When to prune dogwood trees – for year-round rewards

Discover when to prune dogwood trees for a constant colorful display

when to prune dogwood trees
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you love a jolt of color in the garden, discovering when to prune dogwood trees will help you enjoy a beautiful display almost all year round.

A popular ornamental plant, dogwood trees are often used in gardens to provide pops of color throughout fall and winter, but is also one of the best trees for screening and privacy in summer and best trees for autumn color.

Its pretty flowers turn into small black berries after pollination by insects, providing nourishment for birds and mammals, which also makes it a great addition for a thriving eco system in your own backyard. 

But when's the best time to prune to ensure a beautiful blossom? Get the lowdown on maintaining dogwood trees with pruning below.

When to prune dogwood trees

Cornus alba Sibirica an Iris 'Katherine Hodgkin'

(Image credit: RHS/Neil Hepworth)

'Dogwoods are renowned for their vigorous growth rate and will benefit from pruning back in late winter just before the tree comes out of its natural period of dormancy ahead of spring,' says Petal Republic's Andrew Gaumond.

'This will ensure robust growth, denser foliage, and promote overall tree health. As a general rule, it's worth pruning dogwood trees every second or third year.'

FLOWERBX's Whitney Bromberg Hawkings suggests pruning once a year at most, adding: 'Dogwood requires a hard pruning once a year – only after its first year of growth, as this first 12 months allows your tree to make its mark during its first summer. 

'March is the best time to prune a dogwood tree, preparing it perfectly for the following sunnier seasons.'

Why does a dogwood tree need pruning?

A winter garden planting of Thuja occidentalis evergreen trees with Cornus Alba 'Westonbirt'

(Image credit: Jacky Parker Photography / getty Images)

Dogwood trees need little care, so it will be music to your ears to hear that you can sit back and enjoy their beauty throughout the seasons.  

FLOWERBX's Whitney Bromberg Hawkings says: 'They are adaptable and thrive in most landscapes, growing quickly to establish themselves. 

'However, because of this fast growth, pruning will help you take advantage of your tree’s new abundance of colorful leaves – sure to brighten days throughout the year.'

Andrew Gaumond agrees, adding: 'Whilst dogwood trees generally do a decent job on their own of maintaining their size and shape, pruning can help to thin out congested branch structures and cut back any random limbs that are proving to be a little over-ambitious.'

When should you avoid pruning dogwood trees?

Cornus Kousa or Japanese Dogwood

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Where possible, avoid pruning dogwood during the active growing season as these trees often produce a thick sap from the wound, which may in turn attract a number of pests and disease issues. 

Whitney comments: 'Once new leaves begin to appear, you should leave your dogwood tree to bloom, should you want to enjoy its high season of colorful beauty. Wait until at least late winter, if not spring.'

Why plant dogwood?

Cornus – commonly known as dogwood – is a genus of up to 60 species of woody plants and trees. 

Andrew Gaumond, of Petal Republic, explains further: 'Dogwood is a flowering deciduous tree that's loved for its voluminous blooms and modest size. 

'They are suitable for a range of garden sizes as they typically won't reach more than 20ft or so tall and tend to grow out as much as up. 

'These trees thrive best in milder climates that don't experience frigid winters and should start blooming abundantly from early spring each year.'

Whitney Bromberg Hawkings, co-founder of FLOWERBX, adds: 'A bonus is that they offer year-round beauty, but are particularly spectacular during the early spring months, when specific varieties host a delicate show of sweetly toned white and pink flowers.'

Ruth Doherty

Ruth Doherty is an experienced digital writer and editor specializing in interiors, travel and lifestyle. With 20 years of writing for national sites under her belt, she’s worked for the likes of Livingetc.com, Standard, Ideal Home, Stylist and Marie Claire as well as Homes & Gardens.