Pruning loblolly pine
Can we cut the top off of our loblollies so they don’t grow tall and spindly at the bottom? Would it make them compact to make a denser barrier between us and our neighbours? The trees vary between 4-10 feet. Thank you
Queen Anne's County Maryland
We would not recommend pruning the pines to constrain their height, both because it will be disfiguring for the trees but also because it may ultimately prove futile, given the mature size and growth rate of Loblolly Pines. If you feel that their eventual size will pose a problem, we recommend considering replacement evergreens that are either a more appropriate size when mature or are more easily trimmed (such as a broadleaf evergreen instead of a needled evergreen). The natural growth habit of many of our native pine species is quite tall with lower limbs that naturally shed as the tree matures; pruning may postpone this somewhat but will not keep it from happening eventually.
On this page on pruning trees, there is a small section on pruning conifers (most of the way down the page): https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/pruning-trees. You can try the candle-pinching method to increase the tree's density for the near future, but this will eventually not solve the issue of bare-bottom growth and eventual branch shedding. Topping the tree (which is the technique you are referring to) is not advised for any tree as it causes multiple problems with the tree's branching structure and opens up multiple wounds susceptible to infection and infestation.