Help! How Do I Fix a Topped Tree?

Help! How Do I Fix a Topped Tree?

A good trim refreshes trees. Once they get a healthy cut, they can spring into a new growing season with gusto.

Though there is one infamous pruning shortcut that holds trees back from a healthy start—tree topping. When you cut the top of a tree off, you leave behind a weak tree that’s unstable and at risk of decline.

If you’ve topped your tree once, you can likely fix it. 

 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Fixing a Topped Tree

For the best chance of your tree surviving, consult with your local arborist about corrective pruning.

Will a topped tree grow back on its own?

Oh, yes–and quickly! Trees lose essential energy when topped. Due to this damaging energy loss, trees need to react and regain what they lost. The top of your tree may soon be covered in thin, vertical sprouts that look like twigs, called water sprouts. Water sprouts grow in quickly, right below the pruning cut, as trees attempt to recover. Soon, your tree will be just as tall as it was before. But now, it will be unstable and have an unflattering silhouette.  

Luckily, you can repair and reshape a topped tree with these 5 steps.

  1. Before pulling out the pruning tools, you’ll need a little patience. A topped tree grows multiple sprouts as it tries to restore energy. Avoid tampering with these until they’re established. You want to wait until the new sprouts grow to the original height of the tree before pruning.

  2. Scope out the canopy for dominate branches, called leaders. Leaders should be the tallest branch and free of damage such as cracks or decay.

  3. Cut weak sprouts down to the trunk. Leave shorter, stronger sprouts that look like they could catch up with the new leader. The stronger sprouts will branch out as new limbs on the leader. With that in mind, be sure the leader is central and stable, so it can successfully grow into a replacement branch.

  4. Repeat this process a few times over the next 4 to 6 years. Be sure to periodically trim the sprouts you left behind to help train them.  

  5. And presto! With time and care, your tree should branch back into its natural form.

Questions about the process? Leave them in the comment section below, and we’ll have an answer for you soon!

Add a comment:
Featured or Related Blog Posts
  • Root in Moisture

    Planting trees is just half the battle.

    The diseases, pests and power equipment that emerge outdoors in spring, accompanying frequent sunlight, longer days and warmer temperatures, can wreak havoc on your trees if you don't put forth the effort to protect them.

    To keep your trees healthy throughout the growing season and beyond, you must practice routine maintenance and proper tree care. One way to help trees retain moisture, reduce weeds and keep power equipment at a safe distance is through mulch. In the coming weeks, you'll see piles of fresh mulch lined along neighborhood driveways. Soon, the coarse, fragrant matter will settle among flower and tree beds, enhancing the quality of landscapes' appearances.

    Read More
  • Just a Trim, Please

    Put a pair of scissors in your hands, and whether you're cutting coupons or bangs, there's always the potential to oversnip. It's almost too easy to make a mistake as you clip, clip, clip away - removing a little more on this side and a bit more on that side.

    Just like with a bad haircut, there is nothing more noticeable than a poorly pruned plant - pieces sticking out in all directions, a butchered shrub, a tree that looks like the top has been sliced off. The good news is that just as the perfect haircut can frame the face and improve a person's appearance, the same can be said for a professional tree pruning job.

    Pruning is not only a science, but an art form. The science aspect of pruning involves understanding tree biology, recognizing plant flaws and skillfully eliminating or minimizing defects. The artistic aspect of pruning consists of removing dead wood while aesthetically shaping the tree.

    Read More
  • Heat Wave

    Heat wave.

    The term usually makes many people think of the tropics or the desert.

    But extreme heat has hit many areas hard so far this summer. Record highs have been broken in some cities, while others have seen their hottest temperatures since the 1980s.

    Read More
  • Forecast: Hot & Humid

    The air-conditioning is set on high. The fan is blowing in my face. And it feels so good, particularly since my dog and I were just panting within seconds of stepping out to a heavy wall of heat and humidity. His face tilts up to mine, happy for the nice, cool breeze. We face the facts together as I sip from a tall, cool glass of water and he laps up the same out of his bowl: Despite our yearning to enjoy the outdoors, it's hot. And it's hot in nearly every region of the country.

    There's simply no denying it: This summer's a scorcher. While it's difficult to find the motivation to open the door to the heat lingering in the air outside - let alone step out onto a dry, parched lawn - I brave the elements because I notice my trees need some TLC, too.

    It's difficult to imagine another day of 90-plus degree temperatures. So I can hardly imagine how my trees must feel as their roots cling to nothing but the dry soil, day after day.

    Read More
  • Try a Little Tenderness

    When someone moves into a new home, they tend to have a smoother, more successful transition when they plan ahead and carefully move through each step. This includes thoughtfully packing boxes beforehand in an organized fashion, clearly labeling the boxes so movers put them in their proper rooms and then unpacking them so everything that is removed is unwrapped and put into its place to avoid rework.

    If this works for your most delicate China place settings and Lenox crystal, you can see why it would make all the difference when moving something as large, yet just as delicate, as a tree.

    When it's a big, valuable tree that provides numerous benefits to your landscape and your family, a "move" is much more than just picking it up and placing it in its new location. To preserve the numerous benefits trees provide to a community and its residents, which The National Tree Benefits Calculator can help determine, one must plan carefully - before, during and after the big move - to ensure survival.

    Read More

Request a consultation

What do you need services for?
Sorry, we can’t seem to find the zip code you specified. Our residential tree care offices may not service your area. If you believe this is an error, please try again. Need help? Email us at info@davey.com.
  • Email newsletter
  • Woodchips
*Please fill out all required fields.