So you have a tree that you like. It is perfect, or nearly perfect, just the way it is. It isn’t reaching overtop of the house. It isn’t interfering with the tree next to it. It isn’t providing too much shade. It doesn’t appear to be a risk — yet. Yet, being the operative word.
Now the question, how can the tree be kept to that size?
Trying to tell a tree to stop growing is a little bit like telling a teenager entering puberty to do the same. It’s not happening.
Is it possible? Yes. Is that cruel and unhealthy? Definitely a yes as well.
It is for this reason that people will often say to parents, “enjoy your kids when they are young/little, because they won’t be that way forever.”
Trees are the same. They are hardwired based on their genetic makeup to grow to a certain size.
Their environment could be changed so their growth is stunted, but once again, this has detrimental effects.
This could be done to varying levels of effect by cutting the roots, injecting a chemical into the tree, or removing the top of the tree. The challenge with these measures is that they are quite drastic and nine times out of ten they create more problems than if the tree were allowed to grow larger. If safety is the goal then inhibiting a tree from growing larger is counterproductive to this. The tree would be safer to simply grow taller.
A very common request that all tree service companies receive is to “top” a tree. Tree topping is exactly that, remove the highest most section of the tree. Check out this little video we made a few years ago of a tree that had been topped.
A tree won’t die right away if a tree is topped. In fact, it likely will look even more luscious, at least for the first few years anyways. After the first few years, the branches that have been topped will become quite fragile and easily be subject to failure.
Disclaimer, there are special situations where tree topping is the best option but this is rare (ie. underneath primary hydro lines).