How to Prune a Flowering Dogwood

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With its delicate blossoms, colorful foliage and bright red berries, the flowering dogwood is prized for its striking beauty, though its ease of maintenance also makes it a favorite of gardeners. Dogwood trees require only minimal occasional pruning to remove dead or diseased branches as necessary. In addition, owners may choose to trim back overcrowded branches yearly during times of dormancy, either in the winter or very early spring before the onset of new growth.

Difficulty:
Moderately Challenging

Instructions

Things You’ll Need
  • Pruning shears
  • Hand saw
    1. Cut away small dead, diseased or insect-infested braches with pruning shears. Snip off the affected branch just before the start of the branch collar–the raised bark ridge where the branch extends out from the trunk of the tree. Angle the shears so the tips of the blades are close to the branch collar at the top of the branch and the bottom of the shears are angled away from the trunk.
    2. Saw off larger dead or diseased branches with a hand saw. Hold onto the branch with one hand and saw the branch off cleanly a few inches away from the branch collar, leaving a short branch stub. Then saw off the stub just before the branch collar. This will help minimize the amount of bark ripped from the tree during pruning.
    3. Use shears to snip off any new shoots growing beneath the point where the dogwood cultivar–a plant bred to be true to a specific variety–was grafted onto the original tree. Shoots sprouting beneath the graft location may grow into branches inconsistent with the cultivar.
    4. Prune low-hanging or overly-crowded branches as desired to decoratively shape the tree. This will also enable the inner branches to get more light, which will result in a healthier tree. Either cut entire branches off of the trunk or cut individual twigs off of branches to thin the foliage on the tree.

Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid pruning dogwood trees during the months of peak growth in the spring and summer, as trees are especially vulnerable to infestation from dogwood borers during this time. Be careful not to damage the thin bark of the dogwood. Dogwood borers lay their larvae in vulnerable areas beneath the bark. Make sure the blades of the pruning shears are sharp enough to cut branches cleanly without tearing or gouging. Clean cuts heal faster and encourage a stronger, healthier tree.

  • When pruning dogwood branches, take great care not to damage the trunk. Never cut a branch on the side of the branch collar close to the trunk, as this can damage the stem tissue, which can lead to tree decay and death.

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