Clip redtwig now for decorative branch, possibility of stubs

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We cut redtwig- and yellowtwig dogwood canes as low as we can, so the new growth comes from way down and we avoid a stub-build up over years. (Arrow; wood going gray, developing bark.) Cut them off annually at ground level. 

Can I prune red twig dogwood now? I'd like to if it won't hurt the plants. - J. -


You can. We do -- especially if we need the branches for decorations!

If they're growing wild or planted in the kind of always-moist place where they're native, the wet soil may have retained enough heat that the plant's stem bases are not yet hardened off. If you cut a woody plant when it is not hardened off, it's likely to die back beyond your cut, so you'll find a dieback stub next spring, with new growth coming from lower down. That stub can clutter the look and get in the way of your next pruning, plus it's a weak point where stem canker fungus can get started, weakening the new growth.

You can't tell by looking if a plant has hardened off, but if the ground is still quite soft, it's a possibility winter has not wrapped its arms around that shrub yet.

If there's hard pruning on the docket, involving severe cuts, we usually schedule it in January and February thaws, when we know that all the hardy plants are at their hardiest. Or we wait until very late winter or the first days of spring.



Here's a redtwig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera'Cardinal', left) and a yellowtwig (C. s.'Flaviramea') on the right. We're pruning them to take out the oldest wood so there will be lots of the newest, most brightly colored canes again this year.

We generally do this cutting in late winter or very early spring.




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