Arborvitae plants have a tendency to grow too tall. Sometimes they outgrow all the other plants in our garden, which makes them look odd. So if you’re wondering whether you should cut the top off an arborvitae, then you have landed on just the right article.
In this article, we will discuss whether you can cut the top of the arborvitae, and how you can proceed with it. So without further ado, let’s jump on to the discussion.
Can you cut the top off an arborvitae?
You can definitely cut the top of an arborvitae. But you will have to be careful while doing so. This process has the potential to change the shape and size of the plant forever. Note that specialists suggest you prune the tree rather than topping it, unless you have to.
Arborvitae plants enhance the aesthetics of any garden by manifolds. These plants are known for their contribution in enhancing the beauty of a landscape. But they can grow quite tall.
So if you’re wondering what to do with this tall plant, there are several solutions. Among them, one of the most popular solutions is to cut the top of an arborvitae.
You can cut the top off an arborvitae if it is getting too tall for your garden. But you will have to be rather careful while doing so. Because this process can change the size and shape of the plant forever. And if done poorly, it may minimize the chance of the plant to survive.
While it is permissible to cut the top off an arborvitae, you should not do it unless absolutely necessary. Specialist arborists recommend pruning over topping. Pruning will achieve similar results, minus the risks associated with topping.
But if you still have to cut the top of the plant, then you should follow some crucial steps. Such as, you should always cut the top of the plant during late winter or early spring. This is the ideal time for topping.
In addition, make sure to choose the right kind of saw for this task. Also, choose the top location carefully. You will not be able to fix the plant if you cut the top wrongly. And most importantly, monitor the plant after the topping process is complete.
Is it ok to trim the tops of arborvitae? Can you top off Green Giant arborvitae?
It is okay to trim the top of an arborvitae. But there are several factors that you will have to keep in mind.
Arborvitae is a popular plant that is known for its height. This plant is famous for its unique structure that is based on one main trunk and many small leader trunks on the side. All these trunks point upward.
So if you’re planning to cut the top of the plant, it means that you will have to cut all the vertical elements that are pointing upward at a uniform length. But note that if you cut the top of a trunk, it will not grow any more leaders in the future.
That is to say, the topping will cause the plant to create a box shaped top. It may also leave a bald patch on the top of the plant. So you will have to be very careful in order to make sure that you’re following the process accurately.
You can even top off Green Giant arborvitae. But it will lose its classic pyramid shape in the process. The Green Giant plant will grow in a box-shaped structure then. That’s the problem with these plants; they do not regenerate new growth.
What happens if you cut the top off of an arborvitae?
Cutting the top of an arborvitae means that you will have to cut off all the vertical elements of the plant. The trunk, along with the leader trunks all stand upwards, vertically. So when you top off the plant, you will have to trim the vertical lines.
Let’s take a look at what happens if you cut the top off of an arborvitae:
When you cut the top of the plant, you cut the vertical trunks, which includes the upward growing branch tips. Once you cut those, the plant stops regenerating new branches and the trunk stops growing upward.
Box like shape:
When you cut the top of an arborvitae, the top of the plant loses its classic pyramid shape. And it later takes a box-like shape, losing the unique feature that it is so well known for.
When the top of this plant is cut off, you will notice a rather flat appearance on the top. In addition, the plant will not be able to regenerate. So there will be no new growth after this. The shape will remain as unsightly as it is.
This is the main reason why specialists recommend you to prune the plant instead of topping it off.
No horticultural benefits:
There are no horticultural benefits in topping off an arborvitae. It does not contribute to the wellbeing of the plant as well.
This process is only helpful when the top of the plant is damaged. If you cut the top off in that case, then it will benefit the plant. Otherwise, topping the plant is truly an unessential process.
How much can you cut off the top of arborvitae?
So as you have figured out by now, cutting the top of an arborvitae is not an easy task. There are several factors involved in the process. You will have to be very calculative in the cut, in order to ensure the wellbeing of the plant.
So you will have to make sure not to cut more than 25 to 35% of the foliage. In addition, do not cut more than one foot of the branches. Otherwise, you will cause severe damage to the plant.
Moreover, you can cut and remove all the bare wood that you can find on the plant. Make sure to saw or lop the branches to the end of the trunk, just on top of the branch that carries the good foliage or greenery.
When to trim arborvitae?
You will have to be very careful and calculative while topping off an arborvitae. So you should make sure to get working on the process during the right season. You will need a thorough research on the entire process, beginning from when to trim arborvitae to how to do it properly.
The ideal time to trim an arborvitae is during the end of winter or early spring. That is to say, you should work on the trimming right before the tree has new growth. While it is okay to simply shear them, you should not go as far as the bare wood.
Even though these plants do not lose their leaves during the winter, there will still be significant metabolic changes in the plant during that season. This is the reason why we suggest you trim the plant during late winter or early spring.
How to trim the top of the arborvitae?
Trimming the top off an arborvitae is a tricky job. Here’s how you can do it right:
Use a sharp saw:
This is the most essential factor of the process. You will need to make sure that you’re using a sharp and clean saw to cut the top off of an arborvitae. Always use clean and sharp implements when you’re running such processes.
This is important because dirty tools can cause bacteria infestation in the plant. Which may contaminate the entire plant or at least the top of it. You will end up creating a wound there.
Moreover, if you’re not using a sharp tool, the process will present itself to be more challenging than it already is.
Choose the top location carefully:
You will need to be thoughtful in choosing the height of the topping. That is because, once you top off the plant, the arborvitae will not grow any further. It will stop regenerating.
So you will need to choose the top location by considering it as the height at which it will stay for a long time. Keeping a consistent height with the plants that are standing alongside it is the goal.
And if you’re trimming one plant from a hedge, make sure to make the height consistent with other plants in the hedge. Otherwise, the plant will stand as the odd one out.
You can cut the top off an arborvitae. But there are several factors involved in the process that you will need to consider. The plant stops regenerating once you top it off, so you will have to choose the cutting point very carefully. In addition, make sure to use a clean and sharp saw for the job.