When is the Best Time to Prune a Dogwood Tree?

Expert insight into the best time to prune a dogwood tree; why dogwood tree pruning is important, and how to identify common dogwood tree diseases.

Dogwood is a small, deciduous broadleaf shrub that takes on a bushy appearance and is generally found in hedgerows and along woodland edges in the south of England. It’s also a popular ornamental tree in gardens, thanks to its appealing autumn colours.

Of the Latin name Cornus sanguinea, the dogwood tree is distinctive by its different colour twigs. In the sunlight, they are crimson, whilst in the shade, they are lime green coloured.

A mature dogwood tree will grow to 10 metres in height. It blossoms with small white clustered flowers in the summer, followed by black berries, sometimes referred to as ‘dogberries’, in the autumn.

Why prune a dogwood tree?

The dogwood tree will grow back vigorously when hard pruned, and will produce more colourful stems which are particularly appealing during winter to add a splash of much needed colour. In trees, this method is known as coppicing or pollarding, but for smaller shrubs it is called ‘stooling’. Producing coloured stems is a popular reason for pruning the dogwood tree.

In addition, as with any tree or shrub, pruning out deadwood or any diseased, decaying or congested branches or stems on a regular basis is good practice. It will enhance the health of the plant and promote light penetration and better air flow.

When is the best time for dogwood tree pruning?

The best time to prune a dogwood tree is from late winter to mid-spring, in other words between February and April. Pruning must be carried out before the new leaves begin to appear on the stems and for the dogwood, because you want to allow maximum time to enjoy the pretty coloured stems, it is advised to prune this tree just as new growth is developing but before the growth becomes fully active.

You want to ensure pruning takes place outside of the growing season when the majority of the plant’s resources reside within the roots and so can be used to boost regrowth. Prune during the growing season however, when the resources tend to be mostly within the leaves, and power will be lost through removing those leaves. It will lead to weaker regrowth.

If you are specifically looking to prune your dogwood tree to encourage colourful stems, you’ll need to wait until it’s at least a year, if not two years, old. Hard pruning is not suitable for younger dogwood trees. Once you reach the second or third spring, you can cut back to 60-90cm from the ground if you are pollarding. During the years that follow, introduce a bi-annual pruning regime which should be sufficient to maintain the tree’s shape, attractive appearance and overall health.

As for any diseased or damaged stems or branches, these should be removed as soon as they are spotted so that the tree remains safe and healthy.

What to look for when pruning a dogwood tree

Luckily for the dogwood tree, it is not susceptible to many diseases or pests, although the horse chestnut scale insect can be an issue. This sap-sucking insect causes mainly cosmetic damage and thankfully causes minimal harm to the plant. Cornus anthracnose on the other hand is a fungal disease that can kill leaves and young shoots of some dogwood species. You’ll see dead blotches on leaves, and dieback of young stems.

Tree Preservation Orders

Be sure to never go ahead with any tree work until you are positive that there is no Tree Preservation Order (TPO) in place. If there is, you must be in possession of official permission before you proceed. This can take up to eight weeks to be provided. Also be aware that if the tree is located in a conservation area, permission must be gained before proceeding with works of any kind.

The importance of dogwood tree pruning expertise

If you have a dogwood tree on your land or in your garden that you are keen to maintain in a health and attractive state you are well advised to bring in the expertise of a qualified tree surgeon. Make sure you choose one that can provide checkable references and who is able to present you with official certificates proving their qualifications as well as insurance documents so you know you are covered for their work. Also, wherever possible, try and use a tree surgeon that is Trading Standards and local authority approved for even further peace of mind.

If you have a dogwood tree that could do with pruning or trimming, why not talk to Tree Works? As fully qualified and long term experienced Trading Standards and local authority approved tree surgeons, we can provide specialist expertise across all elements of dogwood tree pruning. For a free, no-obligation quotation, contact our helpful experts on 07781 416 354 or get in touch here.