7 Reasons To Cut Down Your Cedar Tree & When To Do It
Trees provide numerous benefits to humans and wildlife, and with the lifespan of a cedar tree reaching up to 300 years, that’s not something to bat an eye at. Unfortunately, the longer a tree lives, the more time and opportunities there are for damage to occur to the tree or for the tree to cause damage to your property.
Here are seven reasons to consider cutting down your cedar tree:
- It’s too close to your house or other buildings
- Your tree has started to require too much maintenance
- You want to reduce the number of insect infestations in your tree
- You want to minimize potential storm damage
- You want to improve the health of your lawn
- The cost of keeping your tree outweighs its benefits
- The tree is dying
Depending on how long you’ve been in your home, there could be some sentimental memories attached to your tree. Keep on reading for some important reasons why you may have to cut down your cedar tree.
Your Cedar Tree Is Too Close To Your House Or Other Structures
If as your cedar has grown over the years it’s gotten closer and closer to your house, the tree could potentially cause issues with the structure of your house.
- As the canopy of your tree grows, it could potentially disrupt your water drainage system. While most cedars are narrowest at their highest point, if these trees get too close to your home’s rain gutters, the tree could be interrupting proper water drainage.
The good news is that with a cedar tree you won’t have your gutters filled with leaves that could cause a backup of water within the gutter system, but needles and branches can still come off your cedar tree during windy or stormy weather and end up in your water drainage system.
Ultimately, this could cause water to back up in your drainage system and be forced into areas where you never planned, or wanted, the water to go.
- As root systems develop, they could push against underground home structures. Cedar trees have root systems that can spread almost half their height.
Because of this huge variance in their root systems, your tree’s root system can do significant damage to your house’s foundation, driveway, and walkway. The root system could also pose a threat to any utility service lines or pipes that may be running underground from the source to your home.
How Close Is Too Close For A Cedar Tree Near A House?
There is a general rule that when planting trees, they should be planted between ten and twenty feet away from your house to avoid any conflict. We would recommend splitting the difference and going no closer than 60ft for a cedar tree to a structure.
That’s assuming we’re discussing a tall variety of cedar tree like atlantic white cedar.
Another formula you can reference is that the distance between your tree and house should be no smaller than half of the tree’s full-grown height. So, if your cedar tree variety can grow up to 120ft tall, you’ll want the tree to be planted no closer than 60ft to your house.
Now, most of you probably have either small cedar varieties OR large, existing varieties that were already on your property historically. So it really will vary here but just imagine the full height of the tree and where it could land.
Additionally, several additional factors should still be taken into account when determining if either of these recommended distances will be enough to prevent any damage:
- What kind of root system does the cedar tree have?
- How tall is the cedar tree expected to grow?
- What kind of foundation does your home have?
- Is your yard prone to flooding during storms?
- Will you be able to complete your regular lawn maintenance at your desired, or the specified, distance?
Keep in mind that the larger the cedar tree, the more space they will need to maintain their health and longevity. Do your research on the specific cedar variety in your lawn and what’s native to your area!
If you spot a cedar tree that’s five to ten feet away from your home, or if you notice branches are scraping your roof or siding, it may be time to consider trimming, or removing, the tree to prevent further damage to your home or other buildings.
Your Cedar Tree Is Dying
If the health of your cedar tree has started to decline and corrective measures aren’t properly taken, the issue could spread and cause damage to the structural integrity of your tree, making it a liability.
While cedar trees are beautiful and fragrant, they are, unfortunately, susceptible to certain common ailments.
- Root rot or canker. If you notice that your cedar tree is developing decayed or sunken-looking areas, this could be an indicator of root rot. These afflictions cause tree bark and branches to become discolored and can also encourage fungus to grow on the bark.
Regular maintenance of your tree, like watering, fertilizing, and proper pruning, can help deter these issues, but once they strike, it can be a challenge for the tree to fully recover from.
- Cedar apple rust. This can be identified by the orange, jelly-like growths that may appear on the trunk and branches of your tree. Cedar apple rust will cause the leaves to turn brown and fall off, but according to The University of Minnesota isn’t a guaranteed death sentence for your tree.
With proper treatment, including the removal of galls, and trimming off infected areas, the tree may be saved. However, the tree will need to be monitored to ensure that it doesn’t return.
Sometimes these issues can affect the appearance of your cedar tree. For instance, many issues cause cedar wood to turn grey over time.
What To Do If Your Cedar Tree Develops Issues
We know that our first instinct is to usually try and get rid of the issue or other problem with our tree so that the tree can be saved. So, at what point do we know that our tree may be too far gone, and removing it is now our best option?
Consider the following questions:
- Has the issue been properly identified?
- How widespread is it?
- Is there a treatment?
- If the issue has come back, how often has it returned, or has it returned at a greater level?
If the problem has spread throughout your tree and removing the affected areas would leave you close to being tree-less, it may be time to remove the tree from your yard completely.
If you’ve treated your cedar for the same issue several times over the year, the tree is likely to remain susceptible and continue to get sick. To keep other areas of your yard unaffected, you may want to consider cutting down the tree for good.
Just as a heads up, if your cedar has damage and brown needles, it probably won’t grow back on the tree.
Your Cedar Tree Requires Too Much Maintenance
When it comes to your cedar, thankfully you don’t have to worry about having to clean up leaves every week come fall. That said though, your cedar can still require regular maintenance to keep it healthy and thriving for years to come.
- Regular watering. Cedars are hearty trees, but when they’re young or freshly transplanted, they need proper watering to develop their root system and properly grow.
If you have a sprinkler system or other method to keep your trees hydrated while they’re young or in extreme droughts, this may not be problematic, but for some folks keeping their trees on a steady water or maintenance schedule may pose a challenge.
- Proper trimming. Whether it’s due to an underlying issue or regular trimming to make sure the tree keeps its nicely shaped canopy, trimming your cedar can grow more difficult as the tree grows. For more help with trimming, check out our 5 simple tips for trimming a cedar tree.
- Ensuring general health. As we mentioned before, cedar trees are susceptible to certain prolonged issues. For example, if your tree is continuously suffering from cedar apple rust and you’re always working to cure it, then it may be time to consider removing the tree.
If any of these regular tasks begin to get too strenuous for the owner or property caretaker, or if we simply no longer have the time, energy, or desire to complete them when they’re needed, it may be time to consider cutting down your cedar tree.
In addition, sometimes your cedar simply won’t grow back as nice even if you trim it well. For more information, check out our article on why cedar trees won’t grow back.
You Want To Reduce Insect Infestations On Your Cedar
Bugs love plants, and essentially your cedar tree is just a larger plant for them to call their home. While some bugs are more problematic than others, you need to keep an eye out for insects that could be causing harm to your tree.
Here are some indicators that your cedar tree may have an insect infestation:
- The leaves on your cedar have turned yellow or are starting to curl. This may be an indicator of a potential aphid infestation.
If you notice this activity on your cedar tree, watering your cedar tree is a simple yet effective way to help detach this pest from the tree.
Using a stronger spray setting on your hose and focusing on spraying the undersides of the leaves and branches will knock the aphids off and it will be difficult for them to locate the tree again.
- The tips of the branches are dead, and sap seems to be leaking from the tree. These signs point to a likely bark beetle infestation, and this is a pest that is hard to get rid of.
If you notice these signs, act immediately and begin inspecting the tree for these pests and cut off any infested branches.
Pruning the tree will help prevent beetles from infesting healthy branches of your cedar, but if these bugs are not caught in time they may have moved to a new area and the signs may not be showing yet.
Because of this potential delay in spotting and visible activity, the infestation could quickly spread, making it difficult to manage.
What To Do When Pests Infest Your Cedar Tree
Like our checklist above, consider the following questions when determining if keeping your cedar tree after an insect infestation is in your best interest:
- Has the insect been properly identified?
- How large of an insect population are you dealing with?
- Can you realistically treat the infestation while maintaining the health of the rest of the tree?
- How often after an insecticidal treatment do you notice bugs returning to your tree?
You can use insecticides such as Natria Neem Oil or Bonide Annual Tree and Shrub Insect Control to help get rid of the bugs in your trees, but if you find yourself treating your tree for bug infestation after bug infestation, whether it’s the same insect or a new one, it’s time to give some serious thought to getting rid of your cedar tree.
You Want To Minimize Potential Storm Damage From Your Cedar Tree
Depending on the location of your cedar tree, or any tree really, there is always the concern of a tree, or several, coming down during a heavy storm and the potential damage that it could create for you and your family, as well as possibly your neighbors.
Severe storms can bring damage without any warning, and while the storm could knock just a few branches off your tree, there is also a threat that a large and strong enough storm could cause your tree to fall or split completely and cause additional damage.
Depending on the location of your tree, and the direction it falls, there are several major areas where a fallen tree can cause damage to your property.
- Your house. Whether it’s putting a hole in your roof or potentially taking down your entire home, if your tree is large enough and falls toward your house during a storm, there are several areas a tree could damage.
From broken windows to cracked siding, it’s hard to predict what exactly could happen if a tree falls on your home, but there are enough possible combinations for home damage during a storm that you don’t want to add a tree to the mix if you can avoid it.
- Your car. If you park your car outside, or if your neighbors park their extra cars outside near your property line, a fallen tree can cause damage to any vehicle in its predicted line of falling.
- Your fence. A couple of years back a derecho came through our town and caused quite the mayhem. Luckily, we were able to escape a great deal of damage, but the storm split our neighbor’s tree which came down directly on our fence.
Now, storm damage happens, and it’s not anyone’s fault, but the damage is quite real.
