The Ultimate Guide to Shaping and Trimming Bushes

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If you have hedges, shrubs, bushes, or something similar you know that it can be hard to keep them looking nice. Bushes can grow quickly and become unmanageable. The last thing you want is a bush that grows so tall it starts to crowd your front porch. Although it might take some work, bushes should look neat and tidy. Don’t worry if you’re a beginner at trimming bushes or you’re a first time home buyer. This ultimate guide will walk you through the basics of shaping and trimming bushes. When you’re done reading this article you’ll be able to go out and make your bushes look amazing. 

Choosing Your Tool

To keep your bushes looking nice you’ll need to choose from a variety of tools. Depending on your budget and the amount of work you want to, there are different options.

Handheld Trimmers

Handheld trimmers are perfect for low maintenance, small bushes. Sometimes all you need to do is a little clip here and there. Handheld trimmers make it easy to keep your bushes looking neat. As an added bonus, handheld trimmers don’t cost very much. Most handheld trimmers are around $10-$15. They sort of resemble scissors but you operate them by squeezing them. Whenever you see a stray twig, whip out your handheld trimmers and cut it off. 


Loppers are similar to handheld trimmers but the handles are much longer. You can’t hold loppers in one hand like handheld trimmers. The handles of loppers are typically around 20-30 inches long. You hold one handle in each of your hands and open and close the loppers to cut the bush. Handheld trimmers are used for small stray twigs while loppers are used for thicker branches. Loppers are best for more heavy duty trimming. 

Electronic Trimmers

If you have a lot of work to do, electronic trimmers are the way to go. Electronic trimmers make trimming bushes really easy. Some electronic trimmers are battery operated and therefore cordless. Other electronic trimmers require a cord to be plugged in. Electronic trimmers are essentially lesser chainsaws. They aren’t meant to go through thick tree branches, but they are still plenty sharp. Even electronic trimmers are decently priced. A lot of electronic trimmers range from $25-$80. 

trimming bushes

Image Source: Pixabay

Starting to Trim

Envision Your Shape

Think about the shape that you want your bushes to be. It’s best not to just start hacking away at your bushes before you think about it. Do you want tall rounded bushes or short squared off bushes? Squared off bushes can be harder to create because they need straight and even edges.

Start Simple

Using your trimming tool of choice, start trimming your bushes. Remove old, dead branches first to make room for the growing ones. You may need to thin out your bush quite a bit to ensure that light gets to the growing bush. Make sure that you cut the branches longer than you want them to begin with. This way you can always cut them shorter if they’re too long. If you cut them too short you’ll have to wait until they grow again. 

Outline Your Shape

Unless you have a really good eye, it’s hard to make your bush look perfectly even. To help you out, use some simple yarn or string and some stakes. Stake the yarn into the shape you want your bush to be. You can use a level to make sure that the yarn is perfectly straight. This will make your job a whole lot easier instead of trying to eyeball it. When you start cutting, make long even strokes while keeping your trimmer as level as you can. This is harder with an electronic trimmer because it cuts so fast. A lopper will let you take it slow and think about each cut of each branch, making it easier to make it even. But trimming bushes with a lopper takes a lot longer than with an electronic trimmer.

trimming bushes

Image Source: Pixabay

Can I Use the Techniques for Shaping and Trimming Bushes on Flowering Kale?

When it comes to successfully growing flowering kale, you may wonder if the techniques used for shaping and trimming bushes can be applied. While pruning methods are generally similar, it is important to consider the specific needs of flowering kale. Seek guidance from gardening experts to ensure you achieve the desired results while preserving the health and beauty of your flowering kale plants.

Keeping Your Bush Healthy

How often you trim your bush depends on the species of bush you have. No matter the species of bush you should always make sure the bottom of the bush is wider than the top of the bush. This will ensure that the sunlight reaches the bottom of the bush. If the top of the bush is too thick, there won’t be enough sunlight reaching the bush’s roots. Evergreen bushes should typically be trimmed two to three times a year. Trim your bush during its growing season, this is between May and September for evergreen bushes. This will help your bush to grow thick and lush without thin spots. 


Make sure you’re safe when you’re trimming bushes. If you’re using an electronic trimmer, you need to be even more careful. Electronic trimmers are fast and sharp and can injure you. It’s best to wear safety glasses and gloves. Trimming bushes will make all sorts of leaves and branches fly around you, you could get hit in eye or in the face. Wearing gloves will protect your hands from sharp twigs as well. Gloves will also protect your hands from sharp blades. The most important thing you can do for protection is to go slowly. Make slow and deliberate cuts to prevent slipping with the blade. It works better to go slow when you’re learning to trim bushes so you can get the shape you want.

trimming bushes

Image Source: Pixabay

Summing Up

Trimming bushes isn’t hard! Take it slow and your bush will look clean, tidy, and inviting. Be sure that you’re using the proper tools for your bush to make your job easier. Remove any dead or dying branches first to help your bush grow as healthy as you can. Use string to make an outline of the shape you want your bush to be. Make slow and careful cuts, making sure your blade is even while you do it. Your bush will look so good without having any stray branches poking out. Trimmed bushes look welcoming to friends and family and increase curb appeal. Sometimes a little more curb appeal is exactly what your house needs to give it an extra boost. Trimmed bushes can give your house the boost you’re looking for! 

Related Article: Best Hedge Trimmer: Top 10 Reviewed and Our Pick

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