How & When Do You Prune Dogwood Trees?


Pay attention to the health of a dogwood tree to encourage it to remain healthy and continue producing flowers throughout its life cycle. Prune the dogwood annually; the pruning method for a dogwood varies depending on whether the tree is a shrubby dogwood or an upright dogwood tree. Prune the dogwood properly to reduce damage.

When to Prune

  • Both shrubby dogwoods and upright dogwood trees should be pruned in the early spring or even late winter, before the dogwood has begun producing new growth. Avoid damaging the bark of uncut branches, as these are sites where pests such as the dogwood borer larvae can enter the tree, according to the United States National Arboretum website. Pruning in early spring limits the amount of damage the cuts do to the tree and keeps it healthy.

Shrubby Dogwood

  • Shrubby dogwood trees are typically smaller and have a round shape that is low to the ground, while upright dogwoods have a more traditional-looking trunk and crown. These dogwoods are often grown for the colorful bark on their young twigs. Cut the shrubby dogwood tree back severely every few years to encourage the growth of new twigs and prevent older stems from becoming disease sites.

Upright Dogwood

  • Upright dogwood trees require far less pruning than shrubby dogwood trees because of their size and shape. Prune dogwood trees once a year to maintain their shape and appearance; remove straggling, unbalanced branches. Thin out the upper section of the dogwood tree to allow light to reach all of the lower branches. Prune any portions of the dogwood tree that have suffered severe winter damage or died over the winter season to prevent the contraction of diseases.


  • Perform maintenance pruning throughout the year as it becomes necessary; injury and disease are two factors that make maintenance pruning a necessity. Storm damage that breaks off or kills branches weakens the dogwood tree and makes it susceptible to pest and disease problems. Disease problems also have the potential to kill branches. Prune severely diseased portions of the dogwood tree to stop it from dying off and spreading the problem to other trees in the garden.

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