General gardening topics

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

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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 hard pruning at the right time of year.

When to prune

First, you need to prune 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 of the two if possible.

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

What not to prune Cornus

Second, you need to make sure you are pruning the Cornus Dogwood grown for its stems and not the flowering dogwood. The plants that are grown for their winter stem colours are the:

  • Cornus alba
  • Cornus sanguinea
  • Cornus stolonifera

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

How to prune Cornus

When you prune you should cut the Dogwood down to just above ground level. Its import that you prune every stem to this level, not just some of them as the older stems do loose their vibrant colours and you need to promote fresh bright 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 they get 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 50-60 centimetres 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 prune Cornus? 

You might be wondering why you have to prune when your dog would have provided you with such stunning colour over the winter. The reason is, if you don’t prune it every year you won’t get the vibrant coloured stems in winter. When left unpruned the Dogwood stems will eventually lose its vigour and the colour will start to fade every year that you don’t prune and they turn into a dark brown bark colour as the main stems age.

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