This tree is growing outside my office and blocking almost all the light coming into my window. I don't necessarily want to kill the tree and I can't just blatantly chop it down, but I would like to get more light in my office. I'm also hesitant to prune it for fear of making it look holey. If the tree met an untimely end, I would not be upset.

Two questions:

  1. What kind of tree is this?
  2. What non-apparent things can I do to make it so that I get more light through my window?


Inside my office

  • If you MUST kill a beautiful tree like this, take a saw/knife, and cut around the base as deep as you can, and when it won't grow back because you cut off enough of its nutrient flow it's dead. Like stormy said try to sell it first. Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 21:26
  • 6
    @blackthumb And then you have an almost two-storey high (semi-)dead tree with a predetermined breaking point right next to a building, a walkway and a parking lot? This can be fatal, especially in windy conditions. I strongly advise against this method in this spot.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 22:20
  • Thanks for all the answers guys. I'm definitely not going to risk the tree falling on someone/their car, but I think I can cut some back enough so that I get some light.
    – Chris
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 13:33

5 Answers 5

  1. Get some lopping shears.
  2. Open the window.
  3. From inside, lop off 2 or 3 of the lower, smaller branches, just enough to get a little more light in, and allow a few angles of view to the outside. Don't overdo this.
  4. Discard the branches inside (don't leave them laying outside on the ground).
  5. Wait a few weeks.
  6. Either stop now or go to (2).

Need a close up of the leaves to be sure what it is - at the moment, I'm guessing possibly a Pittosporum, or maybe some kind of holly, but really need a better picture of the leaves.

That said, however, I don't know who's responsible for the planting outside your office window, but you should speak to whoever it is and strongly suggest they remove the plant, because when something gets to that size and completely covers a window,it's a case of wrong plant, wrong place. If it's left in situ, it will soon cause a problem in the room above, where exactly the same thing is starting to happen, its already covering the bottom quarter of that window. Any replanting subsequent to removal should preferably be with something that doesn't get above windowsill height.

There isn't anything 'unobvious' you can do otherwise - if you cut it right down, people will notice; if you selectively cut out some branches, everyone will notice that too, but it's not reasonable to allow a plant to completely cover a window - should any repainting or repairs be necessary, the plant would have to be cut down anyway to allow access. By the looks of it, it must already be covering the downpipe from the guttering, and presumably the drain at the bottom - I'm surprised the owners of the building haven't done anything about it, not least because of its proximity to the building's foundations. Identifying it would mean you'd have some idea of just how tall its going to get - and how deep and wide the root spread may eventually be (though it must be fairly big already), so please add a photo showing a branch and leaves.

There are methods for killing stumps, but they're not particularly effective without cutting the tree/shrub down first.


Good call Bamboo...Don't you dare kill this SHRUB. Grins! It is healthy and beautiful and you should find a damn good pruner to THIN this guy. A little this year and a bit more next if necessary. This will allow more light yet still keep the light filtered and add movement, shadows, interest into your office. I've never seen a more healthy and yet huge pittosporum...still gotta send closeups to be sure. To have unadulterated sunlight where you have to use your blinds is just a shame. You'll love what can happen with selective, professional and artistic pruning!

Definitely the wrong plant planted at least a decade ago but I would try to thin it, not remove it! Planted so close to the foundation it is a miracle this guy is doing so well. THIN it, it could look like a humongous bonsai!! How are your summers? Do other offices with straight sunshine have problems with heat? Have to close their blinds from too much natural light? I would LOVE to prune that guy.

If you HAVE to get rid of this plant, check around for a company that goes out to dig up beautiful specimens like this just to sell them on the market for THOUSANDS of dollars. I am not kidding. The company I am familiar with is BIG TREES in Washington. You even have to pay them to do the removal, roots and all...good thing is that they have insurance. I've seen shrubs like this go for 5-10,000 bucks!! Hummmm. Selective pruning would be wonderful for inside your office as well as from the outside! Talk with Bonsai masters that prune big trees that look like bonsai...or Master Pruners from your cooperative extension service affiliated with your closest University!!

  • In general, I agree about not removing healthy plants, but one of the hardest things to learn with gardening is knowing when to get rid of something, and actually doing it, albeit reluctantly, and healthy or otherwise. This is one such time, I'm afraid!
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 21:16
  • But why? A bare window where this OP has to use blinds to filter the sun's rays or beautiful already there leaves and branches? What do you see as the reasons to get rid of this plant? You know I am humbled by your intellect and am seriously curious!! Grins! Once this plant is gone it is gone.
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 21:22
  • And the OP would get such a nice view of a concrete/asphalt parking lot. If it hasn't caused problems with the foundation I love the leafy jungle backlit by sun as an big bonus for this office. Sort of a live painting...?
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 21:25
  • I bet you that plant was put in by someone who had no idea how big it would get - its too close to the foundations of the building's wall,, and if its pittosporum or holly, it'll get bigger.Its impractical from a building maintenance point of view, and is currently excluding nearly all the light from what should be a valuable opening to increase daylight within the room. A balance has to be struck I'm afraid - they'd be better off planting ceanothus thyrsiflorus repens or something instead.It's also on the way to blocking light from the window on the next floor....
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 21:26
  • Now you know why, when I had a gardening company, it was called Practical Gardens! I learned over the years quite quickly when to be ruthless about existing plants....there's always a more sensible and just as delightful alternative to use instead.... And personally, I'd rather have daylight than green gloom in my office, specially in winter - that's an evergreen
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 21:33

It's a great looking tree, though I understand that you want more light. Trying to kill it will most likely result in killing off the stuff around it and you'll end up with a dead tree outside of your window until someone decides to remove it.

Maybe contact the building owner or property management and ask them to come out and see what can be done.

  • I like being me and if I am grinning it seems to make sense with my words...dunno. I just can't get too impersonal, otherwise why doesn't everyone just get their own answers off the impersonal internet? I have a tough time changing how I communicate via the written word. When I say 'grins' I AM GRINNING as I type the words.
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 2:52
  • From the post: "To "stormy" - why do you keep writing the words "grins" and "grinning" mixed in with your answers?? " Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 5:56

take a cup of salt water and splash it on the tree, at the trunk. do this every day until the tree dies. keep in mind, salination can prevent any plant from growing there for months or years. it's nonobvious and permanent (arguably too much so). it may also kill the plants around it, be prudent with the application of salt.

this may be a direct violation of land management or tenant responsibilities depending on where you live.

  • Ummmmm...No, salt water MIGHT kill it slowly. I won't kill slugs using salt as it is a slow process. Just sawing it off at the bottom will kill this beautiful shrub, small tree, quite nicely. You might be thinking of acid, higher than vinegar percentage that renders the soil unattractive to any plants and micro/macro organisms but can be changed with the addition of lime once one wants stuff to grow in that soil again.
    – stormy
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 2:57
  • Frankly, it'd be quicker to bang in copper nails all around the base of the trunk, and that takes years and years to work - but salt solution, running down the trunk for years will completely poison the soil and kill all the other plants before it kills this shrub.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 7:58

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