When to Prune A Red Twig Dogwood

When to Prune A Red Twig Dogwood

When to prune a red twig dogwood, the bark of red-twig dogwood is brightest on young stems. Regular pruning can encourage more vividly colored shrubs in winter.

When to Prune a Red Twig Dogwood?

When to prune a red twig dogwood, the bark of red-twig dogwood is brightest on young stems. Regular pruning can encourage more vividly colored shrubs in winter.
Shrubs like red- and yellow-twig dogwood that are primarily grown for their colored bark usually have the brightest color in young stems. Old red-twig dogwoods develop mature bark that loses the signature red color.

How do I shape a red twig dogwood?

Your dogwoods should respond well to aggressive pruning for rejuvenation, removing the old stems and encouraging the growth of new stems with red bark.

In addition to their drab color, older dogwood stems tend to get twig blight, which shows up as brown to black areas. The best solution is to prune these stems out. Disinfect your pruning tools between shrubs with Lysol disinfectant to avoid transferring the fungal spores from one plant to another.

Can I trim a red twig dogwood in the fall?

When to Prune A Red Twig Dogwood?

February and March are good months for heavy pruning to rejuvenate not just your dogwoods but also any overgrown shrubs. You will get the best results by completing this aggressive pruning before the plants begin to grow in spring.

Since the timing of spring varies year by year, it is safest to complete this task sooner rather than later.

How to prune an overgrown dogwood?

Start by removing all dead or diseased wood. Prune the oldest canes off at ground level, leaving the young stems. Prune out as many of the large stems to ground level or down to lower side branches as you can. You may need to cut back the young growth if it is spindly.

If there are no young stems, cut the large stems back to 18 to 24 inches from the ground. This will be unsightly at first, but if the plants are healthy, extensive new growth should start from the old stems in spring and fill in the plant.

Can I prune a dogwood shrub in the summer?

Healthy shrubs will respond to this pruning with vigorous growth during the growing season. Monitor them during spring and summer and nip back any stems that are spindly to develop a more densely branched shrub.

When to prune a red twig dogwood, keep pruning out dead wood or unsightly stubs of branches. As the new growth develops over time, prune out any remaining large stems.

Can I cut a red twig dogwood to the ground?

It may take a couple of years of pruning to complete the process of rejuvenating a shrub, depending on how the plant responds. Red-twig dogwoods grow best in full sun to light shade, so your shrubs’ response to the heavy pruning will be diminished if they are in too much shade.

To maintain the red of your dogwoods’ bark over the long term, prune them on a regular schedule, once every one to two years, selectively removing the oldest stems to encourage new growth with bright winter color.

I typically cut back red-twig dogwoods a bit every year. In addition to removing older stems, I make cuts at different heights to give the plants a more natural appearance. This practice also will allow you to keep the shrubs at the proper scale for your landscape.


How do I prune a  yellow twig dogwood?

The yellow twig dogwood is also known as osier dogwood. It is an ornamental, pyramidal shrub with many whip-like canes growing from the base.

It is cold hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 2 to 8. Planted in full to partial sun and provided with a wet or constantly moist soil, its yellow branches stand out against a winter landscape after its leaves have fallen.

Older stems develop a reddish color. Although the yellow twig dogwood requires little maintenance, regular light pruning keeps the shrub producing young stems and ensures the prevalence of the yellow color.

1. Sharpen a pair of pruning shears, a saw or loppers to eliminate shredding of the pruned branches. This reduces the chance of invading diseases or insect pests. Sterilize the blades between each cut by wiping them with rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball.

2. Prune branches at the base of the yellow twig dogwood near the ground above the first leaf node. Prune in late fall after the leaves drop. You can also prune them in early spring before new growth appears, but the shrub must still be dormant. Start the pruning by removing any dead or diseased-looking stems first.

3. Cut back the oldest branches to open up the shrub and encourage new whips in the spring. This gives the yellow twig dogwood a more yellow appearance. Identify the oldest branches as the largest ones that have turned red or brown, and have a rougher texture than younger stems.

4. Renew the shrub completely by removing all the branches near the ground above the first leaf node. New growth will appear during the next growing season, restoring the shrub. This helps maintain the yellow twig dogwood in a smaller size.

5. Spread a layer of compost mulch around the base of the yellow twig dogwood after pruning. Dressing the shrub in this manner ensures you will need no more compost until the next year.


Why are the leaves on my red twig dogwood turning yellow?

Help!! I have been gone for three days, when I came home and looked out my back door I discovered that one of my huge dogwoods was turning yellow. We have had more than our share of rain this year and the major lack of rain just last year. We live on a hill with lots of iron ore clay and rock, so we get pretty good run-off where this tree is. Can you tell me anything?

We can give you some direction, but we’re afraid that we can’t solve the mystery of your dogwood’s problem.

Yellow foliage (chlorosis) on dogwood is often a sign of iron deficiency. Since you enjoy iron-rich soil, and your other dogwoods are not exhibiting any chlorosis, that is not likely the cause of the problem you describe.

Yellow foliage can also be a sign of a disease. I suspect that is the problem with your tree. Vascular fungus diseases are often first noticed when leaves turn yellow or red, wilt or get burnt edges. Crown canker disease is the most likely problem that we can think of, but it could also be a root-rot disease.

To find out for sure what is causing your tree’s leaf chlorosis, you will need to get some local help — someone who can look at your tree and possibly examine parts of it.

A professional arborist would be your best bet for identifying the problem and recommending a solution. You might also consider contacting your county’s cooperative extension service agent for information and possible disease diagnosis.


