Dogwood Winter Care

Dogwood, scientifically known as Cornus, is a bush-like woody tree or shrub known for its colorfulness and durability during winter and flowering in spring. Dogwood does best in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9. Dogwood is often ornamentally planted with varieties such as Arctic Fire Red Twig offering a bright red color during winter months. Their vibrantly colored winter stems are a result of the plant receiving full sunlight in the summer and spring. These red stems can be cut and used as indoor floral decoration. This woody shrub brightens up landscapes during most of the year and is especially vibrant and hardy in winter. 


Cutting Back Dogwoods For Winter

Pruning dogwood in winter time is important to maintain the plant’s steady growth. The leaves of dogwood die in the winter leaving the red stems, livening a winter garden landscape. Pruning dogwood is mostly done in order to encourage the bright red color during winter months. In late winter, many gardeners prune branches between 6 to 12 inches from the ground.

Another important aspect of dogwood maintenance is clearing the plant for any old growth, dead canes, and any areas that appear diseased. We recommend removing any old canes on the plant in order to allow the dogwood to direct energy into the new growth. Pruning old canes also removes any dull colors from the plant as old canes lose their vibrancy.

You can remove old canes by using larger shears to cut directly at the base of the dogwood. It may seem like a lot of removal when pruning down to the base; however, dogwoods are hardy and are able to sprout from dormant buds. On an established dogwood, you can prune right above budding points where new growth seems to be sprouting on the plants. It is important to prune back before they break bud in spring. 


Watering Dogwoods in Winter

Established dogwoods can tolerate fairly dry conditions so watering in the winter time is minimal. However, in order to ensure the tree is well-watered and prepared for winter, watering should be done once or twice a week in the fall. The winter months are a dormant period for the plant, so watering should be kept to a minimum and is not necessary.

Dogwood Winter Care in Pots

Certain varieties of dogwood can be grown in containers for the first few years they are growing. This step is often done in a nursery setting but can be done when first receiving the tree. The plant grows about 1 to 2 feet per year and should be pruned back to keep its height until ready to be planted in an outdoor area. When potted, it is important that dogwood be watered once the soil seems to dry, allowing for a drying period between waterings. Do not water the plant every day as this can lead to oversaturation with effects being root rot and death. 

Overall, dogwood is a sturdy outdoor ornamental plant that, in the winter, provides a warm and vibrant color in outdoor gardens. Steps can be taken to ensure the plant is well during its dormancy period in the winter and ready to flower in the spring. Pruning is an essential step in dogwood winter care, so cutting back the plant will encourage new growth in the spring. 

Steps To Care For Dogwoods in Winter

  1. Water as necessary in the fall

  2. Prune back before buds break in spring and old canes

  3. Allow for it to be dormant during the winter

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Author Chris Link - Published 04-05-2022