We're moving to our first home next week and there's this big tree in front of it. We would like to know what kind of tree it is and if we can cut the lower branches (5-6 feet) without causing harm.


Unknown tree

  • 2
    Needles or leaves? Looks like some type of Juniper, but could be a broad leafed evergreen. You can do it, but those branches will never come back. I'd try to Photoshop an emulation of your end result, and see how it looks. Some evergreens look very wrong with visible trunks. At any rate, start slow, maybe just the lower ring of branches this year. See how you like it. Looks to me that going 6 feet up will remove more than 1/3 of canopy. That can kill trees. I'd chop it over at least two years. Jun 16, 2018 at 15:03
  • Those are needles. Good idea to cut the branches over many years. Jun 16, 2018 at 15:16
  • Simon, it also looks as if you have great drainage on all sides of your home. Your neighbor not so much. Unless some mountain is draining into the back of your home you have a home with a dry basement/crawlspace? You got a good first home. Next one, hire an independent home inspector to go through the home before you purchase. Their fees are very reasonable and you know they are working FOR YOU. Not the real estate agent or bank that is for sure, grins.
    – stormy
    Jun 18, 2018 at 21:33
  • Hey @stormy, I'm curious on how you can assert the drainage is great only by seeing the picture (I'm far from an expert concerning houses!). That's a great news. We did hire a certified inspector before purchasing the house back in January. Since it was winter, we couldn't see the terrain, but he used a thermal camera and an humidity detector in the basement and found no leak, no moisture and no sign of water infiltration. Jun 19, 2018 at 13:31
  • I taught Grading and Drainage in the Landscape Program. Before computers. My eye goes right to what little detail is available in your picture. Simon, you are so smart to have gotten an inspector. I also built 30 custom homes, honest injun.
    – stormy
    Jun 19, 2018 at 20:13

2 Answers 2


Al Maki is right about taking off branches from the bottom of a conifer. It is not recommended only because of aesthetics and wind resistance. Christmas tree on a stick type of thing.

This is a cute home! Someone boo booed with tree selection. Yet it is so healthy! I'd want to keep this tree for sure. Thinning it throughout the height and lightening that skirt would definitely work in a similar fashion as Al Maki explains.

I'd like to see the distance from the tree to your home and a picture from the side of your little home and property of as much as possible for scale. Where is it you live, zone for planting and a close up of the foliage? I think the problem is scale of that tree to your home.

If this tree's mass were balanced in your landscape with another 'huge' planting or two, your home would look like a home in the woods. Thinning, cutting branches from the main trunk will 'lighten' this tree bring it back into scale with your home. Adding 'extensions' of your home out into the landscape will also tame the size of this tree. Such as awnings, arbors, pergolas, screens.

These trees look best in parks and larger landscapes with no pruning just as yours looks right now. The thinning will open peek a boos of your home's siding and your home will look more substantial. Let's go slowly and please send a few more pics! Thanks!

  • We live in Québec, Canada. The tree is pretty close to the facade of the house. We're only taking possession of the house this Friday so I can't really get other photos before. Maybe we'll just hire a professional for an overall trimming job on this tree. I have to agree, it's so massive compared to the rest of the house... Also, there's another bush behind it (between this tree and the house). Jun 17, 2018 at 11:39
  • Simon, that is a great plan. Tell him you want the tree thinned, not topped or headed. The bottom should be thinnest but evened out up the length of the tree to allow air flow. You don't want your tree to be able to catch the wind. Lovely little home. Enjoy this experience.
    – stormy
    Jun 18, 2018 at 6:34
  • We definitely don't want to remove the top. The height of the tree doesn't bother us. It looks messy and this is what we want to fix. I guess it lacked some love from the previous owners. Thank you for your tips! Jun 18, 2018 at 11:48
  • Take some pictures and notes with your visit from a professional. Contact at least 3. Make sure they have insurance, up to date, licensed and bonded. Would love the followup! This is vital. Let's not start our home ownership with a money pit!
    – stormy
    Jun 18, 2018 at 21:18
  • Look up "Angie's List"...on the internet. Super service! I assume it is available where you live? Many contractors, subcontractors, landscapers think they have fools for clients. Be careful with this crowd. I am very much a part of this crowd but not the thieves. I know they are out there ready to woo and sell snake oil to those who don't have the time to learn what to look out for. Angie's List...free for you, I think or at least cheap relative to being embroiled in a civil suit. Great reviews.
    – stormy
    Jun 18, 2018 at 21:26

A conifer but without seeing the needles up close and knowing where you live the species and even genus is beyond me. Regardless, as a conifer you can certainly take off branches from the bottom. (Don't take off the top.) I've been through this twice on different properties in very different climatic zones. I'd suggest you take off only one ring of branches at a time and wait a few weeks to see the effect - the branches above will probably sink down. Keep doing it slowly until you're satisfied. But it's better to error on the side of caution and wait until next year to take off another layer. If you take off too many of the bottom branches and don't like the result, you're stuck because they won't grow back.

  • I live in Québec, Canada. We're only taking possession of the house this Friday so I can't really get a close up photo of the needles. Jun 17, 2018 at 11:37

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