How to Prune Red Dogwood Bushes


Red dogwood bushes (Cornus stolonifera or C. sericea) are also known as red twig dogwoods or red-osier dogwoods. The stems of the bushes turn reddish in fall and brighten to red in winter. Red dogwoods have many stems that spread to form vase-shaped bushes. They grow 15-20 feet tall, and 10 feet wide. Older limbs often droop and touch the ground. Red dogwood bushes spread by stolons, which are stems that grow along the ground and root at nodes, producing new plants. Prune red dogwoods in fall or mid-summer.

Step 1

Cut limbs smaller than ½ inch in diameter with hand pruners and use lopping shears for limbs between ½ and 1 inch in diameter. Use a pruning saw for limbs larger than 1 inch. Remove all limbs at ground level to preserve the arching, vase shape of the bush.

Step 2

Remove one-third of the oldest (biggest) limbs with the appropriate pruning tool to encourage new growth. The new growth will have brighter stems in the winter than older growth.

Step 3

Use the proper pruning tool to remove damaged or diseased limbs. Symptoms of disease include dead or dying leaves, cankers, splits in the bark or wood and slimy spots in the bark.

Step 4

Prune any limbs that droop into passageways with the appropriate pruning tool.

Step 5

Cut overgrown or untidy bushes to within 6 inches of the ground with the appropriate pruning tool to rejuvenate the plant. Follow an annual pruning regimen to maintain the shape and form of the bushes.

Step 6

Use the proper pruning tool to remove new bushes that have sprouted around the original bush, if you do not want the plants to multiply.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand pruners
  • Lopping shears
  • Pruning saw


  • Maryland Cooperative Extension
  • North Dakota State University Extension

Who Can Help

  • Red Dogwood
Keywords: prune Red Dogwood bushes, prune Red Dogwoods, prune Red Twig Dogwoods, prune Red Osier Dogwoods, Cornus stolonifera

About this Author

Melody Lee worked as a newspaper reporter, copywriter and editor for 5 years. In addition, she has edited magazine articles and books. Lee holds a degree in landscape design and is a Florida master gardener. She has more than 25 years of gardening experience, which includes working at nurseries and greenhouses.