The Q&A Archives: Dogwood Pruning & Care

Question: One of my dogwood trees seems to be dying out, branch by branch, every growing season. I would like to prune out the dead wood, but someone told me that if you top off, or trim a dogwood, it would kill it. This tree is nearly 35 years old - any suggestions ?

Answer: Dogwoods do not like to be pruned but you can certainly cut out any dead branches without harming the tree. You can also prune out diseased branches. Winter, during the dormant season is best, but you can prune in early spring, as well. The stress comes when you radically prune a dogwood, taking out over a third of the living branches. So, easy does it and your dogwood should take the pruning without too much stress. There are a few fungal diseases that target dogwoods. If you think your tree has a disease, be sure to dip your pruners or tree saw blade in alcohol between each pruning cut.

Anthracnose is the most common disease of dogwoods. Anthracnose fungal blight thrives in moist, cool conditions and shady conditions. If you give your tree 30% direct sun, mulch with 2 to 3 inches of bark, don't wet the leaves when watering and provide good air circulation, your tree is less likely to get the disease. Trees planted on South or West facing, sunny slopes are less likely to get the disease. To save an infected tree, prune out cankerous branches as soon as they are noticed. To protect new growth and reduce the amount of leaf spot infection spray a fungicide such as copper sulfate three times in spring while the new growth is still succulent and most likely to get infected. Spray once at bud break and then twice again, at 10 day intervals, preferably after a rain. Best wishes with your dogwood.

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