Dogwood plants near a pond.

When and How to Prune the Dogwood Plant

Dogwoods (Cornus species) are grown for their bare winter stems, which can be green, red, orange, or bright yellow. The youngest growth is the most vibrant, so prune them almost to the ground every year to encourage new stems.

When to start: Late winter or early spring.

At their best: Winter.

Time to complete: 1 hour.

You will need: Dogwood plant, clippers, pruning shears or saw, all-purpose granular fertilizer.

Annual pruning

In late winter or early spring, prune dogwoods back by cutting all stems to one or two buds above the ground. Use clippers for the thinner stems, and shears or a pruning saw for larger ones.

Leave an open structure

New stems will grow from the top buds left behind. If there are several buds, remove those facing into the center of the plant by rubbing them off with your fingers. This prevents the new stems from becoming too congested, which will weaken their winter display.

Alternative approach

Instead of pruning your dogwoods entirely to the ground, you can prune out every third stem. The plant will look less scalped through the summer, although the winter show will not be as dramatic as a result.