Rejuvenation Pruning Red Twig Dogwood

(Image credit: schulzie)

A red twig dogwood shrub provides beautiful winter color, but Cornus sericea is also a fast grower that can quickly get out of control. Read on to learn how to prune red twig dogwood bushes that have outgrown their space. 

Pruning An Overgrown Red Twig Dogwood Shrub

Rejuvenation pruning is a way of cutting back neglected and overgrown shrubs. One plant that responds well to this type of pruning is the red twig dogwood shrub. It’s easy to tell when these bushes have been ignored because their radiant red stems turn woody and gray. Only young, new growth is that vibrant shade that brightens up the winter landscape. 

Timing is very important for proper pruning. You should cut summer blooming shrubs, like the red twig dogwood shrub, in late winter or early spring before buds open. 

An easy way to remember when to prune red twig dogwood bushes is sometime after the Super Bowl but before St. Patrick’s Day. Of course, bloom times vary depending on location, so check your growing zone before making any cuts.

Other bushes that respond well to rejuvenation pruning are spirea, lilac, privet, viburnum, weigela, and forsythia. But spring flowering shrubs like weigela and forsythia bloom on old wood, so wait until flowers have faded to make cuts on spring bloomers. 

Dogwood Rejuvenation Pruning

There are two ways to prune for rejuvenation. The first method is a three year process, but allows your dogwood to maintain its height and some blooms. Each year, cut back one third of the old, woody branches. Trim any branches that are growing down, towards the center, or crossing other limbs. 

Always make sure to use clean, sharp tools. Dirty tools can spread disease between plants and dull loppers make pruning red twig dogwood bushes with thick, woody stems difficult. 

The second method is not for the faint of heart. If your red twig dogwood shrub is totally out of control, it’s time to prune branches to the ground. For an extensive rejuvenation pruning job, cut branches as close to the ground as you can. Don’t be afraid – your shrub will grow back happier and healthier! 

New growth will appear during the growing season and by next winter, your red twig dogwood will have bright red stems. 

Laura Walters
Content Editor

Laura Walters is a Content Editor who joined Gardening Know How in 2021. With a BFA in Electronic Media from the University of Cincinnati, a certificate in Writing for Television from UCLA, and a background in documentary filmmaking and local news, Laura loves to provide gardeners with all the know they need to succeed in an easy and entertaining format. She never thought when she was growing vegetables in her college dorm room, that one day she would get paid to read and write about her favorite hobby.