Why Topping Is Bad

Tree Topping Information

Topping is the indiscriminate cutting of major tree branches back to stubs. The practice of topping causes a great deal of stress for a tree and reduces its ability to ward off attacks from insects and disease.

Tree-Topping Effects

While topping is usually done in an attempt to maintain tree size, promote flowering, or promote new growth, the practice has several consequences for the health of a tree. There are other ways to obtain these desired results without the detrimental effects of topping. For more information about the consequences listed below, view the What Topping Does to Trees bulletin. Some consequences of topping as a pruning practice include:
  • Decayed branches
  • Destroyed natural form
  • Loss of money
  • Sunburned branches
  • Tree starvation
  • Weakly-attached sprouts

Stop Tree Topping

Topping is by far the most harmful tree pruning practice in use and it causes significant health problems for a tree. Although people mean well when requesting this service, the misconception about effects produced by topping can lead to practices that are detrimental to a person’s trees. In addition, the widespread use of this practice can spread the misconception, giving people the idea that because trees are commonly topped, the practice must be recommended. This is not at all the case. Please help us put a stop to this practice by sharing this information with your friends and family.

For more in depth information about topping, view the Why Topping Hurts Trees article at the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) website.

Proper Tree-Crown Reduction

Tips for proper tree-crown reduction:
  • Make cuts just outside of the branch collar.
  • Prune back to a branch that is at least one-third the size of the branch portion you are removing.
  • Use the proper pruning cuts on lateral branches.
For specific information about proper tree pruning, with images for guidance, view the Pruning Mature Trees article at the ISA website.

Hiring an Arborist

If reduction pruning is necessary, the tree in question may be too large for a homeowner to safely perform the pruning on their own. It is advisable to hire a qualified arborist for mature tree-pruning needs. For information about what to look for in an arborist, view the Why Hire an Arborist article at the ISA website.Be cautious of tree trimmers who advertise topping, as it is not an accepted practice among reputable tree-care professionals.