How To Trim Holly Bushes With Hedge Trimmer [Step By Step Guide]

Holly bushes are great additions to any garden, but they can grow quite big and become difficult to maintain. Some people get overwhelmed with their size, but the best way to trim them is to use a hedge trimmer. We want to help, so we researched this topic to help you find the best step-by-step guide to holly trimming.

How to Trim Holly Bushes with Hedge Trimmer

  1. Assess the size of the holly bush. Check to see how much you need to trim down.
  2. Check the bushes for nests that you might hit or damage. Remove them for safety (especially if these are wasp nests.)
  3. If you are able, you can trim the bushes by eye. Otherwise, you can use string to guide you on where to trim the bushes. 
  4. Start trimming the sides of the holly bush. Run the hedge trimmer around the bush and slowly shape them to the size you want.
  5. Get a step ladder to taper the tops of the bushes. Run the hedge trimmer horizontally on the top of the bush to remove the overgrowing branches.
  6. Using a pair of sharp lopping shears, cut the excess branches from the bottom of the bush to avoid overgrowth. Trim the holly bush a foot or two off the ground to expose the base.
  7. Continue shaping the bush to the shape you want.
  8. Clean up the area and enjoy your newly trimmed holly bush.

Trimming holly bushes is important because the plants can become overgrown if left laone. In this post, we'll show you the best way to trim holly bushes with a hedge trimmer. We'll also show you how to trim a holly bush by hand and when you should trim these bushes. So keep reading to learn more about holly bushes, and enjoy this post!

How To Trim Holly Bushes With Hedge Trimmer [Step By Step Guide]

a holly bush in foreground being trimmed with trimmers and worker out of focus

Holly bushes are great plants that look beautiful in many gardens. They are popular for their iconic bright red berries and distinct, prickly leaves. These plants are very flexible and you can use them as hedges, garden plants, border hedges, or simply as a decorative bush for your garden.

Holly is an evergreen plant. This means that they will retain their leaves throughout the year and they will look beautiful whatever season it is. However, like many evergreens, holly will tend to overgrow if left alone.

If they are not trimmed properly, holly bushes can grow more than 5 feet tall. At this height, the bush will be so overgrown that it can be challenging to trim and some people prefer to cut them down and start over again.

This problem can be avoided if you regularly trim your holly bushes. One of the easiest ways to trim a holly bush is to use a hedge trimmer, especially if you are dealing with a particularly large bush in your garden. It will be quick and you'll have a nicely trimmed holly bush with the help of a hedge trimmer.

How to Trim Holly Bushes

Man is using a gas-powered trimmer to cut branches on a yaupon holly tree, How To Trim Holly Bushes With Hedge Trimmer [Step By Step Guide]

Materials needed:

  • Hedge trimmer
  • Two wooden stakes
  • String
  • Stepladder
  • Lopping shears
  • Rake


1. Assess the size

Before trimming the holly bush, assess the size to know how much you need to trim off the bush. Bigger bushes will need more work, so make sure that you are able to work with the size of the plant before starting the project.

2. Remove nests

Check the branches of the bush to see if there are any birds or other wildlife that may have made a home in the branches. This is important, particularly if you live in an area where wasps tend to create nests. Remove these nests as safely as you can to avoid any injury while trimming the bushes.

3. Install guides for trimming

Generally, some people can eyeball the trimming that they need to do on their bushes. However, it can be a little difficult so it's best to use guides when trimming. Tie a string on the end of one wooden stake and drive it to the ground close to the bush. Drive another stake on the other end of the bush and pull the string taut before tying it to the other stake.

Get this garden string on Amazon.

These two stakes with a string tied between them will create a guideline for you to work with while trimming the bushes. Make sure to use a string with a contrasting color that you can easily see against the holly bushes.

4. Trim the bush

gas-powered trimmer on yaupon holly tree

Turn on your hedge trimmer and start by trimming the sides of the bush.

Grab this cordless hedge trimmer on Amazon.

Run the trimmer lightly against the sides to remove the overgrown branches. Use the string to guide you on how much you need to trim off the bush. Slowly shape the sides of the bush to the size and shape you want.

5. Taper the top of the bush

If the bush is a little high, get a step ladder and put it on stable ground. Taper the top of the bush by carefully running the hedge trimmer to cut the overgrown branches. 

Check out this step ladder on Amazon.

6. Trim the base

After trimming the sides and the top of the bush, it's time to trim the bottom. Depending on the look that you are going for, you can trim the holly bush one foot above the ground for clearance. You can also trim them about 2 feet off the ground if you wish to expose more of the base of the bush.

Get these lopping shears on Amazon.

Using a pair of lopping shears, cut the branches of the bushes close to the nodes. This will ensure that your holly bushes will have newer, better growth for the branches. Remove as many branches as you need until you are satisfied with the result.

7. Clean up

Stacking fallen leaves and trimmed branches in autumn using rakes into a plastic box

After trimming, it's always a good idea to clean up the area. Using a garden rake, clean up all the strewn branches, leaves, and holly berries tha might have scattered on the grass. These can be used for other purposes like composting.

Check out this gardening rake on Amazon.

Can You Trim Holly Bushes By Hand?

While hedge trimmers does make the job a lot easier, some gardeners prefer trimming their holly bushes by hand. This is especially true for some variants of hollies which can be hard to trim using the big, cumbersome hedge trimmers.

Pruning your holly bushes by hand is more beneficial if you prefer to have better branch growth for your plant. Trimming them using pruning shears is easier if you have a smaller holly bush. Since holly bushes are evergreen and generally low maintenance, you only need to hand purne every couple of years.


Check out these pruning shears on Amazon.

When pruning holly bushes by hand, try to prune the terminal buds which you will see at the ends of the branch. This will encourage the plant to grow other buds that will make the plant look fuller. There are different buds on the branches of a holly bush and it's important to identify what kind of but you'll be cutting.

The bud that you will cut off will affect the way the bush will grow over time. 

When Is The Best Time To Trim Holly Bushes?

Pruning holly with a secateurs

Trimming holly bushes can be done any time throughout the year, but there are certain times when it is best to trim them.

Like other bushes, the best time to lightly trim holly bushes is during spring. By this time, you will be able to see new growth on the bush branches and you can trim the buds you want to remove. This is the best way to keep the shape of your holly bush so that the growth looks nice throughout the year. 

However, hollies are best pruned during late winter when the plant is dormant. Trimming them during this time is great because new growth will be appearing during spring. Holly varieties that grow berries during fall benefit the most from trimming during this time. 

Non-berry-producing hollies or tree-forming hollies also do well with pruning during late winter. Pruning during the late winter will encourage healthy growth once spring arrives.

Final Thoughts

Holly bushes are great additions to any garden, thanks to their low-maintenance and evergreen qualities. However, plants like these still need some maintenance from time to time. Remember to trim your holly bushes every couple of years or a least once a year if you want them to keep their shape. Are you looking for more information about growing hollies? We have a couple of articles that you might find interesting:

How Long Does Holly Last When Cut?

How To Grow Holly From Cuttings [Holly Propagation Guide]


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