Lopping vs. Pruning: What’s Best for Your Trees?
Feb 5, 2020

Many people who have heard about tree lopping and pruning often assume that these two terms are interchangeable. In reality, there’s a huge difference between them. While both refer to cutting some parts of trees and plants, the techniques are quite different and one can even do more harm to your tree’s health. 


Lopping vs. Pruning

Lopping refers to indiscriminate removal of tree branches, often involving large parts of the tree to reduce its size. It’s usually done to protect buildings and other structures from damages caused by trees growing too close to them. Another reason is to make the tree more suitable to the environment.

In contrast, pruning removes small and unhealthy branches. They’re carefully selected to facilitate growth of a greater number of new branches and leaves in their place. This technique also involves the cutting of broken, dying, or dead branches. Although these older branches may not be seriously harmful, they are unattractive and could cause growth issues if not removed.

In terms of equipment, lopping frequently employs a chainsaw, while pruning may require a variety of tools from secateurs, hand saws and chainsaws.


Disadvantages of Lopping

Lopping results in a significant change in the size and shape of a tree. It can also lead to more problems in the long run.

  1. Stress – When a tree is lopped, a substantial section of it is taken away. More than half of its canopy is usually removed, which in turn causes a sudden decrease in its crown-to-root ratio. Because the tree’s foliage is essential for photosynthesis, the loss of branches and leaves reduces its ability to produce food and energy. Starvation considerably stresses out your tree. In addition, it may lead to unstable patterns of regrowth that can be difficult to manage. In worst cases, your tree may even die due to food and energy deprivation.
  2. Diseases and decay – Aside from jeopardising your tree’s health, lopping may also expose it to various harmful conditions. Because lopping leaves large open wounds, the natural defence system of a tree’s lopped section is usually weaker or even absent. This means that lopped branches are more susceptible to pest infestations and diseases. Aside from this, lopping can cause any existing or potential decay to spread quicker all over the tree.
  3. Dangers and risks – While tree lopping seems to offer a lot of benefits, the risks involved often outweigh them. First of all, the activity itself is quite dangerous. Workers are usually required to work high above the ground, amidst large and heavy branches. This puts them in an unsafe position, and poses certain risks no matter how skilled a worker may be. Another problem that can arise from lopping is dangerous growth. When a tree is lopped, growth of branches and leaves is triggered in order to produce enough food. Also called epicormic growths, these new growths are poorly attached and much weaker than branches developing together with the tree. Epicormic growths are more likely to break as they get bigger and older, which can lead to damage to property or injury to a person.
  4. Not economical – It’s true that lopping can provide a quick and noticeable fix to your tree problem. However, this method is a temporary solution that’s not cost-effective. If your lopped tree doesn’t die from starvation, all unstable growths must be removed to retain its form and reduce the risk of failure. This means it will require maintenance more often.

Another problem is that with lopping, you’ll most likely end up with an ugly tree. While the appearance of fully grown trees can positively affect the market value of your property, a lopped tree can do the opposite. Aside from being unsightly, lopped trees involve additional maintenance costs that well-informed buyers will not want to take on.

Aside from all the negative effects mentioned above, you should be aware that lopping isn’t an acceptable practice according to the Australian Standards 4373-2007. Because of this, damages due to branch failure of your lopped tree may be considered negligence on your part in court of law.


Tree Pruning

Pruning is now a widely-used method of tree maintenance because it follows the guidelines set by the Australian Standards, ensuring that proper procedures are being followed. There are many reasons why pruning is highly recommended.

  • Proper cutting off of branches that are dead, damaged, or growing faster than others will enhance the natural shape of your tree and improve the look of your property.
  • It prevents your tree from contracting diseases like bacterial canker, leaf curl, and brown rot, and encourages a healthy and long life. If your tree is already sick, pruning can stop the spread of any disease to other parts.
  • Pruning before applying any pesticide helps facilitate dispersion of sprays and stimulates aeration.
  • Pruning gets rid of growth that only serves to compete for food. By removing this excess growth, fruit production is encouraged.
  • As previously mentioned, pruning also includes the identification and elimination of weak or dead branches, improving the safety around your property.
  • Pruning with specialist techniques can result in stronger roots, making your tree more capable of withstanding storms and strong winds.

Proper Pruning Techniques

In order for your tree to benefit from pruning, proper techniques and manpower must be utilized. Some of these techniques are:

  • Crown reduction – reducing the whole canopy’s size by evenly trimming the branches throughout the crown. It’s usually done when a tree grows in a restricted environment or to inhibit root spread and reduce resistance to wind.
  • Crown thinning – even removal of selected inner branches throughout the crown. This allows better penetration of sunlight and effective air circulation throughout the crown, while keeping the natural shape of the tree.
  • Crown lifting – selective removal of branches from the lower crown. It’s usually done to provide vertical clearance and make sure that people and vehicles can pass without the risk of injury or accidents.
  • Dead-wooding – removal of broken, diseased, dying, or dead branches to reduce the risk of spread of decay.

Call a Professional

Certain factors must be considered to ensure the success of pruning. Aside from choosing the right method, it’s important to use the correct tools and carry out pruning at the right time.

You should never attempt doing it yourself if you’re not knowledgeable about the correct procedures, or you might end up doing damage to your tree.

You should always hire qualified professionals when pruning, especially if it involves large trees that may require the use of power equipment and working high above the ground. They will determine the correct type of pruning that will improve the appearance, safety, and health of your trees. And depending on the present state of your tree, they can advise you if it’s better to remove it.

When choosing a tree company, avoid dealing with those that recommend lopping. You should also make sure that the company holds professional qualifications and has public liability insurance.

Adelaide Hills Tree Services is a locally-owned pruning and removal company, operating in Adelaide Hills, the suburbs, and Fleurieu. We specialize in dangerous removals and working in confined spaces. For a quote or more information about our services, give us a call on 0477 030 266. A member of our team will come out and assist you. We’re also available 24/7 for tree emergencies.