The Q&A Archives: Pruning Arborvitae

Question: I just moved, and the front of the house contains three ten year old arborvitae shrubs which were never pruned, and have reached a height of approx. 18 ft x 8 ft. They are too big for the size of the house, and I would like to see them about half these dimensions.

Would I be able to cut them back to the size I like, or should I cut them down and start over?

Answer: If (and this is a big if) they survive the drastic pruning they will still, in my opinion, look terrible. Arborvitaes can be clipped and will look similar to clipped yews, but this is a steady process over time rather than one big hack job. You might look at this as an opportunity to replace them with something whose ultimate size is more appropriate for the site and will not need incessant pruning in the future.

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