Prune or remove Leland cypress trees?

Asked September 2, 2020, 9:12 AM EDT

Hello- we have 5 very tall approx 40 yr old leland cypress trees in our yard in silver spring. Neighbors want us to remove or significantly prune height and width that overhangs their yard. Trees are on the fence line. We agree they are too tall and bushy but love the screen they provide as well as beauty and bird watching. Can we prune up to one third? Top them by 10 or 20 ft? Cut off the double trunk side that leans int their yard? Or will this kill the tree and best to remove? We recognize the are older but seem mostly healthy with few dead branches here and there. See photos.

Montgomery County Maryland

1 Response

We do not recommend topping trees. They simply grow back--but with the new branches attached more weakly--not to mention topping usually makes a tree look unsightly.

The rule of thumb is to never remove more than 1/4 of a tree at one time. (1/3rd rule is for shrubs.) Perhaps some of the limbs overhanging the neighbor's lot can be removed or shortened.

In your case, the double trunk leaning into the neighbor's lot can probably be safely removed. However, it will create a large wound. Be sure it slopes so water does not collect on it. Do not use "wound dressing", which slows down healing.

You do not mention why the neighbors object to the tree. Too much shade?
A simple solution may be to remove 2-3 of the trees and leave the rest.

In the first photo, one of the two could be removed.
In the second, which shows 3 clustered trees, remove one of the ones on the right. (Not the one on the left side--that provides good privacy screen and doesn't impact the neighbors.) If you remove the double-trunked one, then you don't need to worry about how it would heal after the double trunk is removed.