How to Prune a Dogwood Tree

Flowering Dogwood in bloom. image by


Flowering dogwoods, known botanically as cornus, are spring flowering deciduous trees that are grown as striking ornamentals in the garden landscape. Dogwoods are low-maintenance trees in nearly every aspect, including pruning. Dogwoods rarely require pruning for shape or size as their natural growth form is attractive and symmetrical. They can benefit from infrequent and limited maintenance pruning to remove damaged or diseased branches or to open the canopy to more sunlight and fresh-air circulation. Pruning should be done once a year during the dogwood's dormant period in the winter or very early spring before the tree leafs out.

Step 1

Inspect the tree for any branches that are damaged by breaks or cracks, or appear diseased. Use a pole saw to cut through the branch cleanly from each side without tearing the bark. Remove each cut branch from the tree canopy before proceeding with the next cut.

Step 2

Remove any branches that are crossing, abrading or crowding each other. Cut away any branches that have cropped up below the bud union. Trim any branches that are touching or are within a foot of touching the ground.

Step 3

Prune selectively throughout the canopy to thin branching, let sunlight into the center of the tree and encourage fresh air flow. Stand under the tree at the trunk and look up to map out where you will make your cuts, keeping symmetry in mind.

Step 4

Water your dogwood just after pruning to help ease any stress the tree may be under and to prevent shock. Apply the water evenly from a foot out from the trunk in a wide doughnut shape all around the tree and out to the drip line.

Things You'll Need

  • Long-handled loppers
  • Polesaw
  • Step or full-size ladder
  • Water


  • U.S. National Arboretum
  • North Carolina State University
Keywords: flowering dogwood tree, cornus florida, prune cut back shape

About this Author

A communications professional, D.C. Winston has more than 17 years of experience writing and editing content for online publications, corporate communications, business clients, industry journals and film/broadcast media. Winston studied political science at the University of California, San Diego.

Photo by: