Tree Trimming Types: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

sweet-gum-afterOn the outside, tree trimming seems straightforward—just cut off the limbs and branches that you don’t want. Right?

Not exactly.

Trimming trees is a precise science in that trees are living organisms with physiological responses to changes like trimming. Correct tree trimming keeps trees healthy by:

  • Promoting growth
  • Preventing branch failure
  • Removing unhealthy growth

Trimming also helps keep trees away from buildings and power lines, preventing damage and outages. Here are the different types of tree trimming and whether or not they are good for your tree’s health:


Deadwooding is the process of removing limbs from a tree that has:

  • Died
  • Become infested with pests
  • Developed disease

Removing these limbs makes your tree healthier by removing a source of food for pests and limiting the spread of disease. It also prevents accidents caused by falling limbs and branches.

Crown Lifting

Crown lifting is a tree trimming technique that is exactly what it sounds like: lifting the crown of the tree. Crown lifting allows for the removal of low branches so they do not obstruct pathways or brush against buildings. When crown lifting, it’s important not to over trim or remove major lower branches. Doing so could result in sunburn and possible decay.

Tree Topping

Also called heading, tree topping is a tree trimming technique that is used to reduce the size of a tree. Often, this method of tree trimming doesn’t discriminate between which branches should or shouldn’t be cut. As a result, the tree is weakened and susceptible to a host of problems like:

  • Sunburn
  • Decay
  • Pest infestations
  • Disease

Tree topping is never an acceptable tree trimming technique. Because tree topping weakens a tree, its limbs can easily break and cause damage to property. Unfortunately, this tactic is still used despite the lasting damage it causes trees.

Crown Reduction

Crown reduction is a technique used to reduce height and spread of a tree’s crown and should not be confused with tree topping. This method is an acceptable alternative to tree topping.

Crown reduction can be good for trees in that it reduces stress that trees can experience due to too-heavy branches or severe storms, preventing breakage. Cuts should be made as small as possible and maintain the framework of the tree to keep it healthy.

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