Trimming tall hedges

Our guide takes you through how to trim tall hedges in just 5 steps – and includes practical tips on tools and technique.

Overview: Trimming tall hedges

  • Trim tall hedges at least once or twice a year to keep them dense and well-maintained
  • Use cordless long-reach hedge trimmers, and a ladder if needed
  • Note that pruning is prohibited between 1 March and 30 September
  • First cut the sides, tapering the hedge towards the top, then fold down the hedge trimmer bar to trim the top of the hedge

Why trim tall hedges? 

You should trim hedges at least once or twice a year so that they remain dense and well-maintained – regardless of whether you’re trimming a thuja hedge, yew hedge, beech hedge or privet hedge. Without trimming, they can become too high and too wide, and grow straggly. If that happens, they no longer function adequately as privacy screening.

When should you trim tall hedges?

Light maintenance trimming is only permitted if there are no birds nesting in the hedge. The NABU Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union recommends that even these maintenance cuts should not be carried out during the main breeding season between March and June.

A man searching through a densely growing hedge for bird nests

A suitable time for a gentle corrective or aesthetic trim of tall hedges is around St. John’s Day, at the end of June. However, it is not permitted to drastically trim hedge plants or cut them back hard to the main stem during this time.

To avoid disturbing birds and other animals during the nesting or breeding period, cutting is generally prohibited in Germany from 1 March to 30 September (inclusive).

A woman wearing safety glasses and gloves trims a hedge with a STIHL hedge trimmer

When can you trim hedges?

The German Federal Nature Conservation Act sets out exactly when hedges may be cut and when radical pruning is prohibited. Our guide will tell you when you can trim hedges and what fines you could face in the event of violations.

Beware of poisonous hedges

Some shrubs and hedges are poisonous. Yew is not suitable for households that include children or pets, because the seeds in its bright red berries are very poisonous.

You should always wear gloves when touching freshly cut stems of thuja, cherry laurel or cypress

Some caution is also required when trimming privet and box. Always make sure you wear the right protective clothing when pruning and maintaining your hedge. 

Trimming tall hedges: preparation 

Thorough preparation supports safe and tidy hedge trimming – so take your time to get it right. Every time you trim a hedge, start off by checking whether there are any birds’ nests in the hedge.


When you need to trim your tall hedges, first prepare the right material and tools. Even tall, long or extra-wide hedges can be kept in shape with a STIHL long-reach hedge trimmer such as the STIHL HLA 56 cordless long-reach hedge trimmer. The cutter bar can be rotated through up to 145 degrees, so it can be conveniently adjusted to the ideal angle.

A man in front of a hedge placing a STIHL HLA 56 cordless long-reach hedge trimmer on the lawn
Get the necessary tools ready before starting work.

Instructions: How to trim tall hedges 

When it comes to trimming tall, thick or wide hedges, it’s all about getting the right technique – so let us take you through this task step by step.

How to correctly dispose of cuttings 

If you have tall hedges to cut, you also need to dispose of the clippings appropriately after completing the work. To do this, use a leaf rake to gather all the clippings into small piles along the hedge.

A man wearing ear protection shreds hedge trimmings

Shredded clippings are disposed of or reused.

Fetch the shredder so that you can shred the cuttings correctly on-site. You can now use a leaf rake to distribute some of the shredded cuttings under the hedge for effective mulching. To dispose of your garden waste correctly, you can also take the clippings to a disposal site without shredding them, or compost the shredded waste.

Don’t forget to fertilise your hedge and recognise and treat hedge diseases – so nothing keeps you from having a dense, well-maintained tall hedge.

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