How to Trim Arborvitae: Tips and Techniques.

To trim arborvitae, start by using sharp, clean pruning shears and cutting back to just above a healthy bud or branch. Then, remove any dead or diseased branches and shape the tree as desired.

Arborvitae should be trimmed annually to maintain their shape and size. Arborvitae is an evergreen tree or shrub that grows well in a wide range of environments, making it a popular choice for many homeowners. However, to keep your arborvitae looking its best, it’s important to know how to properly trim it.

Trimming helps maintain the tree’s shape and size, improves its overall health, and promotes new growth. In this article, we will go over the steps for trimming arborvitae, as well as provide additional tips for keeping your tree healthy and looking great. Whether you’re an experienced gardener or a novice, these trimming techniques will help you achieve a beautiful and well-maintained arborvitae.

How to Trim Arborvitae: Tips and Techniques.


When To Trim Arborvitae

Arborvitae is a popular plant in the landscaping community. Not only does it add a unique touch of greenery to any garden, but also, it provides privacy, thanks to its dense foliage. However, overgrown and unkempt arborvitae can make your lawn look disheveled.

Therefore, it’s important to trim arborvitae regularly. In this blog post, we’ll be focusing on when to trim arborvitae to make the most of the plant’s growth cycle.

Factors To Consider Before Scheduling A Trim

Before scheduling the trim, it’s important to take some factors into account. Here are a few considerations to make:

  • Age of the plant: When the plant is younger, it’s important to approach the trimming process with caution. Cutting off too many leaves or branches may damage the plant and stunt its growth. Thus, you should consult with an expert before trimming.
  • Desired size and shape: Arborvitae is a versatile plant that can be shaped into various forms. However, it’s important to know what you’re aiming for before you start trimming. It’s best to sketch out a rough plan before you begin pruning.
  • Weather conditions: Trim your arborvitae on a cloudy day or when the sun is low to prevent the sun from scorching the freshly cut branches. Don’t trim your plants when it’s raining or when the wind is blowing, as these conditions can cause more damage than good.

Best Time Of Year To Trim

Trimming arborvitae depends on the plant’s growth cycle. Arborvitae is a coniferous plant that grows in different stages. Here are the best times of the year to trim arborvitae:

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  • Spring: The best time to trim arborvitae is in the spring when the plant has begun actively growing again. Trimming in spring helps maintain the plant’s shape while promoting new and healthy growth.
  • Summer: You can trim arborvitae in the summer, but it’s not the best time as the plant is already mature and has stopped its new growth cycle. Cutting off too many branches or needles can cause damage and stunt its growth.
  • Fall: Fall is another good time to prune arborvitae since the plant will soon go dormant for the winter. It also ensures that the plant will be ready for the next spring cycle.
  • Winter: It’s not advisable to trim arborvitae in the winter when the plant is dormant. Trimming can cause the plant to lose precious resources it stores for winter survival. It’s best to wait for the spring growth cycle.

Trimming arborvitae can be an excellent way to keep your lawn looking beautiful and groomed. By considering the factors and knowing the right times to trim arborvitae, you can ensure that your plants stay healthy, beautiful, and vibrant for years to come.

Tools For Trimming Arborvitae

Essential Tools Needed For Trimming Arborvitae

Maintaining arborvitae is crucial if you want to keep them healthy and attractive. Proper trimming prevents the shrubs from becoming overgrown and crowded, which can cause them to decline rapidly. Here are the essential tools you need to trim arborvitae effectively:

  • Pruning shears: Pruning shears are the most critical tool for arborvitae trimming. They are ideal for removing small branches and stems and have a sharp blade that ensures a clean cut without damaging the plant.
  • Hedge shears: Hedge shears are useful for shaping and shearing the sides of the arborvitae. They have longer blades to help you trim the shrubs with ease.
  • Loppers: Loppers are necessary for trimming thicker branches that pruning shears cannot cut. They have larger, more extended handles that provide more leverage, making it easier to cut through thicker branches.
  • Hand saw: A hand saw is useful for cutting large branches. It is designed to deal with thick, woody branches that are too big for loppers.

Optional Tools That Can Make Trimming Easier

While the previously mentioned tools are essential for trimming arborvitae, some optional tools can also ease the process, such as:

  • Pole pruner: A pole pruner will help you trim branches that are too high up to be reached with a ladder. With a durable and long fiberglass pole that can extend up to 12 feet, it helps you tackle overhead trimming without compromising on safety.
  • Handsaw with extension pole: If you need a tool that offers both a handsaw’s cutting power and a pole pruner’s reach, a handsaw with an extension pole is your best bet. It is a versatile tool that allows you to cut limbs and branches without a ladder.

Safety Precautions When Handling Tools

Arborvitae trimming can be dangerous, especially when you are not careful when handling your tools. Here are some safety precautions to keep in mind:

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  • Always wear gloves to protect your hands from scratches, blisters, and potential infections.
  • Wear protective clothing like long pants, boots, and eyewear to protect yourself from sharp thorns and branches that may poke your eyes.
  • Before climbing up the ladder, ensure that the ladder is stable, and someone is holding it in place.
  • Always cut away from yourself and other individuals when trimming branches.
  • Keep all your tools in good condition and adequately stored when not in use.

