Cypress Tree Trimming Guide: How To Cut Cypress Branches Safely (3 Steps)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | October 19, 2023

Woman on a ladder with pruners attempts cypress tree trimming after learning how to prune cypress trees, steps for trimming cypress branches and shaping cypress trees, and how to cut cypress tree limbs.

Cypress tree trimming may be the last thing you think of when thinking about the things your ornamental trees need, but it’s an important maintenance task.

Not only will pruning your cypress trees help them keep their shape, it’s crucial for ensuring that the trees stay healthy and can fight off diseases.

This evergreen tree is known for its fast-growing properties, which is why it makes perfect hedges and privacy screens, but there is a problem, it can grow too bushy and limit the air circulation.

This complete Cypress tree trimming guide explains the steps required for pruning Cypress bushes, but also when it might be a good idea to contact a professional arborist.

How To Trim Cypress Trees (Cypress Tree Trimming in Simple Steps)

Landscaping trees like the cypress have to stay stunning all through the year, and it helps that it is evergreen, so you don’t have to worry about leaf losses.

It may be tempting to flush cut, it is faster and saves you a lot of time, but that would be disastrous.

The trimming should be done over a couple of years,1 not all at once. The goal of Cypress tree trimming is to leave the branch collar (swollen spot at the base of the branch) intact.

Here is how to safely trim your cypress:

  1. The best and safest cut that you can make on your tree is outside of the branch collar, specifically at a 45-60 degree angle, that is, to the bark ridge. You will leave the branch collar or tissue at the base of the branch intact so that it will be easier to heal and avoid infections entering the tree trunk.
  2. The three-cut method is the most effective way to deal with branches that are more than an inch thick.6 First, take a cut about 12 inches from the stock halfway through.
    Second, take the cut an inch after the first one and finally; the last cut should be after the collar.
  3. You may want to go ahead and seal the tree’s wounds with paint or dressings, but that will also cause some complications. Instead of preventing decay, you will be interfering with the tree’s natural healing process.

Best Practices for Cypress Tree Trimming

Trimming your Cypress tree is about keeping it healthy, not just for aesthetic reasons. If this is your very first time, you may want to know more about the best practices.

  • Be very observant: The only way you will be able to tell that your plant does need pruning is if you keep a close eye on it. You will look out for dead or weak branches and get rid of them immediately.
    Being attentive will also come in handy when pruning to avoid a flush cut, otherwise, there will be issues with the regrowth.
  • Use only high-quality, clean, and sharp tools: Low-quality tools may not be the best way to go when it comes to your pruning tools. You need the best quality equipment that is disinfected and makes only clean cuts.3
  • Make sure that the growing conditions are always favorable: Pruning helps the tree with proper air circulation and sunlight exposure, and that is what you want for your cypress.7 You will also make sure that you never leave diseased, weak, or dead branches on the tree.
  • Don’t chop off the entire branch: The best practice when pruning is to always cut the tree at an angle and leave the branch collar intact, ready for the next growth.

Cypress Tree Care: Cypress Tree Trimming Tips

Do you have your heart set on taking great care of your tree all on your own? Do you want to be an expert at Cypress tree trimming?

Two cypress trees on stone planters, displayed in a frosty garden with distant bare trees in the background.

(Image: Tingeling11)

Then, you will need these tips below to set you apart from other gardeners.

  • You already know that you have to use clean tools, and it goes beyond just cleaning them. You have to actually disinfect them, and the best products to use are mouthwash, disinfecting products, and rubbing alcohol.
    Don’t use heavy duty cleaning products or any household bleach that will corrode the metallic tools.
  • Annual pruning of the cypress will suffice unless you are ‘cleaning’ the tree. You will also notice that for many species, the older the tree gets, the less trimming it will need.
  • The angle that experts insist on when trimming the tree is vital to avoid water standing on the spot, so there are fewer chances of infections.
  • Be very careful with topping the tree.2 Removing the top part radically could sever some cells that are necessary for vertical growth.
    You may end up with a tree that focuses more on horizontal growth unless that is what you want for your hedge plants.
  • Wondering just how much of the tree you are supposed to get rid of when trimming? It all depends on the type, size and age of the Cypress tree.
    Young trees are able to survive and bounce back after larger chunks are removed, but the more mature ones will have a hard time. However, in general, keep the pruning at around 25% or less for older trees.

Trimming Techniques for Leyland Cypress, Italian Cypress, and Bald Cypress Trees

There are so many types of Cypress trees that are common for landscaping, forming hedges around properties and serving as shade trees.

A large Leyland cypress tree standing beside a road, with a metal fence and hedge beneath a clear sky.

(Image: Jonathan Thacker10)

The Italian, Leyland, and Bald cypress are top of the list of the types that you will likely bump into and here are some trimming techniques that you need to know and why they are important for the tree.

  1. Cleaning: This is Cypress tree trimming that is done at any time of the year because it is vital for the tree’s health. Here, you get rid of the weak, diseased, and dying/dead branches.
  2. Thinning: This is another vital technique that the tree needs for its survival. When thinning, you actually remove the overcrowded branches to increase airflow and sunlight exposure.
    It also eases the weight on the tree and gives it its natural shape back.
  3. Reduction: This is trimming that is purely done in order to reduce the cypress’s height or width, but the difference with topping is that the tree’s main form remains.
  4. Raising: This is another technique that is quite common, where the tree’s bottom parts are permanently removed for clearance to allow vehicles and pedestrians to pass. Of course, this is done on the more massive Cypress trees.

What Do You Need To Trim a Cyprus Tree?

A Cypress tree is definitely one of a kind. It is able to grow to an astonishing 80 feet high, and that should explain why it is popular as a landscaping and hedge tree in various homes.

However, with this great height, you have to brace yourself for one key maintenance, trimming. Maybe you want it to stay at a certain height, not too giant, so that it becomes tasking to look after it.

If this is your very first time, you can’t help but wonder, how do you get started? What tools do you need if you are going to do all the pruning by yourself?

If you have a generally small tree, all you need is a pair of hand pruners, either the bypass blade or scissor type, not the anvil type, if you are going for the cleanest cuts. On the other hand, if you have a large tree, maybe one that needs more than 1½-inch cuts, then you will need something more practical, like a saw or lopping shears.

But what about hedging shears, you may ask? These ones are specifically for shaping the hedges, not pruning.

Perfect Timing for Cypress Tree Trimming

Knowing how long does it take for a tree to grow will help you realize that the cypress is a fast grower, just like other evergreens and will do the same when in your garden.

So, you have to be very skilled in pruning, and one thing you should know is when to tell them that your tree needs pruning and when is the safest time to do it. The last thing that you want is to affect its growth or cause other complications just because of poor timing.

Evergreens, in most cases, are trimmed due to one particular reason: as a corrective measure. Therefore, the seasonal timing is not a really big deal, unlike when it comes to deciduous trees.

It is very common for gardeners to prune their trees when they are in their dormant stages, and there are logical explanations for this. This is usually done so as to maximize the spring growth.

It gives the tree a chance to use all its newfound energy to bring back its shoots.

You want to completely avoid pruning heavily after the spring growth, particularly if you are dealing with a weak tree. At that point, a lot of energy and resources have already gone to rapid shoot growth, which leaves the tree stressed out.

You will also avoid pruning too close to winter since it would lead to new growth that will not be hardy enough to withstand the extreme cold and could be fatal.

Why Prune Cyprus Trees?

Looking at the majestic Cypress tree, you can’t help but ask how many leaves are on a tree? The tree is able to grow massive and bushy in no time, and you have to take care of it before it gets out of control.

So, first things first, why do you need to prune Cypress trees?

  1. Since the cypress is well known for being a landscaping tree, pruning is a must to leave it neat and aesthetically pleasing.
  2. Cypress tree trimming is the best way to get rid of weak and dead branches. This way, the tree will only focus resources on the healthy parts.
  3. If you prune out the diseased parts of the tree, you will reduce the chances of other parts getting infected.
  4. It is difficult for the sun to hit all the parts of the tree if they are growing too close to each other, explaining why some areas start discoloring. Pruning improves exposure and increases the flow of air between the branches.4,5
  5. You can be religious with the pruning if you want your tree to maintain a certain height; maybe it is potted, or you just want it to be easy to handle.

Hiring Help for Cypress Plant Trimming

DIY Cypress tree trimming is perfect for gardeners with small trees that are easy to handle.8 It will be fun and give you the fulfillment of going at it all on your own.

The problem comes in when you are dealing with a giant tree. You know what that means.

A landscape featuring Italian cypress trees standing tall against a backdrop of blue skies and fluffy clouds.

(Image: pcdazero9)

You will need a ladder to reach the parts that need to go, and you will also have to invest in expensive pieces of equipment and also know how to safely use them; a feat that can be risky.

Hiring an arborist or people from a tree trimming service will be your best bet in such a case.8 They will have the experience to know how to take care of your tree without affecting its growth, and they will have all the required tools to get the job done.

Safety is their priority, and you need to consider handing over the job if it seems too risky. What about the cost of arborist, won’t it be too high?

Well, not really. You can confirm that from a tree trimming cost calculator that will give you a rough estimate based on your tree’s size and other factors.

Do you have a Cypress tree growing in your home? Then you can attest that they are some of the most stunning trees that grow tall very fast.

But this means it can also easily grow out of hand, which explains why you have to be very keen on regular pruning. There are so many techniques that you can use based on your needs or what you actually want from your plant.

It is great if you have a small tree because it will be easy to handle everything on your own.

But on the other hand, if you have a giant tree that will need more special attention or access to high up areas, you might rather leave the job to the experts who have specialized equipment.

Regardless, Cypress tree trimming is crucial for the growth and overall health of the tree, and by cutting the branches, you can retain the shape and beauty of your landscaping trees.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cypress Tree Trimming

Why Trim a Cypress Bush?

Trimming your Cypress tree is essential not only for regulating its rapidly increasing height and enhancing its appearance but also for maintaining its health. Proper trimming increases sun exposure, and guards against diseases and pests.

What Do You Need To Trim a Cypress?

If you have just a small Cypress tree, you will only need a pair of hand pruners to get the job done. This works because the tree parts are relatively small, but when it comes to giant trees whose branches measure as much as 2 inches wide, then you will need to invest in a saw, or better yet, just call in experts to help with the tree trimming if it seems too dangerous.

What Is the Problem With Cypress Tree Trimming?

Pruning a large tree can be challenging, potentially dangerous, and may require hiring professional services. That aside, there are types of cypress, like the Leyland, that are known to cause skin irritation when you come in contact with their leaves.


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6French, S. C., & Appleton, B. L. (2022, May 17). A Guide to Successful Pruning, Pruning Evergreen Trees. Virginia Cooperative Extension. Retrieved October 16, 2023, from <>

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9Photo by pcdazero. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

10Photo by Jonathan Thacker. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from <>

11Photo by Tingeling. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>