Trimming a privet hedge

Cut-tolerant and fast-growing, privet is a very popular hedge choice. Learn how to trim a privet hedge the right way.

Privet hedge on a garden plot with lawn and small trees
Privet hedges tolerate cutting very well.

Overview: Trimming a privet hedge

  • June is a good time to trim a privet hedge, and additional trimming is possible at the end of August

  • Observe the provisions set forth in the German Federal Nature Conservation Act (Bundesnaturschutzgesetz): Do not deeply prune a privet hedge between 1 March and 30 September 

  • The dramatic pruning of a privet hedge is sometimes useful for old or diseased privets; shaping is particularly effective for young privets 

  • Trim the height of a privet hedge by one to two thirds to rejuvenate it

  • To make your privet hedge grow denser, you should trim it into a trapezoidal shape so that all parts of the hedge receive sufficient sunlight

Trimming privets: what to look out for

Privet is a low-maintenance cut-friendly shrub which is popular with gardeners and can grow to form a privacy screening hedge.

As privet grows quickly, you should trim your privet hedge regularly to maintain a clear hedge shape – and always take into account the appropriate pruning period.

Beware of poisonous hedges

Some shrubs and hedges are poisonous. You should always wear gloves when touching freshly cut stem of thuja, cherry laurel and cypress. Caution should also be exercised when handling privet and boxwood.


Always make sure you wear the right protective clothing when pruning and maintaining your hedge.

When to cut your privet hedge

The best time to cut your privet hedge into shape is mid- to late June. You may also wish to perform an additional cut at the end of August, before autumn, or in September to ensure that your hedge looks neat and tidy.

 A woman wearing safety glasses and gloves walking through a garden with a STIHL hedge trimmer in her left hand

A dry, cloudy day is perfect for trimming.

For old privet hedges, one cut per year is sufficient.

When considering when to trim your privet hedge, you should bear in mind that deep pruning is only permitted between the beginning of October and the end of February, in accordance with Section 39(5) sentence 2 of the German Federal Nature Conservation Act.

You should ideally choose a cloudy, dry and frost-free day to trim your privet hedge so that the plant is not damaged.

Trimming privet hedges correctly

Whether it’s deep pruning, a rejuvenation cut or gentle shaping, there are a few steps you should take before and after cutting your privet hedge.

You should wear personal protective equipment before working with poisonous privet to prevent injuries when trimming hedges. You should also check carefully to see whether there are any birds in the hedge before cutting the privet, and should have a clean, sharp cordless hedge trimmer and secateurs to hand.  

Garden waste must be disposed of correctly after the hedge has been trimmed. Simply mix the privet cuttings with kitchen waste to speed up the decomposition process. Once you’ve completed a rejuvenation cut, it’s a good idea to shred your privet waste, for example using the STIHL GHE 250 electric shredder.

Deep pruning of your privet hedge

As privet tolerates cutting very well, you can radically trim back your privet hedge without any problems. However, bear in mind that privet regrows more slowly after radical pruning than after regular pruning.

To get an old or diseased privet hedge into new growth again, you can try cutting it back hard, i.e. cutting it off at a hand’s width above the ground with an electric chainsaw.

A woman cutting privet hedge with a STIHL cordless hedge trimmer
Privet tolerates cutting very well.

Cutting prohibited!

You must observe the ban on hedge trimming between the beginning of March and the end of September.

If you want to deeply prune your privet, you must do so by the end of February at the latest.

Rejuvenating a privet hedge

You can cut your privet back as far as the old wood to rejuvenate it.

To do so, use a cordless hedge trimmer such as the STIHL PB 20 pruning shears to cut your privet to one to two thirds of its original height and trim back the side shoots. You should leave about three centimetres of growth on the plant so the privet can reshoot from there.

Shaping privet for topiary

Whether cones, balls or spirals, privets are ideal for an aesthetically pleasing topiary cut. This works particularly well with young privet. 

Start with a rough shape and work towards ever more refined lines, best achieved with the help of a template. Cordless hedge trimmers are ideal for the initial rough cutting but you should switch to manual secateurs for finer work. For a well-groomed appearance, trim your privet hedge regularly, especially during the summer months.

Making your privet hedge grow dense

To make your privet hedge denser, you should trim it frequently, especially in the first few years, as it encourages stems to branch and forked growth to form.

You should cut your privet into a trapezoidal shape to ensure dense growth even in the lower sections – this will ensure daylight reaches your hedge evenly and that it does not turn brown, and will also help snow slide off the hedge more easily in winter.

To ensure that you can enjoy your privet hedge for a long time to come, we recommend that you try to identify and treat hedge disorders and fill gaps in the hedge.