Dogwood- Pruning or Topping?


I have a 3 year old dogwood that actually has not flowered yet. My problem is that it is very tall and spindly and I am wondering about topping it to strengthen and encourage a fuller growth. When and how please, I don’t want to kill it =)
We are in BC with a quite shady yard. Thanks


From your photograph, it appears that your dogwood is healthy and growing well.  As it grows, it will develop its characteristic horizontally-branched, mounded shape.  Here are a couple of things to consider.

It is possible that your conditions are not ideal for favourable development of your dogwood.  Although it will grow in conditions ranging from sun to shade, it flowers most vigorously in full to partial sun.  Assuming it is a Cornus florida, it also prefers an acidic soil: it may be worth having your soil pH tested as this plant is highly sensitive to soil pH.  In addition, if your soil is dry, poor or compacted, your dogwood will struggle to thrive.  Mulching around the base of your tree is helpful in providing good soil nutrients – making sure that you leave some space between the mulch and the tree trunk.

If you wish to selectively prune some of your lower branches, or any that crowd or cross other branches this should be done in late winter or very early spring before you notice new growth. Dead or diseased branches should also be removed.  Topping your flowering dogwood is not recommended for encouraging stronger growth – in fact, it may promote growth that is weaker and it will destroy the shape of your tree.

If you are in a part of British Columbia where winters are very mild, you might wish to consider contacting the British Columbia Master Gardeners Association who could provide advice that is tailored to your location: