Image by Scott Robinson
By Jackie Carroll
A harbinger of spring in parts of the country that enjoy mild winters, flowering dogwood trees boast an abundance of pink, white or red flowers long before the first leaves appear in spring. Since they grow only 15 to 30 feet tall, there is room for a dogwood tree in almost any landscape. They seldom need pruning, but when the need does arise, correct dogwood tree pruning leads to a healthier, more attractive tree.
When to Trim a Dogwood Tree
Part of proper dogwood pruning involves knowing when to trim a dogwood tree. In areas where boring insects are a problem, never prune a dogwood tree in spring. The wounds created by pruning cuts provide an entry point for these devastating insects.
In addition, if pruned while the tree is actively growing in spring and summer, the wounds bleed copious amounts of messy sap. Therefore, the best time to prune a dogwood tree is in late fall and winter while the tree is dormant.
Dogwood Tree Pruning Info
Dogwood trees have a naturally attractive shape and don’t require routine pruning, but there are some circumstances where pruning and trimming dogwood trees becomes necessary. Pruning a dogwood tree when these situations arise helps prevent insects and disease from infesting the tree and allows for better growth and shape.
Before pruning a dogwood tree, you should be aware that removing large branches can damage the trunk if the heavy branch breaks away and tears down the trunk as you begin to cut. Therefore, you should remove branches larger than two inches in diameter by making three cuts to prevent tearing.
Make the first cut on the underside of the branch, 6 to 12 inches out from the trunk of the tree. Cut only 1/3 of the way through the branch. Make the second cut about an inch beyond the first one, cutting completely through the branch. Make the third cut at the collar of the branch to remove the stub. The collar is the swollen area of the branch near the trunk.
How to Prune a Flowering Dogwood Tree
When you’re ready for trimming dogwood trees in your yard, it also helps to know a little bit about when and how to prune a flowering dogwood tree.
- Remove damaged, diseased or dead branches at the collar. These branches are unsightly and provide an entry point for insects and disease.
- Remove undersized twigs and branches that detract from the shape of the tree to open up the canopy for better air circulation and to let in sunlight.
- Suckers that grow at the base of a dogwood tree use energy that the tree needs for proper growth. Remove them as close to the roots as possible.
- The lower limbs on a dogwood tree sometimes hang so low that you can’t mow under the tree or enjoy the shade it provides. Remove low-hanging branches at the collar.
- When two branches cross and rub together, they create wounds that allow insects and diseases to gain a foothold. Remove the least desirable of the two crossing branches.
Now that you know the basics of dogwood tree pruning, you can enjoy your trees without the worry of them becoming unsightly or sick.