Can Arborvitae Shrubs Be Trimmed? (Your Burning Questions Answered)

Arborvitae, also known as Thuja, is a genus of needle-bearing evergreen trees and shrubs in the cypress family. Like all coniferous evergreens, arborvitae needs very little and infrequent pruning but can withstand any brushing or shaping.

When the arborvitae is severely overgrown, you can trim it in stages to prevent cutting it down to bare wood, as the tree would not be able to restore green foliage growth.

Trimming cuts should still be carefully considered and carried out with a gentle hand. Therefore, you can trim arborvitae shrubs.

Arborvitae shrubs trimming is an essential aspect of the upkeep process. Many arborvitae tree species do not need pruning because they retain a natural shape that is attractive to the eye.

Arborvitae shrubs trimming can only be performed in these situations to save the plant from becoming too tall. In certain instances, pruning allows the gardener to turn the plant’s outline into a fence or a more ornamental shape.

You should trim most arborvitae during the dormant season, which is approximately November to March.

Arborvitae trimming may also be purely decorative. For a more aesthetically appealing screen, a row of arborvitae trees may be pruned down to shrubs.

Pruning arborvitae often entails cutting branches and growth that protrudes beyond the plant’s borders.

By removing these, the plant will appear fuller and firmer. Arborvitae that has been overgrown or frail can be rejuvenated by cutting it down to just a few inches from the ground.

This is the quickest and most effective method for rejuvenating a shrub.

Reasons for Trimming Arborvitae Tree

Arborvitae Trimming for a More Ornamental Look

Spring – Removing overgrowth is akin to assisting a tree in maintaining its shape. Pruning can be done in the middle of the season after the plant has had time to grow shoots until winter.

Consider pruning the overgrown trees just below the plant’s sightline, or ideal foliage lip. If you cut too deeply, though, your plant will grow bare spots.

Trimming Arborvitae to Minimize the Height of a Thick Hedge

Since flowering in late spring – Pruning back a tall hedgerow is better done after the arborvitae has flowered and before mid-summer.

After flowering, the plant would be able to sustain itself and achieve the optimal height.

It’s best to scale back a foot or two a year before you have the size you want if you’re making dramatic improvements to its height.

This keeps the cuts in the greenwood, allowing the arborvitae to fill in at the end.

Here are a few tips on how to properly trim arborvitae:

Step 1. Trimming at the Right Time

Shearing can be done in the early spring. Since new growth hasn’t begun yet, early spring is a good time for hard pruning. When new growth emerges, the cuts you made in the tree will be hidden.

To shear, the herb, use the pruning shears to go over the whole plant. To make a more even shape, trim the tops off both of the branches. And make sure to leave at least one shoot for new growth at the top of the tree.

Trimming shears are scissor-like trimmer with two long edges that are suitable for shaping plants. Use loppers or a small saw to cut whole branches if necessary.

Mid-March is the best time to trim these trees, but it depends on how early spring arrives in your town.

From early spring to mid-summer, light trimming is recommended. You will want to snip an errant branch here and there while the trees begin to rise over the season. It’s OK to do these layoffs in the middle of the season.

You can encourage new growth by pruning a tree. As a result, it is best to trim these trees during the growing season to avoid encouraging them to keep growing in the winter.

Whenever troublesome branches need trimming, do so. Trim diseased, dead, or injured branches as soon as possible. Diseases can spread, and infected branches can burden the tree’s energy, so trimming these branches is safer for the plant’s health.

Trimming young arborvitae is not recommended. A tree’s foliage is needed for growth when it is first created. You risk stunting or even killing it if you cut too much of its vegetation. In the first year or two of their lives, prune very young arborvitae sparingly.

If necessary, remove diseased, torn, or dead branches, as well as any branches that brush against each other.

Trimming trees that are more than two years old should be done with caution. Arborvitae that are a few years old is more resistant to cuts than a mature tree. If you hack into a year or two old wood, the tree would most certainly regrow it. However, it is less likely to grow back in older species.

Arborvitae does not need much trimming in general, so focus on maintaining the tree’s natural form.

Step 2. Creating Shapes

To minimize height, cut down to a lower branch groin. Switch over to the next spot on the main stem, where a big branch is rising off of it to make the tree shorter. At this stage, cut the stem or branch with a saw or shears, but only if you are cutting through live wood.

Make sure the fronds on the wood you’re leaving behind are still rising. The tree cannot regrow from the point that you hack through old wood that is not rising fronds.

Reduce the height of a tree by no more than 20%. It would be too much of a shock to the tree to reduce the plant by more than this number. You also risk cutting into old trees, from which your tree will not recover.

To shape the tree, trim the tips of the branches. You can cut around the tree’s outer edges to form it, particularly if you’ve just trimmed the top. Snip the outer edges of branches with pruning shears to create a light form.

When shaping the tree, snip off any protruding pieces to hold it in its natural form.

Keep the bottom of the table wider than the top. These evergreens have a broader base by nature. Keep this aspect in mind when forming them. As a result, the tree’s bottom receives more sunshine because the upper branches are not blocking it.

Trim a little more off-the-top branches if you find your form is too straight from top to bottom.

Since old wood does not regrow, trim lightly. The old wood in arborvitae does not bud. As a result, what you cut will or may not regrow—using a light touch to avoid butchering the tree and leaving it without a way to regain its form.

Never cut shoots all the way back to old wood when cutting them.

Step 3. Trimming Bothersome Branches

When cutting a broad limb, use the 3-branch cut. This cut helps you to remove a branch without causing too much damage to the bark. You risk ripping or tearing the bark if you don’t use this cut. Begin by cutting 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) away from the trunk on the branch’s underside. Cut a quarter of the way into the branch.

Make a second cut on top, one inch (2.5 cm) away from the trunk as the first. Before you finish this cut, the branch will fall off. It would help if you continue cutting until the limb falls off.

Remove the stub from the trunk. Saw the trunk from top to bottom, just inside the swollen ring of bark.

Cut the dead branches all the way to the stem. The presence of brown foliage at the end of a branch indicates that it has died. In that case, use clippers or a saw to cut the branch right at the stem and pull it out.

Lopping shears are a good choice for this role because of their long handles, which provide leverage. You may use a handsaw or a chainsaw instead if the branches are greater than 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter.

Another choice is to make the cut instead of the trunk at a safe lateral branch. A primary branch that develops away from the trunk is known as a lateral branch.

Look for any diseased branches that need to be pruned. Diseased branches must also be pruned to avoid the spread of disease to the rest of the forest. Cut a diseased branch all the way back to the stem or a lateral branch when you encounter one.

Needles’ blight is a disease that affects this community of trees and causes yellowed or brown needle tips that spread down the foliage. They may also seem to be dried out. Look for black fungal spots on the branches that may also curl away from the bark.

Make sure all diseased branches are properly disposed of in your garbage or curbside yard waste program.

Then rake up and dispose of the needles under the tree, as they may contain spores. This will keep it from spreading further.

It’s also a good idea to avoid pruning diseased branches when they’re wet, as this is when fungal spores are most active.

When weakened branches split, prune them down. If a storm or ice has weakened your tree, cut away the damaged branches. Prune them back to the tree’s stem or a lateral branch.

Damaged branches deplete the tree’s resources and keep it from developing new branches.

Patricia Godwin

Patricia has many years of experience as a content writer on various subjects, but her first love is gardening. She’s never met a plant she didn’t like and, consequently, she writes about every type of plant you can think of. Once an avid gardener with a herb garden, a succulent rockery, and a rose garden – to mention a few. Nowadays, she’s constantly on the move searching for interesting plants to bring to your attention; and explain to you all the details you need to grow, care and maintain these plants.

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