Variegated red twig dogwood

When to prune a red twig dogwood

Outstanding Qualities

Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ is a work-horse shrub, giving a great deal for the little it asks in the way of care and attention. In the spring, bright gray-green leaves emerge with a wide, irregular margin of pure white. This variegation remains vibrant and does not fade during summer. In autumn the display changes to gold, apricot, and rose-red. Once the leaves have dropped in late fall, its vibrant red stems are revealed, adding interest to the winter scene.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: shrub

Growth Habit: spreading

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height (10-year): 8 ft. 0 in. (2.44 meters)

Plant Width/Spread (10-year): 5 ft. 0 in. (1.52 meters)

Plant Height-Mature: 10 ft. 0 in. (3.05 meters)

Plant Width-Mature: 10 ft. 0 in. (3.05 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 2 to 8

Flower Color: cream, white

Sun/Light Exposure: full sun or light to dappled shade; brighter red stems in more sun

Water Requirements: regular watering in well-drained soil

Seasonal Interest: red stems in winter, variegated foliage in spring & summer, autumn foliage color

Wildlife Associations: bees, butterflies

Culture Notes

‘Elegantissima’ grows best in moist well-drained soil but it is extremely adaptable, growing in a wide range of soil types including clay, sand, or wet locations. It is vigorous in full sun or light to dappled shade, but a sunnier location will provide brighter stems in winter. To encourage bright red stems cut back a third of the oldest stems to about 6 inches tall every year, leaving the strong upright young whips.


Primary Pruning

When to prune a red twig dogwood, dogwood trees do not usually need much pruning. Even without manually shaping the tree, a dogwood will usually maintain a nice shape. Manual shaping can be done if desired, though. Do your primary pruning—the removal of branches—during the dormant season and your secondary pruning—cutting done to spur new growth—during the active growing season.

Remove branches during the winter or early spring. The dogwood should still be in a dormant state when you remove branches. Sawing or otherwise removing branches during the late spring or summer, after the tree begins to actively grow, can create fresh, appealing entry spots for insects that like to bore into the wood of the tree

Remove deadwood. Wood that is dying or dead will do nothing good for your tree. In fact, leaving it on the tree may actually cause problems. Deadwood is more likely to grow mold or other fungi, which can then spread to healthy parts of the dogwood

Cut off diseased or insect-infested branches. Like dead branches, diseased branches will only invite further infection to the rest of your dogwood. When cutting off noticeably diseased branches, you should dip the shears or saw into a solution made of one part bleach and three parts water to sterilize them. Otherwise, you may accidentally spread the disease to other parts of the tree

Prune away old, twiggy stems. Some dogwood varieties, particularly the shrubby types, are valued mostly for the colorful bark that grows on new stems. You can either cut back the old stems on these dogwoods or cut them down completely. For shrubby dogwoods, you can actually cut the dogwood down to the ground every few years to remove old stems and encourage the growth of new twigs

Thin out crowded areas. If a particular section of your dogwood tree seems abnormally thick or crowded, select the weakest branches from that spot and cut them back to their point of origin

Remove shoots that grow below the graft point. Some hybrid or variegated dogwood varieties are created by grafting together two separate dogwood trees. A branch that grows beneath the grafting point will have characteristics of one of the original trees used for the hybrid, rather than the hybrid dogwood itself. To keep the foliage and appearance of the tree consistent, you should remove these unexpected branches by sawing or pruning them off at the point of origin

Determine whether or not you need to remove lower branches. Sometimes, the lowest branches of the dogwood can interfere with walking or other gardening activities. Other times, the branches hang so low that the underside of the tree does not receive enough air. In either case, the lowest branches can be sawed off or cut away with heavy-duty shears.

Secondary Pruning

Snip away the flower buds. Cut off the buds at the tip of each branch to redirect energy to buds on the side of the branch. By removing a single bud, you encourage the development of multiple buds, leading to a fuller setting of flowers. These buds can either be snipped off with shears or pinched off by hand

Prune your dogwood to encourage flowering in early summer. June is generally considered the best month for this type of pruning, but any time in the early summer will work. You should not snip buds off during the dormant season since doing so will cut the flowers off before they have the chance to open, rather than simply redirecting the energy. Do not wait too late into the summer, though, because doing so will not allow the buds to build up enough energy for new shoots and buds for the next year.

Community Q&A


How do I prune a dogwood tree that has grown to 18 feet tall and has very few branches that spread out?

If you are attempting to create a fuller canopy, you can prune the main leader branch back to encourage more growth in the lower, more horizontal branches. Pruning with ladders can be very dangerous, so a pole saw is recommended. If it is too tall to be reached comfortably or safely, an arborist can be hired to do the work for you.

Can I trim back the height in September?

Yes, dogwoods are fairly tough and can handle more intensive pruning than some other common garden shrubs.

What is a kousa dogwood tree?

A kousa is a variety of dogwood that can grow in higher ground moisture content and shaded areas. You may find it to be very slow-growing and have a shorter ultimate height.

Is it possible to trim large low branches?

Yes. Be aware that if the branches have been in contact with the ground for long enough, they may have rooted into the soil.

The electric company pruned about half of the tree on one side of a dogwood near wires. Will that kill it?

Dogwoods are fairly tough plants, and if it is well established, it will likely be fine. If it is healthy, it will likely respond with a large flush of new growth in the spring. Power companies prune trees and shrubs for safety, not looks. If it looks untidy, it would be best to wait at least another season before pruning it to shape.


Unanswered Questions

Can I trim off the top of a dogwood tree?
















By Angela Duhon

Angela Duhon My name is Angela. I'm happily married, have four grown children, one grown stepdaughter, 10 grandchildren, and 4 pets. Writing has always been a passion for me. Now I have the time on my hands to pursue my passion. I love researching information, cooking, reading, learning, and God.