It will likely live, at least for awhile, but it will look like c**p!
Conifers that are topped - and removing the top half of a tree is
considered 'topping' - develop awkward growth habits that can seldom
be corrected. They are also more prone to disease and insect issues
when they suffer this type of abuse. If you were attempting to keep it
small - "hedged" - you needed to start this process immediately after
planting, removing any new growth and keeping the leader trimmed back.
What you are proposing now is too radical a method and would
jeopardize the long term health of the tree. If it is too big for its
current location consider transplanting or removal rather than
whacking it in half. You'll not be happy with the result.
A Chanukah bush... circumcised! LOL
If you cut it, within a year it will send up a new leader and in four
years will be 12' tall again... only it likely won't look very
Didn't you know that a Norway spruce can easily and quickly attain a
height of 70' X 30' wide and more. Spruce can be pruned of half its
growth each year to keep it more compact but at 12' it's a bit late
Have it removed and plant something that won't grow larger than you
want and/or have space. There are many varieties of spruce and other
conefirs that are suitable for holiday decorating that grow very
slowly and don't grow very large.
I planted a Fat Albert to decorate for the holidays. It should attain
a height of 25' and I have the space but it is very slow growing, I
seriously doubt I'll be here by then.
My Fat Albert was just under 6' when I planted it nearly two years
ago, it's a bit over 6' now... those trees in the background are all
Check for examples of various conefirs here:
Tallest branches suppress growth of lower ones by
production of hormones at tip meristem. Topping
thus removes growth suppressant hormones. What's
left of the tree grows back in bushier form, likely
not what you had in mind. To preserve the conical
shape, trim *all* branches back, preferrably no more
than 1/3 of branch length each.
I'm not sure what "Christmas tree" means since evergreens of all
types are used for this. Around here, in Nawth Taxes, we have a
LOT of red cedar, which grows wild in fields, that are used for Xmas
That being said, I have been growing and shaping red cedar for
two decades. It can be trimmed into all sorts of shapes, from
hedgerows to large, mound shaped decorations. I have to trim
them 3 or 4 times a year, and stay on top of it, but they are very
do-able if you want to use them as various ornaments.
Topping the tree doesn't hurt it a bit (red cedar) but seems to
force it to grow out horizontally. New shoots will try to come out
the top to continue, but they are easy to control with hedge
If they grow tall, one can cut off the lower branches at the trunk
8-10 feet above ground, and they make excellent trees that have a
that doesn't block the scenery.... They give good shade, and they
shed leaves all over the place....
The only problem with red cedar is that it is a very slow growing
tree, and may take several years to get to the hedge, shape, or
height you want. On the other hand, once it is established, they
are very hardy thru drought etc.....
I dig them up in vacant fields and lots when they are about a foot
high, and have had the best luck transplanting them in January. Lots
of water for the first year, then they take care of themselves....
Just my experience. I don't know how well it applies to other types
of "Christmas trees"...
Andy in Eureka, Texas
The subject line says it all - Norway spruce.
Red cedar - not a cedar at all but Juniperus virginiana - has a very
variable habit and responds to topping or heavy pruning in a much
different manner than do other, very defined single leader conifers.
You may get by easily by topping a juniper but you will NOT get the
same result topping a spruce.
Issues of topping conifers:
Thanks gardengal. I've never tried it on spruce.... I am aware
Juniperis Virginianus, but it is called by so many colloquial names
that just saying "red cedar" pretty much describes it .
I like spruce, but haven't seen any growing around here.
It's the red cedar that are very popular here as Xmas trees.
Ok.... Thanks for the info....
Andy in Eureka, Texas
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