Last Updated on June 15, 2023 by Grow with Bovees
Dogwood trees are a flowering tree that blooms in springtime, often coinciding with Easter. Dogwood trees typically stay small, only growing between 15 and 40 total feet, with small branches and a small trunk. The question is, when to prune dogwood trees?
Dogwood trees are dependable. You can count on them to bloom every year with several hundred flowers. Dogwood trees can produce either pink flowers or white, with both adding a beautiful display of color to any architectural landscape.
While a flowering dogwood tree is reliable in producing blooms each year, it should still be pruned. Pruning a dogwood tree will produce more flowering blooms in the following year, giving you a fuller and healthier tree in good shape.
Always completely remove dead or diseased limbs. If the limb is larger than 2″ in diameter, you will need to make the first cut on the underside, around 6″ from the trunk to approximately a third of the way through. Your next cut should be on the top, about an inch further along than the first, and cut all the way through.
Once the dead limb is off, you can then cut the stub off at the collar. The use of tree pruning sealer is not recommended nowadays.
You can follow the same cutting method if you feel like the limb may still be alive. If it is completely dead, and not so large, using an anvil pruner, you can make one solid cut right after the collar.
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To prune dead branches or make cuts to the dogwood tree, you will need a good pair of pruners. These tools will cut through the deadwood as well as make cuts in the piece that needs rejuvenating.
When to Prune a Dogwood Tree
Like many flowering trees and shrubs, the best time to prune a dogwood tree is when the tree is dormant. For the dogwood tree, this is in the late fall and winter. However, as we mentioned, there are two types of pruning: completely removing dead or diseased limbs to keep the tree healthy or trimming old blooms to promote new growth and flowering.
When trimming the dogwood tree to remove dead or low-hanging branches, you will want to prune in late fall or winter. Doing this will decrease the number of insects that can invade the tree if it is pruned in this manner during the spring and summer months.
Additionally, if you cut back in late fall or winter while the tree is dormant, it will reduce the amount of sap that is produced when the tree is cut.
Snipping off old buds on the dogwood tree to promote new growth and flowering should take place during the summer, preferably in June.
Waiting any later than June, especially during the dormant months, will likely keep the dogwood tree from blooming the following year. Making cuts and snipping off buds in June will promote the most regrowth and rejuvenation for the following growing season.
Dogwood shrubs do not require yearly pruning, but occasional trimming should take place. This should occur every third or fourth year.
Dogwood trees rarely get leggy or overgrown, and their shape is usually well-kempt. However, pruning a dogwood tree will help the flowers of the tree bloom more abundantly the following season, it will also help to improve air circulation.
When routinely pruning dogwood branches, you should choose the branches that have pale and discolored stems. These stems are using energy from the tree to produce lackluster flowers when the energy could be going to other parts of the tree.
It is also the best time to prune dogwoods when disease or insect infestation is apparent. Trimming back the branches of diseased or infested sections of the dogwood tree will help get rid of the limbs that have become sick or infested with insects.
How To Prune Dogwood
As we mentioned in our introduction, pruning a dogwood tree often includes making cuts to the branches as opposed to cutting them off completely, depending on the type of pruning you need to do.
During the winter months, when the dogwood has become dormant, is when you should cut off dead or diseased branches. To do this, you will need to locate these dead branches and remove them completely from the tree.
If trimming the dogwood tree for rejuvenation and regrowth, you will take your shears to remove the flower buds and make cuts to certain branches of the tree. Removing a flower bud will redirect energy that would otherwise be going to the bud. This causes the energy to go into other surrounding buds to create fuller and more colorful flowers.
You shouldn’t snip every flower bud that is present on the dogwood; however, snipping just one flower bud on each stem will cause the surrounding buds to become fuller and more colorful for the following season.
First, you will take your pruning tool and make a cut on the underside of the branch you want to help regrow. You should make this cut about one foot away from the trunk of the tree, and the cut should go about halfway through.
