Trimming Beech Hedges – How To Prune Beech Hedge Trees

By: Laura Miller

Having a tidy property is one reason for trimming beechhedgerows. Left untrimmed, beech hedge plants would return to their naturalstate as scraggly bushes or trees. There are other reasons for homeowners tolearn how to prune beech hedge.

Regularly pruning and trimming beech hedges encourages morebranches and leaves to grow. This translates to a fuller hedge with fewer gapsor bald spots. Likewise, pruning at the correct time of year allows beech hedgeplants to retain their foliage throughout the winter.

How to Prune Beech Hedge

Select the best tool for the job. Firing up the hedgetrimmer may get the job done quicker, but rough-hewed leaves can turn brown andleave the beech hedgerow looking unattractive. The recommended tool fortrimming beech hedges would be pruning shears or handpruners.

Set up a string guide. If you’re looking for professionalquality results, you’ll want the top and sides of the hedge to look level andeven when you’re finished. Using a guide makes it easier to achieve thosegoals.

Start with the top of the hedge, then do the sides. Afterleveling the top of the hedge, work down the side of each plant from top toground level. Taper the beech hedge plants outward like the letter “A.” Thisallows light to reach the lower branches and encourages leaf coverage near thebottom.

Prune each shoot individually. The optimal place to cut eachbranch is near a bud. Cut at an angle so the lowest part of the cut is near thebase of the bud and the upper part is slightly above the bud.

Clean up the trimmings. Clean as you go or rake up thetrimmings when you’re done to give the hedgerow a tidy appearance.

Best Time to Prune Beech Hedge

To maintain an established beech hedgerow, the second weekof August (Northern Hemisphere) is the best time to prune. Beech hedges willproduce a flush of new leaves in response to the trimming. This foliage willremain on the beech hedgerow plants for the winter. For bushier hedges, anadditional trimming at the beginning of June is recommended.

For a newly planted beech hedgerow, lightly trim theterminal growth bud off each shoot at the time of planting. This will encouragebranching. Repeat this process during the first two winters when the plant isdormant and in August of second summer. By the third season, the hedgerow willbe established. At that time, trimming beech hedges every summer can begin.

For neglected and overgrown hedgerows, hard pruning shouldbe reserved for winter months when the plants are dormant. The best time toprune beech hedge that’s overgrown is in February for the Northern Hemisphere.Reducing the height and width by half won’t compromise the beech hedgerow.However, when trimming beech hedges this hard, it’s best to do the top and oneside the first winter and the remainder the following winter.

Routinely trimming hedgerows will not only keep them bushyand attractive looking, but it also provides gardeners with the means tocontrol the height and width of the hedgerow.

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You can prune beech hedge trees while they are still young. Each time that you prune them, you encourage the hedge tree to grow and become bushier. During the first year of growth, the beech tree may have two trimmings. As you begin to prune a second time, you will see the beech tree beginning to bush out.

When you prune the beech hedge, you are forcing the stems to become multi-branched. The more stems the beech hedge has, the more leaves it will have and the leaves will last longer into the winter.

  • You can prune beech hedge trees while they are still young.
  • Each time that you prune them, you encourage the hedge tree to grow and become bushier.

Cut the tops of the beech hedge with secateurs . Remove 2 to 3 inches off each stem. This will force the buds to break and new shots to grow. Secateurs are more gentle on the foliage than hedge shears. A good time to do the first trim is in June.

Repeat the process again in that same year, once the hedge is growing and stems have increased in length by 3 to 4 inches. Remove half or less of the new growth with secateurs. The best time to do this is from July to November.

Prune the beech hedge again during the second year. This time, instead of cutting just the top growth, cut on the side shoots. This will encourage more growth, and more stems to form on the sides of the beech tree.

Repeat the pruning process again. This time you may be able to prune it three times during the year. You may repeat the process for a third year, but you don’t have to. If your beech tree is bushy enough on the second year, you can stop trimming.

  • Repeat the process again in that same year, once the hedge is growing and stems have increased in length by 3 to 4 inches.
  • If your beech tree is bushy enough on the second year, you can stop trimming.

Prune only once or twice a year to encourage new growth. This will give you a dense screen that is especially useful if you are growing the beech hedge as a living fence.

Can I cut my beech hedge now?

Overgrown hedge: Don't be afraid to cut back hard an overgrown beech hedge in February while it is still dormant but wait a while if the weather is very cold. If you need to reduce the height or sides by half or more, it's best to stagger pruning over two seasons rather than doing it all at once.

Furthermore, when should a beech hedge be cut back? Prune your Beech hedge in late Summer or early Autumn, to ensure brown leaves remain on your hedge providing Winter coverage. If the hedge has become unruly, hard pruning can be carried out in February whilst the plant is dormant, unless the weather is very cold.

Furthermore, can you cut a beech hedge in November?

When to prune a beech tree: Winter, between November and February, is the most suitable time to shape a beech into a tree, as any branches that are not required can be removed completely. All trees have some shoots that grow straight upwards.

Can I cut beech hedge in October?

After the summer growth spurt, deciduous hedges, like beech and hornbeam, need to be pruned before the leaves change colour and fall. September is the best month to do it. Deciduous hedges are best pruned with secateurs, rather than with a hedge trimmer or shears.

When do I cut a beech hedge?

  • How often should I trim a beech hedge? Once or twice a year
  • When should I trim a beech hedge? August and mid-winter

Beech and hornbeam hedges grow rapidly in the early part of the year, but need to grow a little after cutting to make sure there are no bare patches through the winter. If the hedges have grown too large, cut back hard in mid-winter, avoiding very cold spells.

Pruning a Mature Beech Hedge

The notes below apply to mature beech hedges in good condition that have reached or are near their final height.

  • New hedges:Formative clipping of a new beech hedge is necessary: Please read that section if you have just planted or are planning to plant a beech hedge.
  • Old Hedges: If you have an overgrown, sparse old hedge, please see our notes on restoring an old beech hedge.

Clipping and Pruning a Mature Beech Hedge

After the first two years formative pruning, your hedge should be well on its way to becoming a mature hedge. The advice below also applies if you have bought a property with an established hedge in good condition.

Overall Shape: Generally speaking, you are aiming to give your hedge a slightly tapered shape, a bit like this but with less steep sides: /

  • The point of doing this is ensure that light can reach the lowest branches.
  • If these branches don't get enough light, they will produce fewer leaves.
  • If your hedge has a south facing side that gets full sun all day, then you can make that side vertical, like this: | where the left hand edge represents the south facing side and the north facing side is sloped as normal.

When to clip your mature beech hedge: A light clipping twice a year is all that's needed:

  • In Early June. This clipping keeps your hedge bushy.
  • In Early August. This clipping produces a late flush of new leaves - these are the leaves that will stay on the branches through winter.

If you need to prune out a branch for any reason, do this in winter when the tree is dormant.

We have a great selection of bareroot beech hedge plants for planting between November and March and potted plants for summer delivery.

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