How to Prune a Cypress Tree


Cypress is a genus of trees and shrubs known botanically as Cupressus that, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, encompasses 14 species and 22 cultivars. Cypress are slow growing evergreen conifers and require very little pruning save the removal of damage, dead branching and foliage or to control shape and size when they interfere with structures, power lines or other dangerous situations. Cypress species tend to have a distinct canopy shape; unnecessary pruning alters the natural form that is often difficult or slow to be fully restored, so any pruning should be judicious.

Step 1

Prune your cypress trees in the spring or early fall, bypassing the heat of summer and cold temperatures and frost of winter and reducing stress on the trees. Place all cuts just outside the branch collar and when removing damaged wood, cut back to the point of healthy tissue.

Step 2

Cut away dead, damaged or diseased branches and twigs throughout the canopy, including any branches that cross and abrade one another.

Step 3

Remove the lowest branches on the trunk if they look ratty, diseased or have become defoliated because of lack of sunlight. Raising the height of the lowest branches can also create a more distinct traditional or topiary tree shape.

Tips and Warnings

  • Refrain from removing more that one-third of the tree's living tissue in any pruning session to prevent stress on the tree root and shock setting in.

Things You'll Need

  • Snub-nose long-handled loppers
  • Hand saw
  • Water


  • North Carolina State University: Taxodium Distichum
  • USDA Plant Database Profile: Cypress Genus
  • University of Arizona: Arid Gardener Pruning Italian Cypress
Keywords: cypress trees, pruning cypress trees, trimming cypress trees

About this Author

An omni-curious communications professional, Dena Kane has more than 17 years of experience writing and editing content for online publications, corporate communications, business clients, industry journals, as well as film and broadcast media. Kane studied political science at the University of California, San Diego.