Techniques For Trimming Arborvitae

Arborvitae is an evergreen tree that is known for its dense foliage and beautiful shape. Proper trimming techniques can help it maintain its beauty and health. In this section, we will discuss the step-by-step guide to trim arborvitae, tips for achieving the desired shape and height and what to do with excess foliage.

Step-By-Step Guide For Trimming Arborvitae

Before trimming the arborvitae, it’s crucial to understand the best time to prune them. The ideal time to trim arborvitae is either in the late winter or early spring. Follow these steps to trim arborvitae:

  • Identify the branches that need to be trimmed. Look for branches that are dead, diseased, or broken.
  • Use a pair of sharp pruning shears or loppers to cut off the identified branches. Make sure that the cut is clean and smooth to avoid damage.
  • Focus on the bottom of the tree first while trimming, then move to the top.
  • Trim the sides of the tree by cutting the branches that are growing out of shape.
  • Step back and check the shape of the tree after each branch is trimmed.

Tips For Achieving The Desired Shape And Height

Trimming arborvitae is an art, and with proper techniques, you can achieve the desired shape and height. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Avoid trimming more than one-third of the tree’s height at a time.
  • Trim the branches in a pyramid shape to achieve a natural appearance.
  • Use a guide wire to support the tree in case you want to prune the tree to a smaller size.
  • Do not trim the top of the tree flat as it can prevent new growth.

What To Do With Excess Foliage

After trimming the tree, you might have a pile of foliage to deal with. Here are some ways to handle excess foliage:

  • Compost the foliage to make organic fertilizer for your garden.
  • Use the foliage as mulch to protect the soil from weed growth and retain moisture.
  • Create a brush pile to provide shelter for birds and other wildlife.

Keeping these tips in mind will help you achieve beautiful, healthy arborvitae trees. With continued care and attention, your arborvitae will thrive and beautify your garden for years to come.

Common Misconceptions About Trimming Arborvitae

Debunking Myths About Trimming Arborvitae

Arborvitae is an evergreen plant that can add aesthetic appeal to any garden or landscape. However, trimming can be a challenging task, especially for novice gardeners. There are a few misconceptions about trimming arborvitae that need to be debunked to ensure healthy growth and a neat appearance.

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  • Myth 1: Arborvitae should be trimmed to a specific size

Contrary to popular belief, arborvitae should not be trimmed to a specific size. Instead, prune them to maintain the desired shape, thickness, and density. Over-pruning can lead to weak stems and a sparse appearance, while under-pruning can cause the plant to become overgrown and unappealing.

  • Myth 2: Arborvitae should be trimmed only in the spring

Arborvitae can be trimmed any time of the year, but it is best to avoid pruning during the hottest and coldest months of the year. Trimming in the spring is ideal as it promotes growth and recovery from winter damage.

However, trimming in the fall can help the plant prepare for the harsh winter months.

  • Myth 3: Arborvitae should be trimmed at a 45-degree angle

Trimming at an angle can damage the plant and promote disease and pest infestation. Instead, use sharp and clean tools to make flush cuts just above the branch collar. Leaving a stub or cutting too close to the collar can also damage the plant.

The Truth About Pruning Arborvitae

Now that we have debunked the misconceptions about trimming arborvitae, it is time to learn the truth about the right way to prune them.

  • Assess the plant before trimming

Before pruning, inspect the plant to identify damaged or diseased branches, and avoid cutting healthy branches. Remove branches that are crossing, rubbing, or growing in the wrong direction.

  • Trim mature branches

Mature branches should be pruned selectively to promote new growth and increase density. Remove no more than 1/3 of the mature branches at any time to avoid over-pruning.

  • Trim new growth

New growth should be trimmed more frequently to promote the desired shape and thickness. Pinch off the tips of branches with your fingers or use small hand pruners to control their growth.

  • Clean and sharpen tools

Keep your tools clean and sharp to avoid damaging the plant. Disinfect the blades with rubbing alcohol or bleach before and after pruning.

Trimming arborvitae can be a rewarding task if done correctly. Follow these tips and techniques to ensure healthy growth and an aesthetically pleasing appearance.


Overall, trimming arborvitae is not a difficult task if you follow the proper techniques and guidelines mentioned in the post. Remember to select the right tools, wear protective clothing, and determine the right time for trimming. Pruning regularly can ensure your tree remains healthy and maintains its desired shape and height.

Hedge shear, pruning shears, and saws are the main trimming tools you can use depending on the size and thickness of the branches. Always keep the tree’s health in mind and avoid over-trimming, as it can be stressful for the plant.

Most importantly, before trimming, ensure that you have the necessary skills, experience, and equipment to avoid damaging the tree. Follow these steps mentioned in the article and transform your overgrown arborvitae into a beautiful and healthy plant in your garden.