How to Cut Back a Cedar Tree


Cut back your cedar tree each year to keep it compact, neat and healthy. Cutting back helps increase air circulation through the tree canopy, which naturally helps prevent bacteria and fungus from causing disease. The best time of year to prune cedar trees is either in the fall or in the late winter once frost danger passes for your area. If you only need to trim back the branches on your tree, professionally known as heading back, you can do this more than once per season and at any time in the growing season.

Step 1

Note any dead, diseased or damaged branches on your cedar tree. Dead branches display brown needles and feel brittle. Diseased or damaged growth may also have grown leaves, blotching, discoloration or atypical growth. Removing this wood keeps the tree healthy.

Step 2

Cut off dead or unhealthy growth at its base. Between each cut, spray your pruning tools with a disinfectant to prevent spreading disease to healthy parts of the tree.

Step 3

Head back long limbs one by one using anvil pruners. Trim them back to your preferred length, but don't cut so far back that you remove all green foliage on your cedar limb.

Step 4

Thin out old woody growth that produces little foliage. Cut this growth off at the base without cutting into the trunk. Don't remove more than one-third of the old growth wood in a season.

Things You'll Need

  • Anvil pruners
  • Lopping shears
  • Disinfectant spray


  • University of Minnesota: Pruning Trees and Shrubs
  • University of Maine: Pruning Woody Landscape Plants
Keywords: pruning cedar tree, cut back tree, cedar tree

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Elton Dunn is a freelance writer and nonprofit consultant with 14 years' experience. Dunn specializes in travel, food, business, gardening, education and the legal fields. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. Dunn holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English.