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Pruning an overgrown hedge/shrubs

I have a hedge that has been poorly taken care of for many years. Last year we took 8-10 maple and mulberry saplings, up to 4" in diameter, out of the hedge. It looked terrible. Later we trimmed them down to about 6' tall and tried to shape them a bit, they are still really scraggly looking and very woody. I am wondering if we should just trim them down to about 12" above the ground to encourage less woody growth, or would this just kill them? What advice can anyone give me about this poor hedge?

A. Spruce
Re: Pruning an overgrown hedge/shrubs

So far it sounds like you've been working in the right direction. Depending on what the green leafy thing is that comprises the hedge, the time for it to rebound will vary. Oleanders, for instance, will fill in quite well within 6 months to a year. Slower growing greenery will take longer.

The thing to remember with most "hedge" like bushes is that they need light, all the way to their center, so if you don't thin the exterior regularly, all you'll have is a bushy facade and nothing behind it when you prune. If you thin it regularly, you will promote growth within the interior of the bush and it will flourish with every pruning.

Another tip is to prune half of the bush at a time, which is to say, prune the front half in the spring and the back half in the fall. By pruning in this manner, you will not deplete the screen that the bush provides, yet still promote healthy growth to the core of the plant.

Height isn't a concern, you can prune this as frequently as you like, it is the sides that provide the visual barrier, so this is what you carefully prune in spring and fall.

Re: Pruning an overgrown hedge/shrubs

Is this evergreen, deciduous, mixed? Some hedge-goods are very tolerant of rough treatment, others will resent it, and die for your trouble! If you prune heavily, do so in the dormant season, and then water and fertilize (and be conscious of other nutrients/amendments the plants need, some need soil acidifiers) as prudent through the hot months.
If it's a flowering hedge, prune after the bloom.

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