5 Pruning Tips For Topped Tree Recovery

Topping is an amateur pruning method of controlling tree height. It rarely goes well, as trees often can't recover from this type of pruning without special care. Fortunately, a tree trimming service can often save the tree and get it back into good form within a year or two of the unfortunate topping mishap. 

1. Skip the Next Trim

The tree will need some time to recover and grow in new branches after it has been topped. This is especially true if only minimal foliage was left behind. Skipping one or two annual pruning sessions allows for new branch growth. A light trim may still be necessary each winter in order to remove any damaged or dangerous branches, but heavy pruning must be postponed.

2. Remove Weak Growth

Not all of the new growth will be strong and healthy, so the weaker new growth should be removed so the tree can focus its energy on the strong wood. Your tree pruning service will remove branches that rub together, for example, as these are more prone to breakage. Branches growing in at the wrong angle are also weak and require removal. This means that drooping branches that are growing at a 90-degree angle, or wider, to the trunk or main connecting branch will need to be pruned out.

3. Prune Out Challengers

Some branches grow nearly straight up into the air, forming challengers to the main trunk leader. This is an especially common problem on topped trees, and there are often multiple leader challengers growing. These challengers will weaken the tree, causing it to fork and possibly leading to the trunk splitting later on. Your pruning technician will remove these challengers so there is only one strong central leader.

4. Manage Trunk Suckers

A tree stressed by major crown removal, such as what occurs during topping, may try to compensate by sending out rapid new growth in the year following the damage. This rapid growth, called suckers, often develops low on the trunk or from the base of the tree. Suckers aren't just ugly; they can divert necessary energy from crown recovery. Pruning them out promptly will prevent issues.

5. Control Height Carefully

Once recovery is well underway, more care must be taken in the future when it comes to controlling the tree's height. Instead of topping, your pruning service will selectively cut back branches throughout the canopy. By removing only a small fraction of each branch's length, the crown can be kept both compact and properly balanced in a nice form. 

Contact a tree pruning service for more information.