Topping trees not recommended pruning

Published 9:45 am Wednesday, September 13, 2017

By David Davis

Every year, as I travel throughout the county, I see more and more trees along roadsides and in front yards that have been topped.

Some of the most commonly topped trees include maples, Bradford pears and other fast-growing species of landscape shade trees.

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Topping trees is actually quite damaging, and could potentially turn your landscape tree into a safety concern.

There are several possible reasons why a homeowner might consider topping a tree, but many of these reasons are misinformed.

Topping to make a tree “safe” is one of the most common misconceptions. A common fear is that tall trees are more susceptible to wind, ice storms or other weather events. However, topping a tree actually weakens it when these conditions prevail later.

Topping creates opportunities for disease to enter the tree, and could create problems deriving from insects or other secondary invaders.

Topping also produces vigorous regrowth of branches, but this is not a good thing. Regrowth after topping is never as structurally sound as the initial growth of a tree that has been properly trained in its early years. Branch angles are often very narrow, making the branches weak.

The additional abundance of branches also may make the tree more top heavy, and make it even more prone to falling.

In addition, topping a tree most certainly results in a weaker root system, weakening the foundation of the tree.

I know someone may stop at your door and tell you that your tree needs to be topped, but keep in mind that not each of these individuals are certified professionals.

If you are concerned that your tree is a safety hazard, or if you want to determine if pruning your tree is really needed, contact an ISA Certified Arborist.

Someone ISA (International Society of Arborists) trained and certified, will know if pruning is needed, how to properly care for the tree and should be able to tell you how to manage the tree to reduce safety concerns.

The closer ISA Certified Arborists can be located using the “Find an Arborist” link at the Trees are Good website

There are many more reasons to not top your landscape tree. If you would like to know more about this topic, feel free to contact me at the Clark County Extension office at 744-4682 or

David Davis is the Clark County Cooperative Extension Service agent for agriculture and natural resources.