When and how should you prune dogwood shrubs?

Asked October 9, 2013, 12:41 PM EDT

We have a long row of red dogwood shrubs along fence that marks our property line. Over the past several years, the shrubs have gotten out of hand. We would like to cut them down to the ground and let them "start over" again. I have two concerns.
First, is this a good time of the year to do this?
Second, these dogwoods are near our busy bird feeder and bird bath (heated during winter months). Lots of birds are still using the shrubs for shelter before flying to the feeder. I do not know much about bird activity. Do these birds stay/(live)in these shrubs all winter? Will cutting down the shrubs at this time of the year be a hardship for the birds, or will it be easy for them to find a new shelter? I appreciate any advice you could give me. Thanks so much.

Hennepin County Minnesota

1 Response

Luckily for the birds, pruning is best done on dogwoods in late winter, before dormancy breaks in spring. Pruning cuts seal over quickly when spring growth begins. It sounds as though rejuventation pruning is called for here. This type of pruning brings about major reshaping, but take care to only remove one-third of woody tissue each season. Dogwoods are amazingly resilient, and respond well to even vigorous reshaping. Any pruning will also stimulate growth. The following has more information on shrub pruning, including cuts, tools, and a section on Renewal Pruning.

Pruning Trees and Shrubs: