Pruning Hawthorn Hedges

Hawthorn Hedges, also known as Quickthorn hedges, are the most common hedging plants in the UK and can be found across the British countryside. Producing beautiful white flowers in the Spring and edible berries in the winter, the Hawthorn hedge makes for an ideal hedgerow or natural garden border.

The berries produced by the Hawthorn hedge provide food for wildlife in the winter months and dense branches create ideal nesting spots for birds, insects and mammals. Large thorns also keep grazing animals at bay, protecting the hedging and smaller wildlife nesting within its branches.

Hawthorn hedges are notoriously sturdy plants and will grow happily in any soil. Their dense branches and thorns also make them ideal as security hedges, however, this also makes hawthorn hedge pruning a more challenging task. Read our guide below to learn how you can effectively and safely prune your hawthorn hedging.

Hard Pruning Hawthorn

As Hawthorn hedges thrive in all weather and soil conditions and have been known to live for up to 400 years, your Hawthorn will require regular pruning to keep it under control. Hawthorns are not typically used for formal hedging borders as they can be difficult to keep neat. Luckily, if you are after a natural garden border or a security hedge then a Hawthorn could be an excellent addition to your space.

Hard pruning Hawthorn hedges is not essential, however, as they are naturally robust plants, Hawthorns can be resilient to pruning. Hard pruning will allow you to achieve the desired shape for your hedging and ensure the branches are consistently dense all the way through the plant. If left untouched, a Hawthorn will grow into a small tree.

Hawthorn hedge pruning requires sharp tools and protective clothing as the thorns that grow along the branches can reach around 3 inches long. To trim a Hawthorn effectively you will need a pruning saw to remove branches over 3 cm in diameter, loppers for branches up to 2.5 cm and clippers for smaller branches reaching around 0.6cm in diameter. Ensure that your tools are sharp before use to make pruning easier and avoid injuries.

When To Prune Hawthorn Hedges

As wildlife often relies on the berries and nesting spots provided by the Hawthorn, it is recommended that they are pruned during the summer and autumn months, after the plant has flowered. Pruning during these seasons will encourage a fuller growth of flowers the following year, although this will also reduce the volume of berries the hedge is able to produce that winter. Be sure to avoid cutting your Hawthorn hedge before it is established, typically this is around 2 years after planting when your hedge has reached around 4 to 6 feet tall.

If you are pruning your Hawthorn hedging into a tree or pruning to maintain the shape of an established Hawthorn, the summer months are the ideal time for lightly pruning for shape and height. To prune your Hawthorn into a tree, simply remove the lower branches with a sharp pruning saw to reveal a single trunk.

During the second year of planting, between February and March, is the recommended time for hard pruning Hawthorn hedges. Cut back growth by half during these months to encourage new growth. Remove dead, diseased or broken branches first to keep your hedge looking neat and stimulate new growth. Be careful to avoid cutting these branches flush with the trunk as this can make the trunk susceptible to decay. Removing any cross branches from inside your Hawthorn hedge will also help to prevent diseases as this improves circulation within the hedging.  Pruning at this time of year while your hedge is dormant will also cause the least disruption to the wildlife that rely on your Hawthorn, as it will not interfere with the nesting season or the volume of berries.

As Hawthorns are not typically used for formal hedging you do not need to be too precise when pruning your Hawthorn. It is however recommended that you prune your Hawthorn with slightly sloping sides to allow light to reach the flowers and leaves near the base of the plant and keep your hedging dense.

Want to know more about Hawthorn Hedge pruning?

At Hopes Grove Nurseries, our dedicated team have decades of experience growing various hedging plants and other plant species. If you would like more information about how you can best prune your Hawthorn or would like to purchase Hawthorn hedging plants, contact us online today.