Anyone recommend tree topping? Don’t believe them

Topping a tree causes it to grow thin, weak branches that will soon have to be trimmed again. And it’s ugly too!

Topping a tree is bad for its health, but did you know it also causes you to work much harder at maintaining that tree’s excessive growth? This could be costly!

Topping is defined as severely cutting back or removing large branches in a mature tree. Some people believe that topping a tree will reduce the amount of time and money spent on tree care and maintenance. But look at the facts:

When large branches are cut back indiscriminately, a tree responds by quickly growing many branch shoots in order to replace the lost leaf surface, a tree’s food supply. The dense, bushy re-growth is very weakly attached to the main stem of the tree and grows so quickly that the new branches will often regain the tree’s original height in just two to three years. As the shoots grow larger, they increase in weight and must be pruned frequently in order to avoid potentially hazardous branch failures. The need for maintenance is increased – not decreased – and that means more of your time and money.

Expense of Tree Topping
The actual cost of topping is only the initial bill. Here’s why you’ll face more expenses in the long run after topping a tree:

  • The tree needs maintenance more often.
  • Poorly attached branches break off (possibly damaging something else).
  • The tree will die prematurely and will need to be removed and replaced.
  • Property values are reduced.
  • Liability is increased.
  • Research has shown that proper pruning techniques work with the trees’ biology, not against it

Mature trees may occasionally benefit from removal of dead wood and light branch thinning but, in general, they require correct, strategic pruning only every 5 to 10 years. Before pruning mature trees, consult a certified arborist to determine the best course of action for your tree. Make sure you ask for credentials and references. Also check that the company does not offer tree topping services.

Remember the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Think before you plant. Research the maintenance requirements in order to select the perfect tree for your yard.

For more information on tree care, go to DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program website.