For us, it took several days to help with the cleanup of the tree, and our dogs were quite the mess for not being able to roam freely in the yard while we made the required repairs to the fence.
Depending on the height and material of your fencing, if it’s damaged during a storm, it can be a costly, and timely, repair.
- Power lines. Quite possibly the height of storm damage, trees have been known to take down power lines and cut power to an entire neighborhood (or another large area).
If your tree is close to a set of power lines, many villages and cities try to keep the tree trimmed away from the lines so that the likelihood of this event occurring is minimal, but even the best-laid plans can go awry.
If your cedar tree has started to grow too close to the power lines or other utilities in the area, you might consider cutting down the tree to ensure that your tree isn’t the cause of an outage during a storm.
Relocate Your Cedar Tree If Possible
We know that accidents happen, and storm damage is unpredictable.
If your cedar tree, or any tree in your yard, is creeping closer to any of the areas or items from our list, you may want to consider relocating or cutting down the tree to help avoid costly repairs and damages.
You Want To Improve The Health Of Your Lawn
Did you know that trimming your tree on a routine basis will help improve the health of the surrounding grass?
Because of the large canopy that can develop on certain species of cedar tree, they have the potential to greatly reduce the amount of sun and water from reaching your grass.
From grade school science class, we probably all know tucked away in our brains that all plants need light, food, and water to survive. If your grass isn’t getting the proper nutrients or enough sun and water for its basic survival, then your grass is suffering.
Cutting Down Your Cedar Tree Can Keep Your Grass Greener
We recommend checking out the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to determine what grasses will grow most successfully in your area to help minimize the impact of your cedar tree on your lawn.
However, if you’re keeping your cedar properly trimmed, and you’re making sure that your grass is getting water, fertilized, and every your grass every other possible benefit you can and your lawn still isn’t in your desired condition, it may be time to remove your cedar so that you can start anew with your lawn.
The Cost Of Keeping Your Cedar Tree Outweighs The Benefits
Between the bugs, and home damage that cedar trees could potentially cause as they grow and develop, there could come a point in time when the cost of keeping your tree could outweigh its benefits.
Sure, your cedar trees might be the perfect additions to your Christmas-y yard during the holidays, the tree may have been a housewarming gift from Great Aunt Nancy, and it undoubtedly provides shade and home to wildlife.
But if you’re constantly paying for insecticidal services to keep bugs away or having to use landscapers to reseed or sod your surrounding lawn every year, you may have to look at the hard cost benefits of the tree and whether or not you’ve reached the tipping point.
When’s The Best Time To Cut Down Your Cedar Tree?
Even a single reason from our list could be enough for you to determine that it’s time for your cedar tree to come down.
Use some common sense, if the tree may come down WITHOUT you interfering, you should cut down your cedar tree ASAP. If the cedar isn’t presenting an immediate issue but should be taken down due to a non-time sensitive issue, then see if you can hold off until you have the funds saved OR it’s a favorable time of year, such as winter or fall, when you can get a better rate from an arborist during their less-busy season.
Now, my overall recommendation here is going to vary on the TYPE of cedar tree you have. You could have a cedar tree that reaches triple digits in height already near your house, or you could have a different variety entirely such as emerald cedar that will reach around 15ft at maturity. It all depends on WHAT variety is native to your area and specific to you. So do some more research!
If, or when, the time does come for the tree to be cut down, make sure you take the appropriate steps:
- Make sure it’s clear to cut down the tree (and check to make sure that there are no local ordinances that would prevent you from cutting down a tree in your yard)
- Gather the necessary equipment
- Account for the fall area of the tree and have a safety route planned
- Cut the tree
- Clean up
Thus, call a professional if your tree isn’t something that you can use a personal chainsaw for. Use COMMON SENSE. You could use even a hand-saw or a VERY good pair of loppers to take down a 15ft tree. If that tree is 50ft? You may want to call a professional.
This is especially so if your cedar variety is anywhere near anything valuable. Don’t mess with it!
Granted, if you’ve decided that you just want to give the tree a bit of a touch up, take a peak at our guide on trimming cedar trees here!
Hansen, N. J., & McComb, A. L. (1955). Growth, Form and Survival of Plantation-Grown Broadleaf and Coniferous Trees in Southeastern lowa. In Proceedings of the Iowa Academy of Science (Vol. 62, No. 1, pp. 109-124).
Jules, E. S., Kauffman, M. J., Ritts, W. D., & Carroll, A. L. (2002). Spread of an invasive pathogen over a variable landscape: a nonnative root rot on Port Orford cedar. Ecology, 83(11), 3167-3181.
Song, Y., Sterck, F., Zhou, X., Liu, Q., Kruijt, B., & Poorter, L. (2022). Drought resilience of conifer species is driven by leaf lifespan but not by hydraulic traits. New Phytologist.
USDA Forest Service Forest Healrotection (2011). Using Insecticides to Protect Individual Conifers from Bark Beetle Attack in the West.
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