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Friday - November 21, 2008

From: Bethesda, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Propagation, Transplants
Title: Transplanting Cornus sericea by sprouts in Maryland
Answered by: Jan Kvale, Barbara Medford and Joe Marcus


I would like to transplant suckers of a red-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea). When is the best time to do it (before or during dormancy)? How big of a root system does each sucker need to survive? Where do I make the cut on the shoot connecting the parents and the suckers? And, most importantly, what are the chances I will harm the parent plant if I remove all three of its suckers? Thanks so much.


Cornus sericea (redosier dogwood), also known as red-twig dogwood, is a native of Maryland, though it does not like to grow much further south. This is a lovely shrub with delicate cream-white flowers in spring, followed by umbrella clusters of white berries, pleasant fall color, and bright red stems after the leaves have fallen. It can also be aggressive, which means you are unlikely to harm the mother plant by removing the shoots. It propagates so easily, in fact, that you could probably cut a stem and stick it in the ground to root if the growing conditions were favorable.

From our webpage on this plant: "Propagate by seed or cuttings. Hardwood cuttings do not require treatment. Collected sprouts are easily established." 

Propagation from cuttings or shoots is usually done as the plant is in dormancy.  If you choose to propagate by root sprouts, look for ones that have good roots established already.  If the sprouts are not well-rooted, pruning about 1/2 of the top of the sprout is helpful to reduce stress on the plant during establishment.  You will want to protect the tops of your newly replanted sprouts during the winter with mulch or some other protective material.  A safer technique is to use a long, sharp spade (sometimes called a sharpshooter spade) to sever the sprouts from the mother plants, but leave the sprouts in place until spring.  It is best to make the cut as close to the mother plant as possible without damaging its bark.  "Within six inches or so" is a good rule of thumb.  When the soil warms, dig and transplant as you wish.  The advantage of this technique is that the roots of the sprouts are little disturbed during the severing process and the new plants will grow a better root system during the cold months and get a faster start in the spring.

From North Carolina State University, we found this article on Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings. They give excellent instructions for several ways to propagate woody plants, but since we already know that sprouts (or suckers) are very easy to propagate in this plant, you can look at their instructions for softwood cuttings, in which they say that shoots are suitable for making softwood cuttings when they can be snapped easily when bent and when they still have a gradation of leaf size (oldest leaves are mature while newest leaves are still small). Read the entire article to help answer your questions about "what, when, where, how?"

Cornus sericea

Cornus sericea

Cornus sericea

Cornus sericea




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