lawn

Cutting the hedge into a trapezoid shape ensures it gets enough light and will not be overly laden down with snow in the winter.


When shaping your beech hedge, you can use some stretched twine as a guide to trim the plant into trapezoidal shape – slimmer at the top, wider at the bottom. This shape ensures your beech hedge gets enough sunlight and helps prevent snow breakages in the winter. 

Cutting like this will make your beech hedge grow dense and helps produce a compact, tidy appearance.

Discover tools for beech cutting

Close-up of a beech hedge

You should care for and water your beech hedge.

Caring for beech hedges 

After deep pruning, it’s a good idea to fertilise your beech hedge. Fertilising the hedge ensures it has a sufficient supply of valuable nutrients and promotes the start of healthy regrowth in spring. You should also water a young beech hedge regularly. Old beech hedges only need to be watered during dry periods so that they don't turn brown. However, you should always be sure to avoid waterlogging when maintaining hedges. 

In order to look after your beech hedge correctly, it is important to be able to recognise and treat hedge diseases. It is also a good idea to fill in any gaps in the hedge to give your beech hedge a compact and well-groomed appearance.

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