How To Prune An Arborvitae: Step-By-Step Guide For Perfect Results

Arborvitae is a popular evergreen shrub that provides privacy and shade to your yard. Pruning plays an essential role in maintaining the health, shape, and size of arborvitae. A properly pruned arborvitae not only looks attractive but also grows stronger and lives longer.

However, pruning an arborvitae can be intimidating for many homeowners as it requires some knowledge and skill. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to prune an arborvitae like a pro.

When to Prune Arborvitae

The best time to prune an arborvitae depends on the type of pruning you want to do. If you’re trimming just a few branches or shaping the tree lightly, then any time of year would work fine.

However, if you’re planning extensive pruning or removing large limbs, it’s better to do it during its dormant season (late fall through late winter). This period allows new growth in spring when the weather gets warmer.

Another important thing about timing is avoiding hot summer months when your tree may get stressed due to heat and lack of water retention caused by excessive pruning.

Tools Needed for Pruning Arborvitaes

Before getting started with the process itself ensure that you have all necessary tools ready:

– Lopper
– Handheld pruner/shears
– Saw
– Gloves
– Safety glasses

How to Prune Arborvitaes – Step-by-step guide

Step 1: Determine Your Goals: What Do You Want To Achieve?

Pruning should always serve some purpose; thus before starting think about what exactly you want from this process – shape correction or removal of dead/weak branches? Knowing your goals makes trimming more effective while preventing mistakes caused by over-pruning or cutting too deep into healthy wood.

Step 2: Inspect The Tree Closely

Inspecting closely means checking every inch of your tree branch by branch. Look for dead, damaged, or diseased branches that need removal. Deadwood has a brownish-gray color and lacks needles while diseased branches have fungal growth, cankers, or other blemishes.

Step 3: Remove Dead and Weak Branches

Now that you’ve identified dead/weak branches clip them off using loppers or handheld pruners/shears. Cut as close to the trunk as possible without damaging it. Removing these helps improve air circulation throughout the tree reducing pest infestation and promoting healthy growth.

Step 4: Thin Out The Interior of The Tree

Thinning involves removing congested or crossing limbs within the canopy to open up space for sunlight penetration deep into your arborvitae’s interior foliage. This process also improves air circulation inside the tree allowing moisture to evaporate preventing fungal diseases.

Start by cutting off smaller lateral (side) branches growing directly from larger ones towards their inner side with hand-held shears/pruners leaving no stumps behind. Avoid cutting too many large supporting branches at once as they provide structure & support for your trees’ weight distribution.

Step 5: Shape Correction

Shaping refers to maintaining your arborvitae’s overall desired shape and size through maintenance pruning. It includes clipping back any unruly shoots so that they remain in line with other foliage around their respective areas.

To achieve this place a pole vertically at each corner of your plant forming an imaginary square around it creating guidelines for trimming consistency across all angles during future maintenance sessions.


Pruning an arborvitae requires some knowledge of its anatomy care should always be taken not to damage healthy wood when cutting away unwanted material – particularly on younger plants where every cut counts! By following our simple steps above; inspecting closely before proceeding will help ensure success over time leading towards healthier more attractive specimens overall providing privacy light shade homeowners seek in such plants!