1. Benefits of regular tree maintenance
  2. Improved Tree Health
  3. A Guide to Arborvitae Trimming: Tips & Techniques

A Guide to Arborvitae Trimming: Tips & Techniques

Learn the best tips and techniques for trimming arborvitae from an expert's perspective. Keep your evergreen trees healthy and attractive with these essential trimming techniques.

A Guide to Arborvitae Trimming: Tips & Techniques

As an expert in landscaping and gardening, I have come across many homeowners who struggle with maintaining their arborvitae trees. These beautiful evergreens are a popular choice for hedges, privacy screens, and ornamental trees, but they require regular trimming to keep them looking their best. In this guide, I will share my tips and techniques for arborvitae trimming to help you achieve a healthy and attractive tree.

What is Arborvitae?

Before we dive into trimming techniques, let's first understand what arborvitae is. Arborvitae, also known as Thuja, is a genus of evergreen trees and shrubs that belong to the cypress family. They are native to North America and Asia and are widely cultivated for their ornamental value.

The most common species of arborvitae used in landscaping are the American arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) and the Eastern arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis). These trees can grow up to 60 feet tall and have a conical or columnar shape with dense foliage.

Why Trim Arborvitae?

Trimming arborvitae is essential for maintaining their shape, size, and overall health. Regular trimming promotes new growth, prevents diseases, and keeps the tree looking neat and tidy. Neglecting to trim your arborvitae can result in overgrown branches, dead or diseased areas, and an unattractive appearance.

Moreover, overgrown arborvitae can block sunlight and air circulation, which can lead to fungal infections and pest infestations. Trimming also allows you to control the height and width of your tree, making it easier to fit into your landscape design.

When to Trim Arborvitae?

The best time to trim arborvitae is in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins. This is when the tree is dormant, and the branches are more pliable, making it easier to shape and prune. Trimming during this time also minimizes the risk of damaging new growth.

However, if you missed the window for winter trimming, you can also trim arborvitae in late summer or early fall. Just make sure to avoid trimming during hot and dry weather, as this can stress the tree and make it more susceptible to diseases.

Tools for Arborvitae Trimming

Before we get into the techniques, let's first go over the essential tools you will need for arborvitae trimming:

  • Pruning Shears: These are ideal for trimming small branches and shaping the tree.
  • Hedge Shears: These are perfect for trimming larger branches and shaping hedges.
  • Loppers: These are useful for cutting thicker branches that cannot be trimmed with pruning shears.
  • Pole Pruner: If your arborvitae is tall, a pole pruner will help you reach higher branches without using a ladder.
  • Safety Gear: Always wear gloves, safety glasses, and long sleeves when trimming arborvitae to protect yourself from scratches and debris.

Techniques for Arborvitae Trimming

Now that you have the necessary tools let's go over some techniques for arborvitae trimming:

1. Pruning for Shape and Size

The first step in trimming arborvitae is to determine the shape and size you want for your tree. If you are trimming a young tree, you can shape it into a cone or column by removing the lower branches and leaving the top branches longer. For hedges, use hedge shears to create a straight and uniform shape.

When trimming, always cut back to a lateral branch or bud, as this will promote new growth. Avoid cutting too close to the trunk, as this can damage the tree and leave it vulnerable to diseases.

2. Removing Dead or Diseased Branches

Regular trimming also allows you to identify and remove any dead or diseased branches. These branches can be identified by their brown or discolored appearance and lack of new growth. Removing them will not only improve the tree's appearance but also prevent the spread of diseases.

3. Thinning Out Overgrown Branches

If your arborvitae has become overgrown, you can thin out the branches to allow more sunlight and air circulation. Use loppers to remove any thick or crossing branches that are blocking light from reaching the inner parts of the tree.

4. Trimming for Height Control

If your arborvitae has grown taller than desired, you can trim the top branches to control its height. However, avoid cutting too much at once, as this can shock the tree and affect its health. Instead, gradually trim the top branches over several years until you reach your desired height.


Trimming arborvitae is an essential part of maintaining a healthy and attractive tree. By following these tips and techniques, you can keep your arborvitae in top shape and enhance the beauty of your landscape. Remember to trim your tree regularly, use the right tools, and always prioritize safety. With proper trimming, your arborvitae will thrive and add value to your outdoor space for years to come.