A member of the narrowleaf evergreen family, cypress trees need pruning to maintain the tree structure and keep the tree healthy. With cypress, as with all evergreens, too much pruning can disturb the plant so much that needles do not grow back or even kill the tree. Prune with caution. The best time of year to prune these trees is in the spring when frost danger passes.
Note dead, broken or diseased branches on your cypress tree. Snapped or broken branches can rot if not removed, as can dead ones. Diseased branches may be discolored, ooze sap or bear growths.
Remove dead, broken or diseased branches by cutting them off at the base. Use anvil pruners for thin cuts and lopping shears for those thicker than 1 inch. For large limbs, use a hand saw. Spray your tools with disinfectant in between every cut to avoid passing disease to other branches.
Clip back the tips of long branches to maintain the size of your cypress tree, taking care to maintain the tree's natural shape. Begin at the top of the tree and work down. Work one branch at a time; do not use hedge shears. Never cut off all the foliage on a branch, since cypress needles won't regenerate if a branch gets cut to bare wood.
Remove woody branches that bear little foliage or any branch that detracts from the tree's shape by cutting them off at the base. This improves light and air circulation through the cypress, which can help the tree ward off disease.
Thin back long branches again during June or July if your cypress tree has grown too long.