Tree Trimming Practices: Why Topping Is NOT Recommended

Topping is an extreme form of tree trimming in which the top of the trunk and upper main branches are cut down to stubs of a uniform height. Also known as stubbing, heading or dehorning, topping is done to reduce the size of a tree.

Tree Topping

Although you may think of this practice as a harmless haircut for trees, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Topping causes severe damage and may even lead to the death of a tree.

Topping Reduces a Tree’s Ability to Produce Food

Trees need a large leaf surface area for adequate food production. Topping removes much of the leaf canopy, which greatly reduces the amount of food that can be produced. This depletes stored food reserves that are critical for survival.

Topping Leaves a Tree Vulnerable to Problems

Cutting away large branches creates wounds that are slow to heal. This leaves trees exceedingly vulnerable to disease, fungal decay and insect infestation. In addition, increased sun exposure to the open branches can result in sunscald and severe bark damage.

Topping Makes a Tree Hazardous

With topping, trees can become more of a yard hazard. The stubs are weak, so they’re more likely to suffer wind or storm breakage, which can cause damage to your property or injury to an innocent passerby.

Topping Destroys a Tree’s Natural Beauty

Trees can grow after topping, but many end up looking disfigured. Most of the buds that are necessary for a normal branch system have been removed, so the branches typically grow in a water spout pattern, with dense, upright, unattractive growth.

Alternate Tree Trimming Practices

Sometimes a tree’s size must be reduced. Maybe it’s growing too tall for utility line clearance or the shade is blocking rooftop solar panels. Whatever the reason, topping is not the right approach.

Instead of topping, certified Utah arborists turn to different tree trimming practices:

  • Crown reduction removes large branches at the top and/or sides, pruning them back to a lateral branch so the natural form is preserved
  • Crown cleaning removes weakly attached, low-vigor and unhealthy branches to resolve crowding at the top of a tree
  • Crown raising removes branches symmetrically to open up the view and maintain the health of a tree

Before topping any of the trees on your property, consult with a certified Utah arborist. For expert tree trimming advice in the greater Salt Lake City area, schedule a free, comprehensive yard evaluation with the professional arborists at Reliable Tree Care.

With more than 20 years of experience, the Reliable Tree Care team knows how to safely trim trees without compromising their health and future growth. Contact our Murray, Utah, office today to schedule a professional tree trimming consultation.