General gardening topics

How to prune Cornus Dogwoods to ensure vibrant colour stems over winter

Last updated on April 28th, 2022

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Dogwoods are known for having colourful stems all winter long and they require very little maintenance. If you want to enjoy vibrant colours throughout the winter you need to make sure you prune your tree properly, which means giving them a hard prune at the right time of year.

When should you prune them?

First off, you need to make sure you prune them at the right time of the year. This is either at the end of winter or the beginning of spring, with the latter being the best option out of the two if possible.

If you prune them at the beginning of spring it gives your shrub a lot of time to generate the long, cane-like stems all summer long. These eventually create a stunning, colourful effect in time for the winter, for which they are known.

When you shouldn’t prune a Cornus

You need to make sure you are pruning the Cornus Dogwood that is being grown for its stems and not the flowering Dogwoods. The varieties that are grown for their winter stem colours are the;

  • Cornus alba
  • Cornus sanguinea
  • Cornus stolonifera

So only apply these pruning measures if you have one of the three varieties above.

How to prune Cornus

When you are pruning you should cut the Dogwood down to just above ground level. It’s important that you prune every stem to this level, not just some of them because the older stems do lose their vibrancy and you need to promote fresh and brightly coloured new foliage.

This type of hard pruning removes all of the stems that served as your main winter attraction, but rest assured, more stems will grow from the stump that is left and the more you prune the bushier and the more impressive they get.

If you are growing your Dogwood behind other plants as a backdrop, you need to prune them back to about 50-60cm from the ground or maybe a little lower, and then cut them back every year to that level so they have a little height to start with.

Why should you prune a Cornus? 

You might be wondering why you need to prune when your Cornus after it has provided you with such stunning colour over the winter. The reason is, that if you don’t prune it annually you won’t get the vibrant coloured stems the following winter. When left unpruned the Dogwood stems will eventually lose their vigour and the colour will start to fade, fading more with each year, and the bark turns into a dark brown colour as the main stems age.

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