Arborvitae is commonly used in landscape designs because of their ease of growth, low maintenance requirements, and general good health. They are occasionally let to develop into a natural shape after planting, or they are trimmed to keep a tidy appearance. If you’re going to be trimming arborvitae trees, you’ll need to know how to do it correctly.
Arborvitae comes in various sizes and forms, and except for annual trimming, they require minimal maintenance. Trimming arborvitae will not only keep the evergreen looking tidy, but it will also prevent unnecessary damage to the branches and lessen the risk of pest infestations.
Using our guide, you can learn all there is about when and how you care for these trees. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of how to prune arborvitae to keep them looking nice and enhancing the appearance of your garden landscape. (Find the Best Free Landscape Design Software)
How Do You Trim An Overgrown Arborvitae?
Arborvitae (Thuja) is a collection of evergreen trees and shrubs, which grow in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9. Arborvitae comes in various sizes and forms, and besides annual trimming, they need little maintenance.
Arborvitae should be pruned once a year, in the fall or winter. You need to remove a glove and feel for the dead zone, and you can find it feels empty with no new growth.
Cutting into the wood about 3 to 4 inches below any damaged or diseased timber can remove these damaged or diseased branches. New growth is encouraged at that point; thus, wipe your pruning shears with rubbing alcohol after you make each cut.
Create a perimeter shape like the top of a pyramid at the top of the tree’s and be sure to cut vertical growth in the virtual perimeter, and not horizontal growth. You do this, and the appearance of dead zones and old wood is reduced as the tree interior receives sunlight. (Learn How To Kill A Tree Without Cutting It Down)
When you cut the leader trunk close to the ground, it will remove competing leaders and keep leaders to only three. A simple pruning task quickly becomes a disaster when you don’t use the right pruning tools. To maintain the shape and integrity of plant and trunk tissue, clean pruning cuts are a must.
Can You Cut the Top Off An Arborvitae?
Evergreen arborvitaes like the Thuja plicata are attractive members of the Cupressacea family. Although light trimming to rectify growth issues for appearance is the main recommendation, the plants can withstand substantial pruning.
Arborvitaes develop vertical shoots that shadow lower branches, and thus carefully thinning these lets sunlight and air reach all areas of your tree. Arborvitaes constantly grow to prune lightly, yet cutting the top off arborvitaes, will affect their growth and appearance and thus should be avoided.
Arborvitaes are narrow-leafed evergreens that react to thinning and shaping rather than the overall shearing to maintain their natural habit.
Thinning cuts can snip shoot tips and thin branches back to the buds to produce healthy, compact growth. It is advisable to remove bare crossed branches growing toward the plant’s center core although ensure you don’t cut to bare branch wood as there won’t be any new growth.
Most arborvitaes are disease-resistant, yet if you spot arborvitae needle blight with yellowish foliage or the tips of twigs are brown or black, remove them as quickly as possible. Diseased twigs and branches have to be cut back to healthy wood and remove dead or damaged branches in the same way. (Read How to Trim a Magnolia Tree)
Cutting off the top of arborvitae results in a flat appearance, and once the upward growing branch tips are cut, no new growth can occur, and there is no horticultural value for cutting the top off your arborvitae.
How Far Back Can You Trim Arborvitae?
Pruning Arborvitae is done for certain reasons and the most common being to maintain their appearance. The removal of ugly growth ensures lower parts won’t be covered by higher foliage.
It can be done to remove overgrown, dead branches and more. Arborvitaes grow tall; thus, they can be pruned to maintain the desired appearance.
Pruning arborvitae can be vital should the tree be neglected, although you should never remove more than 25-35 percent of the foliage or cut back beyond the last foot or so of a branch.
The best time to prune arborvitae late winter or the early spring, although if using them as a hedge, late spring or early summer can be a better option before pruning, cleaning, and sterilizing your pruning shears.
You will need to let sunlight flood down to the lower foliage and do this by making the bottom of the arborvitae wider than the top.
It is worth noting, old wood won’t produce new growth, so if you cut too much off the top of a tree, it won’t develop any leader or branch like other trees.
Can You Prune Emerald Green Arborvitae?
If you think about pruning arborvitae shrub that is of the Emerald Green species, you’ll find the answer is “No,” Emerald Green Arborvitae are great since the shrub offers a natural screen that doesn’t take up much space in your yard.
Pruning can be expensive and a labor-intensive process many people try to avoid when possible. Arborvitae grow to a diameter of 2-3′ and won’t be much larger on the edge. As a result, there’s not much you can do. (Learn How to Trim Palm Trees)
A light pruning in early spring to mid-summer on top can give uniform height or make them grow, so the bottom is wider than the top to create a hedge. It also helps prevent damage to the shrubs from snow and ice.
Besides this, there isn’t any other pruning you can do to improve them, and it can be just as easy to make them look a strange shape.