If you’ve ever spent an afternoon trimming a hedge with a pair of hand clippers, you (and your aching muscles) will appreciate a power hedge trimmer. Instead of taking hours to trim plants, the job can take just minutes. In fact, it usually takes more time to rake up the trimmings than it does to actually cut the hedge!

Corded electric hedge trimmer

Corded hedge trimmers are inexpensive and plug into an outdoor outlet.

Photo Credit: Black & Decker Corp.

Cordless hedge trimmer

A power hedge trimmer can make trimming extensive hedges quick and easy.

Photo Credit: Black & Decker Corp.

Woman trimming hedge

Trimming hedges can take just minutes with the right power tool.

Photo Credit: Black & Decker Corp.

As a bonus, you’ll probably find that your hedge trimmer can be used for other jobs in the landscape, too. It’s ideal for cutting back perennials to the ground in fall, as well as for trimming back slightly woody groundcovers.

There are basically three categories of power hedge trimmers: corded, battery-powered and gas-powered. Corded models are inexpensive and plug into an outdoor outlet (although the cord can be cumbersome). Battery-powered versions are easy to turn on, have no cord issues and are only moderately expensive (although battery life can be limiting). Gas-powered trimmers are by far the most powerful. They’re a bit heavier than most electric models, but are very mobile. (The downsides: maintenance, rip cord starts, noise and emissions.)

Before you run out and buy a power trimmer, there are a few other things you should take into consideration: How will you use the tool? How high is your hedge? Will you be making only straight cuts, or will you be shaping shrubs, too (which calls for a shorter blade)? What’s your price range? How far away from an outdoor electrical outlet do you plan to use your hedge trimmer?

It’s also helpful to know a few things about the different models available:

Double-edged Cutting Blades vs. Single

Double-edge blades, the most common type, have teeth on both sides, allowing you to make cuts as you pass the trimmer back and forth. They’re designed for trimming hedges as high as your chest, and they’re also the best for shaping hedges or shrubs.

Single-edge blades make it easier to make straight cuts. Since teeth are only on one side of the blade, the tool is longer with less weight. Accessories for this type of trimmer may include a collector for the cuttings – a major time-saver for large jobs.

Ample Blade Openings

A ¾-inch opening in the blade is enough to allow lots of small branches to be cut at once. Smaller blade openings do finer, slower work.

Blade Length

Shorter blades are better for shaping shrubs and smaller hedges. Blades that are a little bit longer, 24 inches or so, are considered long enough to reach the top of taller hedges. If your hedge is very high, look for blades up to 60 inches – it’s worth the investment (and safety precaution) not to have to get out the ladder, which can be dangerous!

Blades That Angle

Some hedge trimmers have blades that can be set at different angles, which makes reaching tops of hedges and various awkward spots much easier.

Safety Features

You want a nice balance between “safety” and “ease of operation.” You certainly want the tool to be safe to use, but you also don’t want it to have so many safety features that it prevents you from using your trimmer effectively. You know what I mean – the types with a zillion annoying little safety designs that seem to have no earthly purpose other than to make you think, “I really love this tool, but the one thing I hate about it is…” (And certainly the first important safety measure you must take for any power tool is to read and follow all operating instructions carefully before use!)

When you’re shopping for a hedge trimmer, especially a more powerful one, don’t forget to check out the available accessories, too, so you can put that powerful motor to work in other ways. Some trimmers have an interchangeable blade design that allows you to switch attachments, like a very short blade for tight pruning work or a saw for pruning larger branches. (Hedge trimmers generally are designed just for cutting the farthest-out shrubby little branches, not the bigger ones.)

A power saw attachment can turn some hedge trimmer models into power polesaws. This is helpful because a polesaw can handle larger (but certainly not the largest) branches. Other accessories might include a power scythe for cutting grasses, a cultivator attachment or an edging tool to make neat, trim edges along turf. (Check the manufacturer description for specifics.)

So read all packaging carefully, and be sure to talk through safety features with a knowledgeable salesperson to get that nice balance between safety and easy operation for your tasks at hand. Chances are that no matter which power hedge trimmer you select, you – and your aching arms – will be thrilled with the results!