February 22, 2021 /
Jona Elwell

Topping Trees is Not Helpful. Here’s What to Do Instead

Whether you were aware of it or not, chances are you’ve seen the dreaded, dramatically named, phenomenon of “crape murder” where crape myrtle trees are needlessly hacked off at the top in an effort to ‘prune’ them. 

While it’s true that winter is the best time to prune trees since they’re dormant and their branch structure is easily viewed, pruning them in this way is not only harmful to look at, it’s harmful to the tree. Cutting off the upright stems to some arbitrary point increases the plant’s risk of disease while guaranteeing that a load of twiggy sprouts will erupt from below the point of amputation. Washington Post’s Adrian Higgins railed against this practice in a recent article that also offers helpful pruning tips.

“The key to fine pruning is to end up with a specimen that is groomed and structurally sound but still looks natural. Once acquired, it is a skill that will enrich not just your garden but also yourself. The downside is you won’t be able to look at an untended tree again without seeing a wayward branch and feeling the urge to fix it.”

Another key to fine pruning is to call a professional! Pruning young trees is one of the surefire ways to encourage healthy, strong branching structure, so it is not a practice you want to leave to chance or amateurs.  

If you have a tree you’re worried about or you think needs pruning, get in contact with one of our Certified Arborists so they can take a look. Our arborists provide residential consultations and tree pruning requests as part of our Fee for Service program. All you need to do is fill out an inquiry at and we’ll be in touch. We typically respond to these requests based on our current capacity, so if you’re looking for a quicker turnaround time you can always find another certified arborist at

Wish you had a tree on your property to prune? Through our Residential Planting programs you can get a tree planted in your yard for free.