How to Prune a Western Dogwood Tree


Western Dogwood (Cornus sericea) is also called Redosier dogwood. It is a woody perennial with many stems. It grows from Alaska to Southern California, and east to Nevada or Idaho. The plant can reach heights of 20 feet tall. The twigs and bark are between red and purple in color until the autumn, when they turn a deep burgundy color. The leaves are 2 to 4 inches long and hairy. Between June and August, the western dogwood boasts white to cream-colored flowers, along with white berries. Prune western dogwood trees to maintain their health, remove dying branches and limit their size.

Step 1

Remove dead, diseased and dying branches. Cut them off with pruning shears at the connection they share with healthy wood. Try to make the cut on the healthy branch, to avoid spreading disease. This can be done at any time of year.

Step 2

Do most pruning of western dogwoods during the non-growing, winter season. This dormant time period is when you can best see the shape of the tree and avoid pruning damage.

Step 3

Look for branches that are clogging up the interior of the western dogwood, blocking sunlight and air from getting to the rest of the tree. Prune branches that are rubbing or crossing each other. Cut them just outside the collar, which is the thick section of bark at the base of the unwanted branch.

Step 4

Cut branches that are growing straight up and down, alongside the center trunk. They are competing with the central leader.

Step 5

Remove branches that are growing from the tree with a V-shaped connection. These are weaker than those that are attached in a U-shape. Those with angles of less than 60 degrees are even more susceptible to breakage.

Step 6

Snip off sprouts that grow at the base of the tree. These are not aesthetically appealing and are sapping nutrients and energy from the rest of the western dogwood.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not attempt to prune more than 1/4 of a western dogwood tree's live canopy during any given season.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Gloves


  • Central Washington Native Plants: Western Dogwood
  • Encyclopedia of Life: Cornus sericea L.
  • Forest Resources Extension
Keywords: Western Dogwood, prune western dogwood, cut branches

About this Author

Kelly Shetsky has been a broadcast journalist for more than ten years, researching, writing, producing and reporting daily on many topics. In addition, she writes for several websites, specializing in medical, health and fitness, arts and entertainment, travel and business-related topics. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Marist College.