Popular electric hedge trimmers have two blades with multiple
teeth. One blade moves back and forth over the other, shearing the
plant material as the teeth on the two blades pass each other.
Hedge trimmers may not be as popular now as a few years ago
because more people now realize that it’s healthier for plants to be
selectively pruned rather than sheared.
Nevertheless, shearing plants to shape is appropriate in some
situations, says Dr. Dick Parish, an engineer at the
Hammond Research Station.
The formal, sheared look is still attractive to many people, Parish
says. And a hedge trimmer is usually the best tool for the job.
"Most of us are familiar with the old, long-nosed hedge clippers that
have been around for generations," Parish says. "These shears require
some muscle power but may be the best solution for one or a few small
bushes. They are certainly the least expensive and safest option."
Parish says many people use electric hedge trimmers that have two
blades with multiple teeth. One blade moves back and forth over the
other, shearing the plant material as the teeth on the two blades
pass each other.
Electric hedge trimmers are available with battery or 120-volt power
from household electric outlets.
"They’re light and easy to maneuver," Parish says. "The battery
models have less power than the 120-volt models, but they also
dispense with the need for a cord."
The engineer says some electric trimmers can cut with both sides of
the blade, making them handy when cutting in awkward positions.
Electric trimmers are the tool of choice for most homeowners since
they’re inexpensive, quiet and reliable and require little or no
Parish says professionals, on the other hand, prefer hedge trimmers
with small 2-stroke engines. They’re also appropriate for homeowners
who have many plants to trim and/or plants in areas not readily
accessible to electric power. They offer complete versatility and
freedom of movement.
Some hedge trimmers have the engine at the base of the cutting head;
others have the engine at one end of a long tube and the cutting head
at the other end. This configuration allows the operator to extend
"The downside," Parish says, "is that this type is heavier and more
As with any tool using a 2-stroke engine, oil must be mixed with the
gasoline. Noise and exhaust fumes are negatives with gasoline
engines, and maintenance will be higher than with electric trimmers.
Parish says safety should be a major concern.
"With any hedge trimmer, you should keep both hands on the trimmer
handles," he says. "It’s much more difficult to amputate a finger if
they’re grasping the handles.
He also recommends wearing gloves when using a trimmer, and
cut-resistant gloves give the most protection.
One problem with corded electric trimmers is the potential for
cutting your cord with the trimmer, Parish says. In addition to being
inconvenient and embarrassing, this can cause electrocution. It is
important to run electric trimmers or any outdoor electrical tool
from a GFCI-protected outlet or use a GFCI-protected extension cord.
With any gasoline engine-powered tool, you need to be very careful
with gasoline and not add fuel or even open the gas tank when the
engine is hot, he warns. A hot muffler is another hazard to avoid.
"Hedge trimmers are simple tools that can make short work of shearing
hedges or individual shrubs," Parish says. "They won’t cut heavy
branches, but they’ll cleanly cut small branches up to about 1/4-inch
in diameter. And they’re easy to use."
The type of trimmer you need depends on how much you have to trim and
how accessible the area is, Parish says. And a few reasonable safety
precautions will help prevent injuries.
More gardening information is available at your local LSU AgCenter
office. In addition, look for lawn & gardening and Get It Growing
links in the LSU AgCenter Web site: