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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - November 28, 2013

From: Bloomingdale, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Pruning, Problem Plants, Trees
Title: Pruning Roughleaf dogwood
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

We put 5 rough-leaf dogwoods along our side deck; having been told (by the local, natural plant seller) that they would reach a maximum height of 6 feet. They have grown taller than that (despite some pruning) and are blocking the view from our windows. I see that this website and others predict they will grow much taller than that. Can I cut them back to 6 feet on a regular basis (during winter dormancy?)?

ANSWER:

I routinely trim back my Cornus drummondii (Roughleaf dogwood) in winter every couple of years to prevent them from obscuring my view of a creek below the house.  They seem to suffer no ill effects from loss of up to one fifth of their branches.  The only problem is pruning to maintain an attractive appearance of the bare winter branches.  It might be better to prune every year so that the branches (twigs) removed are small enough to leave no ugly knobs. 

It would be wise to leave a few limbs with their twigs if you perform a major pruning.  If the dogwoods are really tall, prune about half of the branches back to 6 feet the first winter and the other half the second winter.  The half pruned first should have sent out new growth by the second winter.

 

From the Image Gallery


Roughleaf dogwood
Cornus drummondii

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