Pruning a dogwood

Credit: Fir0002

Q: I have approximately a 7 year old dogwood who has been neglected shamelessly. It stands on a mild front yard slope. This tree is over shadowed by a huge Maple and consequently has a large span of branches low to ground and not very tall; never been pruned or fertiziled… maybe about 7′ tall. With this crazy weather in northern NJ (Clifton) the tree is sprouting what looks like clusters of buds. This is the first time i’ve been able to do anything to the property and I would like to prune the tree and fertizile it. Is this the right time considering the very hot and humid weather (100 degrees) we are experiencing this past month?

I am going assume the tree is probably flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) which is native to the east coast. I would not suggest fertilizing when plants are under stress, e.g. extreme weather conditions. Make sure the tree is getting a good deep soaking at least once a week. Applying a layer of mulch, 10 cm (4 in.) thick and extending out .6 to .9 m (2 to 3 ft.) or more, under the tree is a good means of water conservation and improving available soil and nutrient availability. If the new growth on the tree is of poor colour, or stunted size or length, then additional fertilizer could be applied according to the label directions.

Pruning is usually minimal, consisting of removing weak, damaged, crossing branches or dying branches. Consult a good pruning book for further information or illustration, e.g. Christopher Brickell and David Joyce’s Pruning and Training, DK Books.