The Q&A Archives: dogwood tree

Question: I planted a dogwood seedling I quess you call it about 4 to 5 years ago. It is now about 7 to 8 feet tall that gets a different flower on it in about June. I say different because it looks like a smaller version of say a fall sedum plant but more delicate and smaller in white and now it has purple berries in clusters. The tree looks healthy but it has many branches coming from the trunk area and they hang on the ground.
I don't want to disturb the growth in any way but feel to want to get branches off of ground. Can I trim it and if so do I actually cut the branches to shape it? Since this doesn't seem like a usual dogwood could you identify it for me? I put the tree spikes around my 2 dogwoods and evergreen bushes that I have for nourishment and nutrients but I wonder if this does much. Can you please advise what would be best to do if not the spikes? When is it best to trim and shape if that is advisable? Thank you for any information as it would be very helpful.

Answer: The dogwood in question is probably a Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia). Sometimes it is called an Alternate-leaf dogwood. It is native to the U.S and is a shrub or small tree with a short trunk and flat-topped, spreading crown of long, horizontal branches. Alternate-leaf dogwood or pogoda dogwood is deciduous and can grow 20-35 ft. tall, with decidedly horizontal branching. Branch ends are upturned. Bark and twigs are green to reddish-purple. Wide, flat-topped clusters of fragrant, white-cream flowers become clusters of reddish-purple berries. Fall foliage is a dull maroon. Unlike all other native dogwoods, this species has alternate rather than opposite leaves. The name Pagoda Dogwood alludes to the flat-topped crown, with horizontal layers of branches. The bitter berrylike fruits of this and other dogwoods are consumed in quantities in fall and winter by wildlife.

You can train your Pagoda dogwood into a tree shape by removing all but one of the stems coming from the ground. This will be the trunk of the tree. Remove all the lower branches until only the top third has branches and leaves. It will take several years to train your dogwood into a tree form. Prune during the dormant season.

Fertilizer stakes are just fine for your dogwoods.

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