Is an overgrown oak tree in your landscape causing you problems?
Maybe it’s blanketing your lawn with acorns – some oaks can drop 10,000 acorns per year – or perhaps its large branches are overhanging your front porch.
In cases such as these, many homeowners assume that topping the problematic oak tree is the best approach. While topping may work, it has both advantages and disadvantages.
Topping an oak tree will promote a cleaner lawn.
Not to be confused with pruning, topping involves the complete removal of the top of a tree.
By removing all the top branches, the oak tree won’t drop as many acorns or shed as many leaves. The branches will likely regrow, but it can take years or even decades for this to occur.
In addition to promoting a cleaner lawn, topping can improve the aesthetics of an oak tree.
When left unchecked, oak trees will grow a large and dense canopy that looks somewhat disheveled. If the oak tree is directly in front of your home, this may negatively impact your home’s curb appeal.
Topping, of course, will significantly reduce its canopy to improve your home’s curb appeal.
Increased Risk of Infection
On the other hand, topping can increase the risk of infection in an oak tree.
All trees are susceptible to viral, bacterial and fungal infections – and oaks are no exception. When topped, however, a tree’s risk of infection increases dramatically.
Difficult and Laborious
Topping is both difficult and laborious, which may deter some homeowners from using this method to deal with an overgrown oak tree.
Assuming the oak tree is mature, you won’t be able to top it using a pair of shears. Rather, you’ll need to use a chainsaw.
And because topping involves the removal of the top part of a tree, you’ll also need a ladder and safety harness.
Furthermore, topping an oak tree can lead to the production of many small sprouts on and the trunk.
Known as stress sprouts, trees develop them when suffering from extreme stress. The sprouts will quickly grow in an effort to keep the tree alive.
This means you’ll have to spend even more time maintaining the oak tree.
As you can see, topping usually does more harm than good. If an overgrown oak tree is causing you problems, consider pruning it rather than topping it.
The Woodsman Company offers tree planting, tree pruning and shrub trimming, tree removal and stump grinding as well as a tree wellness program.
If we can help with any of your tree care needs give us a call at 512-846-2535 or 512-940-0799 or
The oak tree in question is attached to sister at the bottom. It is leaning and curving and with this areas strong winds and inclement weather I am worried it’s gonna fall on the house. It is a really large tree. Will take a bucket truck to top.
Can prune but the amount it’s leaning I don’t know if it will help. Am told if I cut it it will probable kill the attached sister.
Would appreciate any advise u may have
Ken Partain says
Hi Dennis. Thanks for reading. Yes, cutting down a tree with a sister tree at the bottom could possibly hurt the remaining trunk. So, you can cut it down knowing the risk, or remove both trunks together.
Thanks for the interesting article. What would you recommend for a large oak tree that formerly was in the shape of a Y with the truck and then the two large arms off the trunk. The left arm of the Y broke off from the actual vertical portion of the trunk during a snow storm and this caused a two foot spit which makes the other arm of the Y weak and which could very likely endanger the house next to it. Would you recommend removing the whole tree in this case? If could have the other part of the Y chopped off and the tree would still survive then that would be optimal. Thanks for your thoughts.
Deadra Key says
A neighbor across the golf fairway, has volunteered to pay for topping off our oak trees so she will have a better view of a distant lake. We are concerned about opening up these oaks to disease if we opt to agree with her suggestion. We already have seen oak wilt in the neighborhood and do not want to run the risk of it spreading to our oaks. Please advise.
Charles Starr says
I live in Central Texas and I have a 20 year old Shumard Red Oak tree that has dead limbs from a late heavy freeze in February of this year. About 2/3 of tree has came back green and full of life but some outer limbs and branches in top of tree appear to be dead and breaking off in High winds. Can this tree be topped off and save it or should I just leave it alone and see what happens?
Jessica D Price says
Exact same scenario here in McKinney, TX. I was left with a dead bald patch in the upper canopy. I have them cutting out now. I am hopeful it comes back since the rest of the tree is healthy. Time will tell!
Christine Feehery says
I have been advised to have my huge pin oak tree trimmed to leave more light to my roof for solar panels. It is on the south side of my house. The tree does look healthy but has had limbs rot and fall off. How can it be sadly trimmed?
Jorge Abnee says
If you want the very best advice about tree pruning and topping (copping) then you should hire an arborist who will not mislead you with armchair guidance. Every type of tree has its own unique conditions that sustain its life. To get the best from your plants, you must respect them enough to get the advice that will sustain their reasonable claim on life. Work with nature. Don’t destroy it out of misplaced, misguided, vanity and opinions about “aesthetics”.
I had a man trim my oak tree b/c it was hanging over my house but he cut most of the bottom too short. Now it has no leaves on the bottom& it is full on the top. It looks weird now that he cut to much off. Will the tree grow full again?