Why Tree Topping Is Bad

We often hear the term “tree topping” when a customer calls to get a quote for tree work. However, it’s essential to understand that topping a tree isn’t the correct term to use in many cases. Instead, the words tree pruning, tree thinning or crown lifting are the right ways to describe the work a customer wishes to be completed.

Arborist companies will say no to topping trees because it harms the tree’s health, creates safety issues, costs more money, causes more significant problems, and is considered a bad arboriculture practice.

Topped Trees.
Tree Topping

What Is Tree Topping?

Topping is often used to reduce the size of a tree, drastically removing large amounts of branches from a tree’s crown.

Other names include “heading”, “tipping”, “hat-racking”, and “rounding over.”

Some homeowners will request topping their trees because they are huge and pose a risk to the property or to get more light into the house. Although this may seem like a proper arboriculture technique, it isn’t and is highly unrecommended.

Infographic of why we don't top trees.

Why Is Topping Bad For The Tree’s Health?

Topping trees has adverse effects on trees. It is a harmful tree-pruning practice that stresses the tree and creates further costs and issues further down the road. 

Topping Stresses Trees

When you remove more than 50% of the tree’s leaf-bearing crown, you can starve it and trigger various survival mechanisms. 

The dormant buds will activate and simultaneously force rapid growth of multiple shoots. The tree may need more stored energy to activate new buds. If it doesn’t, it can slowly die. 

Furthermore, fresh open wounds make it more inviting for pests and diseases to crawl into the bark.  Topping trees can also cause decay and stability problems.

Topping Trees = Ugly Trees

What do you think about topped trees? Have you ever heard someone saying: “That topped tree looks amazing!” We haven’t and certainly never will.

Unfortunately, it destroys the tree’s natural form and will never regain its former beauty.

Creates Bigger Problems

When a tree is topped instead of pruned, it will grow faster because it has lost a large amount of its canopy. 

While the initial idea of topping a tree would be to remove large limbs and stop them from growing more significantly, you won’t achieve this. Instead, the tree will get bigger and create more dense and unstable branches, causing the original problem to worsen. So you will probably need to pay for a professional arborist to prune the tree correctly.

Burning The Tree

When topping a tree, you are removing the leaves at the top of the branches that cover and protect the inside of the tree. 

The branches and leaves inside the tree aren’t supposed to be in direct sunlight; that’s why a big canopy protects it. 

The remaining branches are exposed to high light and heat levels, resulting in sunburn of the tissues beneath the bark, which can lead to cankers, bark splitting and death of some branches. 

More Costs 

It will require more maintenance if you decide to top a tree. Corrective pruning is required to maintain its shape if the tree survives. If the tree dies, it will have to be removed and the stump ground. 

Remember that healthy trees stabilise your property value more than unhealthy trees. 

As a homeowner, you must educate yourself and make good decisions to protect your home and property, including your trees. They are a long-term investment and need care. When unsure what to do, contact a professional arborist for advice.

tree topping

Alternatives To Tree Topping

If you want more light coming through your home, we recommend either the following. 

Crown Lifting And Thinning

You lift the tree by removing the lower branches when crowing lifting. Sunlight will beam underneath. We recommend thinning the tree, which means reducing the density of the tree to allow more light to spread through its crown. Thinning and lifting the tree has many benefits for your space, including more sun throughout the day. 

Pruned cherry trees.

Tree topping isn’t the best solution when pruning a tree. 

Talk to a professional arborist for advice when caring for your trees. They are a long-term investment, and you are responsible for preventing future problems. 

Get in touch if you have questions or need more sunlight on your property. 


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