pruning a siberian dogwood

(Question)

last spring- 2013- (the second year after planting) I pruned the Siberian Dogwood stems down to 6 inches, as per advice from a gardening website. Last summer, I did not have any flowers or berries, however, the stems were a lovely red for the winter.
By pruning to 6″, am I sacrificing the flowers and berries for the stem colour? Is there a way to get both? Thanks.

(Answer)

You bet. So don’t cut anything yet!

I am not sure why it was recommended to prune the dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) to 6 inches. If you are planning for branches for winter urns, for example, that’s what you do – you get the lovely red branches to cut and use. When a dogwood ages, the older branches lose their colour, they become a bit rough in the bark, and to keep your plant the lovely red, those older branches you prune to the ground. As the shrub matures, it is usually recommended to prune a third of the branches to keep the shrub open and airy, and of course, broken, dead and crossed branches always¬† should be pruned out to keep the plant healthy.

What you have are very young shrubs. They likely didn’t need pruning at all, with the exception of any issue with broken or dead branches. This year, let them be. They will get the panicle of flowers in the spring, which, if pollinated by bees, will turn into the white fruit. There may be only a few this year, as the shrubs are still young. Keep them watered, as they are still considered newly planted.

As the shrubs grow, then prune for size, but only a third of the branches in spring. Continue with dead and broken branches as noted above. Thin out the old branches when they get dull. The dogwoods will do just fine.