A dogwood bush is a beautiful addition to any landscape. But, like all plants, it needs the occasional pruning to maintain its shape and prevent it from becoming overgrown. Here’s a step-by-step guide to pruning a dogwood bush.
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Prune dogwoods in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Pruning at the wrong time of year can damage the plant or inhibit new growth. Cut away any dead, diseased, or dying wood first. Then, cut back any branches that are rubbing against each other, crossing, or growing in toward the center of the plant.
When to prune
The best time to prune a dogwood bush is in late winter or early spring, before the plant breaks dormancy and starts actively growing again. This ensures that your bush will have plenty of time to heal any wounds before it has to put its energy into new growth.
The three main types of pruning cuts
There are three main types of pruning cuts: thinning, heading, and notable. Thinning cuts remove an entire branch back to the trunk or to another branch. Heading cuts remove only a portion of a branch. Notable cuts are any type of cut that results in the removal of a branch that is at least one-third the diameter of the trunk.
Each type of pruning cut serves a different purpose. Thinning cuts are made to reduce the overall size of a plant or to remove branches that are rubbing against each other. Heading cuts are made to rejuvenate a plant by encouraging new growth. Notable cuts should only be made when absolutely necessary, as they can potentially damage the plant.
Pruning a Dogwood Bush
Select the right time of year to prune
Although dogwoods (Cornus spp.) can tolerate light pruning at almost any time of year, for heavy pruning, it’s best to wait until the plant is dormant in late fall or early winter. Dogwoods are relatively slow-growing plants, so don’t be afraid to remove up to one-third of the plant’s growth if necessary.
Make the proper type of cut
Once you have identified the areas of the plant that need to be removed, it’s important to make the proper type of cut. The three main types of cuts are heading cuts, thinning cuts, and renewal cuts.
Heading cuts are made to remove the terminal bud (the point at which new growth occurs) from a branch. This type of cut stimulates lateral (side) branch growth and results in a denser plant. Heading cuts should be made just above a set of leaves or lateral bud and at a 45-degree angle facing outward.
Thinning cuts are made to remove an entire branch back to the point where it originates from the plant. Thinning cuts improve air circulation and light penetration, and they help reduce the weight of large branches that could potentially break in storms.
Renewal cuts are drastic measures used to rejuvenate an overgrown or neglected plant. To make a renewal cut, remove one-third to one-half of the oldest stems all the way down to the ground.
Prune to the desired shape
You can prune a dogwood bush at any time of the year, but for the best results, it’s best to wait until late winter or early spring before new growth begins. To prune a dogwood bush, start by removing any dead, diseased, or damaged branches. Then, cut back any branches that are crossing over each other or growing in towards the center of the bush. Finally, trim back any branches that are longer than the others, to create a more uniform shape.