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How to Prune Dogwood Trees

By Barbara Raskauskas ; Updated September 21, 2017

Dogwood trees show a burst of white flowers against leafless branches in mid-spring. When other trees are surrounding the dogwood, those white flowers capture your attention as the brightest point among the trees. The beauty of the dogwood tree carries into fall as its leaves turn a plum color. Birds and squirrels will dine on the berries produced by the dogwood. An interesting feature of the dogwood is how the branches grow more horizontally to the ground than other trees.

Use hand pruners for branches less than half-inch in diameter, loppers for larger diameter branches, a saw for branches that will not fit the lopper and a pole trimmer to reach high branches without the use of a ladder.

Make cuts at a 45-degree angle. When cutting a branch back to the trunk of the tree, make the cut outside the collar, which is the ridge that forms between the branch and the trunk of the tree.

Prune broken or diseased branches as they occur. When pruning diseased branches, dip the cutter into household bleach after each cut. Make the cut into healthy wood at least six inches from the diseased wood.

Prune the tree for dead wood in the spring after the flowers have bloomed.

Prune trunk sprouts and root suckers in the fall. Trunk sprouts are small stems that emerge anywhere around the trunk of the tree while root suckers are stems that come up through the ground.

Prune the tree for visual balance in the winter. Cut branches that point upward or turn in toward the trunk of the tree. Remove low branches that could interfere with foot traffic. When pruning for balance, prune a branch and then step back to evaluate the difference. If you need to make another cut, move horizontally along the limb and stagger cuts on opposite sides of the limb. As cuts are made, the weight of the limb is lightened and it may lift up, which can also affect the visual balance. To avoid creating imbalance, step back after each cut to evaluate how the tree looks.


Things You Will Need

  • Hand pruners
  • Loppers
  • Pole trimmer


  • Avoid pruning in May, June and July when Dogwood borers are active.

About the Author


Barbara Raskauskas's favorite pursuits are home improvement, landscape design, organic gardening and blogging. Her Internet writing appears on SASS Magazine, AT&T and various other websites. Raskauskas is active in the small business she and her husband have owned since 2000 and is a former MS Office instructor.