How to Fixed a Topped Tree

Cover photo attribution: Barry Shimmon 

How to Fix a Topped Tree

Dealing with a topped tree in your landscaping? While it can definitely be a difficult task to handle, there are steps you can take to ensure that the tree recovers and thrives in your yard.

Let’s discuss what you can do to fix this issue, as well as what a topped tree actually is.

What is a Topped Tree?

2016 06 25 07 21 43 A Pair Of Topped Adult Norway Spruce Trees Along Maryland State Route 807 (Bedford Road) In Northern Allegany County, Maryland (1)

Photo attribution: Famartin / CC BY-SA

So, what is a topped tree?

Topping a tree means that you are reducing the height of the crown to a limit. Essentially, it’s a heading cut that is applied to the entire tree.

A heading cut is when the terminal portion of a branch to a lateral branch or bud is pruned. What this does is cause a shock to the branch, which will either kill it entirely or causing various dormant lateral buds to begin growing.

So overall, topping a tree can shock it and cause it to grow erratically or simply die.

Topping can also be referred to as rounding over, hat-racking, heading, and tipping.

How to Fix a Topped Tree in Your Landscaping

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Now that you know exactly what a topped tree is and what it would look like, what can you do to fix it? There are actually a few steps to ensure your tree stays alive and well.

While you may be inclined to immediately pull out your pruning tools and get to fixing your tree, it’s more important to be patient and wait until your topped tree restores energy. As the tree does this, it will grow multiple sprouts that need to be left alone until they are established. Once they have grown to the original height of the tree you can prune them.

You should also make sure to check out the tree’s canopy for dominant branches (known as leaders). These will be the tallest branches and free of any damage like decay, cracks, etc.

Then you will want to cut any weak sprouts all the way down to the trunk of the tree. However, leave any short, stronger sprouts that could potentially keep up with the leader branch. Over time these will become new limbs and reach the same level as the leader.

Lastly, you will want to keep repeating this process over the next four to six years.

Will Your Topped Tree Heal on its Own?

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Now, what if you can’t do this on your own? What if you don’t have the time or resources to follow the steps we just covered?

Your topped tree can actually heal on its own as well. The sprouts mentioned before will grow in and the tree will fix itself slowly over time. It’s just important to note that it won’t look as aesthetically pleasing as if you are pruning them regularly.

If, instead, you would like to hire professionals to assist you with your topped tree, consider contacting a local, trusted arborist company to assist you.

For those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact Arborist Now today for help pruning, shaping, and ensuring that your topped trees are in the best health they can be. Give us a call today!


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