How to Top Cedar Trees Properly

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Trim your trees right.

Your beautiful cedar tree is in need of some sprucing up, and you, being a do-it-yourself king or queen, are ready to tackle this project head-on. But before you go grabbing your hedge clippers and shimmy up your cedar, take a pause to make sure you're doing it correctly. Cedars can be difficult to shape, especially if you are planning on topping the tree (taking off height from the tree). If done wrong, the branches on your cedar may grow back sparsely, or even not at all, thus ruining your lovely tree. So make sure you top your cedar the right way.

Step 1

Determine what type of cedar tree you have because this will affect how you top your tree. Most likely, you have a pyramidal cedar, columnar cedar or a globe cedar. Globe cedars have a hard time growing back, so before you begin topping, make sure they have grown larger than what you would like them to be. Make sure you then cut your globe cedars only to the size you want them to be and not any smaller, because the tree might not fill in the way or grow up to the size you were hoping.

Step 2

Prune your cedar during the spring, before it's had a chance to create new growth. Take care not to take too much green off of the outer branches, though, so that it has a chance to repopulate and not stay bare.

Step 3

Prune the tree top no more than 1/4 inch off the tree's height for pyramidal and columnar cedars. Make sure you're topping branches that are part of the main trunk. If topping your cedar more than 1/4 inch, make sure to place the top branches in an upright position so that the cedar will be able to fill itself in again.

Step 4

Maintain your topped cedar tree by pruning your cedar one to three times a year during mid-June to mid-July. If you cut after this, you will destroy the next year's growth, since the buds have already begun to form. Remove the brown leaves, but don't remove too many of the green leaves. This will keep your tree shaped and from growing too tall.

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Jennifer Brown

Jennifer Brown is a freelance journalist who has been writing since 2006 and has written for "Coreweekly Magazine," "The Wisconsin State Journal" and "The Syracuse New Times." The "New Times" gave her the opportunity to write on subjects ranging from food to entertainers to local environmentalist. She earned a Master of Arts in magazine, newspaper and online media from Syracuse University.