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Hardly any plant is as common as a privacy hedge in the garden as the thuja. But without suitable pruning measures, the wood will become too tall after a few years. Without pruning, the tree of life often grows more than ten meters. Many hobby gardeners then start the radical pruning - and cut the thuja hedge too much. Here you can find out how to avoid bare hedges and what you can do if you have cut the thuja.

Thuja hedge cut too much

It is particularly critical to cut back a thuja hedge very radically. Only the young shoots on the outside of the branches are green. If you cut the shrubs regularly from the beginning, an opaque hedge will form in a short time. But just a little bit further inwards, the young twigs and thus the greenery are missing. A special feature of conifers such as the Thuja is the peculiarity that growth takes place exclusively at the tips of the shoots. It is therefore very important that only the young, outer shoots are cut back.

When making a cut with the hedge trimmer, you should therefore proceed very carefully and cut back a little several times rather than a large piece at once. Because if the leafless interior of the plant is exposed, hardly any new green will grow at this point. You should therefore definitely refrain from pruning conifers down to the stick.

detect miscuts

As already mentioned, a tree of life does not sprout well from the old wood. If you accidentally made the cut too deep inside, you will recognize this immediately by the fact that only brown or bald spots can be seen.

1. Just a few brown spots

It can happen again and again that the twigs and thus the green of the thuja hedge grow irregularly and with an ordinary, slight pruning, one or the other dried up spot comes to light. Does not matter. If these areas are not very large, the shoots around them will soon grow again and cover these areas.

  • next cut: in the following year at the earliest
  • only after growth of at least 10 cm
  • then just shorten it a bit

tip: After a while, you can cover the bare spots with green branches from the side by tying them up.

2. The first cut too deep

If you cut the thuja hedge too much the first time, do not continue this cutting depth to the end of the hedge. With a single plant, the probability is still quite high that it will recover after a cut. With a 20 meter long tree of life hedge, this is no longer so easy. If necessary, it is easier to replace a single shrub than an entire thuja hedge.

3. Complete thuja hedge trimmed

Despite the warning, many hobby gardeners keep trying to rejuvenate neglected hedges with a radical cut. The result is usually sobering, because most hedges never turn evenly green again after this measure and look very unsightly. However, gardeners keep reporting that the thuja actually recovers after a few years. Such a new shoot is possible, but it can take up to ten years before a significant success is visible. So it takes a lot of patience. Whether you wait that long and want to be annoyed by the ugly hedge in the meantime is a matter of taste.

supporting measures

Once the thuja hedge has been completely trimmed, care measures unfortunately only have a limited influence on the fact that it recovers and sprout again. However, there are various measures you can take to support the health and growth of the hedge.


Many hobby gardeners assume that conifers do not have to be fertilized additionally, because after all they do not get any additional fertilizer in the forest. However, the varieties planted in the garden are more sensitive and grow better with an adapted fertilizer. This is especially important if the hedge has been trimmed and the now weakened plant has to sprout vigorously again.

  • lots of iron, sulfur and magnesium for the needles
  • often suffer from magnesium deficiency
  • especially on sandy soils
  • Direct help: special foliar fertilizer for conifers
  • can be absorbed immediately via the remaining leaves
  • Spray regularly until August (observe package instructions)
  • additionally: long-term fertilizer (thuja or conifer fertilizer)
  • When: February to August
  • in autumn: potash magnesia (patent potash)
  • increases frost tolerance

notice: Normal NPK fertilizers are not very suitable for conifers. They contain too much phosphorus and too little magnesium.

Water regularly

Even if the thuja is older and its roots reach deep into the ground, it should be watered regularly when there is little rain after it has been pruned too deep. This also applies to frost-free periods in winter.

limit height growth

Do you want the thuja hedge to increase in height and you have cut the sides too much so that they are now brown and bare? Then you should definitely cut off the upper shoot tip. Even if the hedge can no longer grow much taller, this step is necessary. Since most of the plant's growth takes place at the top, little energy is put into the side shoots. That changes when you cut off the main shoot.

  • rose scissors or pruning shears
  • clip below the last green needles
  • Cut at least two inches into the brown trunk

preventive measures

Regular trimming not only promotes the dense growth of the hedge, but also prevents unwanted growth, so that severe cuts are no longer necessary. When pruning, you should always be very careful and prefer to cut away a little several times than a lot once. There are various ways of growing thuja plants into a shapely and slender hedge. Not only the right cutting technique is important, but also the right time for the cut.

bare thuja hedge

Correct cutting

Heavy trimming of hedges is only permitted by law until the end of February, so that the later beginning breeding season of the birds that nest here is not disturbed. A cut before the new shoots is particularly favorable for a thuja hedge. Because in the new vegetation phase, the wood falls back on the reserves created in autumn.

  • heavier cuts: end of February
  • slight corrections: generally all year round
  • frost-free day
  • without precipitation
  • do not cut in direct sunlight
  • preferably in the morning

1st possibility

Cut the thuja back as far as possible in the upper third from the side and from above. This encourages growth at the bottom and restricts growth at the top. Do not let the thuja hedge become particularly wide from the start. In this way, the green part remains translucent almost to the trunk and the plant does not bare from the inside out.

2nd possibility

You can initially let the hedge plants grow until they are close to their final height. However, think carefully about how high your thuja hedge should grow as a maximum. A subsequent correction is almost impossible. Once the top is cut, the final height of the hedge is set. Because only the main drive determines the growth in height. If this is cut off, the thuja only grows in width, but no longer upwards. On the other hand, you should consider that a subsequent reduction in the growth height is always associated with a bare, brown surface.

  • limit height first
  • to do this, cut the main drive
  • Reduce page width successively from the following year
  • not the other way around

tip: Don't trim the sides too much at first, while the top can still grow out. The "crown growth" prevents lush side shoots, as this is the preferred spot on the tree.

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