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Our redwood is about 30 years old and about 4 stories high. I would like to shape and top it to keep under control. Would it be fine to top off about 10 or 15 feet and also shape it? A tree trimmer told me it would be a good idea but years ago another trimmer told me not to top because the top would split in two and continue growing that way. Sounds awful. Any advice?

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It's unfortunate the you have received conflicting advice on such a basic question. From here or here or here

Topping is perhaps the most harmful tree pruning practice known. Yet, despite more than 25 years of literature and seminars explaining its harmful effects, topping remains a common practice.

Topping a tree can cause a cascade of problems

  • sun damage to previously shielded branches
  • insect damage when they move in to the large cut
  • nutrient stress
  • poor growth habit

It is the last that is the most relevant to you when you have a large tree. Should you get the tree topped the new growth at the top will be weakly attached. Sooner or later a wind storm will tear the new branches off. As the owner of the tree you are liable for anything the tree falls on. Your or your neighbour's insurance could have a field day with any claims if it can be shown that poor pruning contributed to any incidents.

Check out this answer to another redwood question for what your tree really needs. If the tree is too big or poorly placed then don't prune it, remove it.

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    Agreed. Trying to keep a tree that normally grows to a couple of hundred feet in height "under control" is an exercise in futility. And, as you pointed out, probably dangerous as well. – TeresaMcgH Mar 25 '14 at 15:39
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    Topping and shaping evergreen trees promotes disastrous growth patterns and is to be avoided. It's like having a pituitary tumor, growth hormones are stimulated and bad things happen. Removing the primary terminal bud is never a good idea in any Fir, Pine, Cypress or other related species. – Fiasco Labs May 19 '14 at 16:26
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Two years ago I cut off the top of my beautiful Redwood. Didn't want it above my house, and realized it was in the wrong place. However, I didn't want to kill this healthy tree. From the top grew a lot of fine branches, and it is just so pretty, full and certainly healthy. So I guess I did everything wrong, but as of now I am happy with it.

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