The Q&A Archives: Pruning Flowering Dogwood

Question: My 'Cloud Nine' dogwood is about 3 years old. There are several branches intersecting and/or growing straight up; could/should I prune them? It hasn't been blossoming very much either. Does it need more mulch, compost or fertilizer?
Also, can I prune other poorly-growing branches as appropriate on other kinds of trees?

Answer: My approach is to prune a dogwood as little as possible. Past experience with them is that there is a direct relation between how prized and expensive they are and their willingness to die! Seriously, pruning can result in problems with cankers, so if significantly misdirected branches or broken branches necessitate removal, do so with sharp pruners, and dip the blades in rubbing alcohol between cuts. Don't attempt to make shaping cuts.

Dogwoods love to have their roots in a forest floor. Therefore give them a good mulch bed as wide as is practical. This also reduces competition from turfgrass and keeps the dreaded mover and weedeater away from tender trunk tissues.

I wouldn't push them with too much fertilizer. Some compost and the decomposing mulch should do fine. If you do feed them with a granular fertilizer, choose one that's not too high in nitrogen and apply no more than 1/2 cup per inch of trunk diameter once or twice a year. Always spread fertilizer evenly beneath the branch spread of the tree.

As for pruning other trees, it all depends on the species. Please submit another question through the Q&A page specifiying the trees to be pruned, and we can help. Look forward to hearing from you!

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