Next, you will switch to the top side of the branch and make another cut about 3 to 5 inches out from the cut you made on the bottom side. This cut should be made completely through, and you should pull off the branch as soon as it begins to separate from the base.
Last, you will need to look at the dogwood tree and find swelled areas on the branches you plan to cut. These swelled areas are known as the branch collars.
Branch collars are located at the joint between the primary branch you are cutting and the trunk of the dogwood. Once you have located the collars, you will need to make your cut.
Make this final cut about an inch or two from where the swelling on the branch begins. Do not cut through the collar. Cutting through the collar will cause the dogwood to become infected and can permanently damage the tree. Instead, move out on the branch you are cutting about 1 or 2 inches from the collar to make your final cut.
Cut through so that you have made a complete and clean cut to remove the stub. This will promote new growth and direct the energy of the dogwood to make fuller and brighter blooms.
What Tools to Use For Pruning Dogwood Trees
You can prune dogwoods with pruning shears that have a wide enough head to cut through the diameter of larger limbs. Oftentimes, anvil pruners are big enough for the job.
If you don’t have a pair of pruning shears or the tools you do have are not big enough to work their way through bigger limbs, you can use a hand saw to carry out the cutting.
If you should need to remove some branches that are out of reach, then a useful tool is an extension tree saw. This will help you to safely cut the higher branches, if you need to know how to use a pole saw, you can have a look at our instructions on this page.
The result of the shears and the hand saw will be the same. Both have the potential to cause the bark of the branches where the cuts are made to tear, so you will want to ensure you avoid this by following our pruning method.
Making cuts will help the branch weaken before it is removed from the tree. If you were to cut the entire limb off above the collar without making cuts, it would be so heavy that it would cause the stub of the branch to tear. You do not want this.
Tearing the stub at the branch collar will cause the branch to compartmentalize the wound and likely not mesh with the remainder of the tree, which is the opposite effect you want your pruning to have.
In addition, a limb that has been severed incorrectly at the collar can cause disease and pests to invade and damage the tree permanently. It is important that you keep the cutting tools clean. This can be done effectively with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), which is very useful in the garden.
Use pruners or a hand saw that has been sharpened. Dull pruners or saws can create tears in the branches even as you follow each step of the pruning method.
Essentially, you could be doing everything right and still end up with tears simply because the pruners or hand saw you used was too dull for the job.
Clean cuts made by sharp pruners or even a small electric chainsaw will help you safely remove the large and sometimes heavy branches from the dogwood without causing damage by tearing. Besides, using a dull pruner or saw will make the pruning job more difficult.
You will likely get tired quickly when trying to make several cuts on many large branches of your specimen, causing you to rush the job or finish the job too quickly.
For these reasons, you will need to make sure the pruners or hand saw is sharp enough to make clean cuts and keep you from tiring.
Other Dogwood Bush Pruning Tips
When you see new growth on your tree, that means that energy from the tree has been directed to those areas with the new growth.
Oftentimes, new shoots can be seen near the base of the tree. These are called suckers, and they require removal as they take away energy from the tree that could be going to other parts of the tree.
You should also look for limbs that are rubbing together. Crossing branches that rub together can cause insects, like the dogwood borer, to bore inside them. This can weaken both the branch and the tree, which can require the tree to need severe pruning.
You should also remove any low-lying limbs that make it difficult to walk or mow underneath. Trim these in the same manner and the same time of year as you would remove old or dead wood.
If you are thinking of planting a tree near your house, a dogwood is a good choice.
Conclusion on Trimming a Dogwood Tree
Pruning a dogwood tree is not something that needs to happen each year. Shrubby dogwoods grow quickly and easily with little guidance. However, it is not uncommon for a dogwood tree to need a little TLC to grow bigger and fuller than before.
If snipping off old blooms, you should do this in late spring or early summer, no later than June.
Dogwood pruning will not be required every year, but you should look at your dogwood tree every third or fourth year to see if there is any area that you can prune to make next year’s appearance of blossoms better than before.