Hedges are a popular way of creating a boundary around a property. They’re beautiful to look at and a little more interesting than a boring fence or wall. However, one of the major problems with having a privet hedge is the amount of maintenance you’ll need to do. If left untended, it won’t take long before your hedge is looking overgrown and messy. If you want to reduce the height of your privet hedge, then it’s important to keep in mind that you will need to cut it back up to 150mm more than the height you’d ultimately like it to be. This is to allow for new growth and to keep the hedge healthy. Learning how to correctly prune and maintain your privet hedge will help to ensure excellent curb appeal for your property and keep everything looking neat and tidy.

How to lower a privet hedge
Affiliate Disclosure

What Is a Privet Hedge?

A privet hedge is a plant with dark green leaves that are dense and ideal for borders between properties. What’s great about them is that they are semi-evergreen and relatively easy to take care of provided they are regularly pruned. They are one of the top ten bestselling plants in the UK. The oval leaves of the privet hedge cut very well, and the plant will thrive in almost any soil type so it’s great if you’re not the most green-fingered person in the world! What’s more, it’s a very fast-growing plant and once in the ground, it won’t take long before it begins to reach its potential. As well as being ideal for boundaries, the privet hedge is also perfect for reducing noise and creating private spaces within a garden. While the plant does usually sprout small white flowers in summer, most people choose to cut these off.

Privet hedges can grow up to 15 feet in height and 8 feet in width if they are left unmaintained. Therefore, it is essential to make sure that you regularly prune and lower the hedge to prevent it from growing out of control.

Cutting Back a Privet Hedge
Cutting Back a Privet Hedge

How To Lower a Privet Hedge

Lowering a privet hedge is not a difficult task and involves removing dead or damaged branches before trimming and shaping the hedge to your liking.

What You Need

  • Bypass pruners
  • Loppers
  • Stakes
  • String

Step 1 – Plan

First, it’s essential to decide how high you want the hedge to be when you’re done; never go cutting blindly. Take some stakes at the desired height and place these along the hedge to mark where you will cut, connect them using a piece of string. Do keep in mind that the hedge should be slightly narrower at the top as this allows better light distribution.

Step 2 – Remove Crossing Branches

The next step you will need to take when lowering and pruning your privet hedge is to trim off any crossing branches. As well as this, you will need to make sure that you keep on cutting until all dead or damaged branches are removed. The best way to do this is to use loppers that will allow you to cut the dead branches off at the base.

Step 3 – Remove Large Branches

Next up, you’ll want to remove any overly large branches from the inner part of the hedge to open it out a little. Bypass pruners are the best option for this part of the trimming.

Step 4 – Shape

You can now start shearing along the top of the hedge and along its face. When cutting along the face, be sure to cut in diagonal motions, moving downwards. Keep going until you reach your desired height and shape.

Privet Hedge with Inset Harshly Pruned Privet Hedge
Privet Hedge with Inset Harshly Pruned Privet Hedge

How to Maintain a Privet Hedge

Maintaining a privet hedge after it has been cut back ensures it remains healthy, dense, and attractive. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Regular Trimming: After the initial cutback, regular trimming is essential to maintain the shape and density of the hedge. Trim at least twice a year, once in late spring and again in late summer.
  2. Watering: Ensure the hedge receives adequate water, especially during dry spells. Deep watering promotes deep root growth, making the hedge more resilient.
  3. Fertilising: Apply a balanced, slow-release fertiliser in early spring to support growth. This provides the hedge with essential nutrients for the growing season.
  4. Mulching: Spread a layer of organic mulch around the base of the hedge. This helps retain soil moisture, suppresses weeds, and adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.
  5. Disease and Pest Monitoring: Regularly inspect the hedge for signs of diseases or pests. Treat any issues promptly to prevent them from spreading or causing significant damage.
  6. Thinning: Every few years, thin out older, thicker branches to allow light and air to penetrate the hedge, promoting healthier growth and reducing the risk of disease.
  7. Soil Health: Occasionally test the soil’s pH and nutrient levels. If the soil becomes too acidic or alkaline, it can affect the health of the hedge. Adjust the soil pH if necessary using lime (to raise pH) or sulfur (to lower pH).


While privet hedges are extremely beautiful and undoubtedly practical, they can grow out of control if you don’t maintain them. It doesn’t take much for them to become overly tall and you’ll need to trim them down and lower them. Fortunately, this isn’t a complex task and while it might take some physical effort, most hobby gardeners will have everything they need to get the job done in a day.

Garden Doctor Tips

Garden Doctor Trev

“Be sure to plant your privet hedges at least 30 cm apart, they will soon fill out!”

“Make sure that you prune the privet hedge so that it is narrower nearer the top so that the sunlight can reach the hedge lower down!”

“If you are reducing the width of the hedge as well, it’s essential to do this one side at a time, leaving enough time between sides for the hedge to recover!”

“When reducing the height of the privet hedge, it can be a good idea to cut it up to 150mm lower than you’d like as this will allow for fresh and more healthy growth!”

Frequently Asked Questions

When should a privet hedge be pruned?

Privet hedges can be pruned any time of year, but the best time is in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. If a hedge is not pruned, it will grow too tall and become leggy. Pruning a hedge also keeps it from becoming too wide.

How low can you cut a privet hedge?

It is possible to cut a privet hedge very low. In fact, it can be trimmed so that it is just a few inches tall. This is often done as a way of controlling the size and shape of the hedge. However, if the hedge is trimmed too low, it can become vulnerable to damage from wind and rain.

How far apart should you plant a privet hedge?

The privet hedge should be planted about two feet apart, and the distance between them can vary depending on how high you want it. The more space between plants, the better air circulation there will be which helps to prevent disease and weed growth.

Can I use a hedge trimmer on a privet hedge?

Yes, hedge trimmers can be used on privet hedges to make things easier.


Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.

More You Might Like