Trimming Arborvitae Branches back to Trunk

Asked March 27, 2020, 12:04 PM EDT

(I had to duplicate my post because I typed my email address wrong the first time and was unable to edit. This submission has the correct email address). I have what I believe is a large arborvitae growing against my garage. It’s maybe about 12-13 feet tall. It’s on the west corner of my vegetable garden and it blocks several hours of sun, so I’d like to cut it somehow. Removing it all together isn’t an option, but I was considering removing all the branches from the bottom 6 or 7 feet, leaving it in a kindof deciduous shape. My hope was that this would allow a couple more hours of sunlight to the garden. But I’m afraid that cutting this much off will damage or kill the shrub. Can you tell me if this is possible? Thanks! ~Sarah.

Summit County Ohio

1 Response

Hi Summit County, the simple answer is that it is possible. However, it would not be pretty at all. The Arborvitae would probably look awful and then you would very soon decide to put it out of its misery and get rid of it. The removal of the limbs up to the six foot height would expose several trunks on this shrub. They would be exposed and look rather odd at first and then not be very stable with the foliage at the top. This would produce an effect in the tree world called "lion tailing." That is the effect when you remove a lot of branches on a limb and leave the branches on the ends of the limb. The effect is just like a lion tail with not much for a long ways and then the tuft at the end of the tail. This produces an unstable situation that makes the whole branch vulnerable to wind damage since it whips around in most breezes.

I think to have your vegetable garden in this area looks good. I would go ahead and take the Arborvitae out and get it over with. It won't add much to that corner of the garage anyway. You could also consider raising some of the plants in portable containers in front of the shrub to gain more sunshine. They would need more close watch to make sure they had enough water through the summer.

To sum up, yes you can but it will look awfully odd and not do the plant any good either. Hope this helps you. Don