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How to Trim an Italian Cypress

By Eulalia Palomo ; Updated September 21, 2017

The tall, cylindrical shape of the Italian Cypress tree makes a striking point of interest in a landscape setting. As an alternative, you can trim this evergreen tree to make a regular and even hedge or privacy fence. Left to itself, this tree can grow to heights upward of 40 feet, but it can also be trimmed regularly to maintain the shape of a low hedge. With an average growth of 3 fet per year and a reputation as a heat- and drought-tolerant tree, the Italian cypress makes a perfect backdrop for the warm climate garden.

Cut off branches that hang down from the bottom of the tree. These branches may be fairly thick, depending on the size and age of the tree, so use a sharp tree saw. For taller trees you will need a good, stable ladder.

Trim off any branches that stick out from the tree's evergreen cone shape but don’t cut into the greenery. Cutting too deep into the tree can leave large, brown bare spots that will take a long time to fill in.

Remove any clumps that are sticking out from the tree using a hedge trimmer or pair of sharp shears. It is OK to shape the tree on the outside as long as you don’t dig too deep into the center of the tree.

Cut off the tops of your Italian Cypress trees if you are planning to maintain a low- to medium-size hedge or privacy fence. It is a good idea to trim the tops of your trees each season if you are growing them into a hedge. This will encourage thicker growth at the bottom of the tree and prevent the formation of a long, gangling trunk.

Never take off more than 1/3 of the tree in a single season. If your tree is currently 6 feet tall you can take off at most 2 feet from the top. Taking off more than 1/3 of the tree's total height can damage it beyond repair.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Ladder
  • Hedge trimmer
  • Sharp shears
  • Tree saw

Tips

  • The best time to trim your Italian Cypress trees is in the early spring after the last frost has gone. Summer and fall pruning is also acceptable as long as you trim your trees at least six weeks before the first frost. This will give the trees time to recover before harsh winter conditions set in.
  • If your tree is already very tall, it will never make a short shrub. The Italian Cypress does not grow back from old wood so the only way to keep your tree small is to start early in its life and trim regularly.

Warning

  • Trimming tall trees can be dangerous. For mature trees, consider hiring a professional tree trimmer.

About the Author

 

Eulalia Palomo has been a professional writer since 2009. Prior to taking up writing full time she has worked as a landscape artist and organic gardener. Palomo holds a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies from Boston University. She travels widely and has spent over six years living abroad.