cutting back red twig dogwoods

Discussion in 'Cornus (dogwoods)' started by devi, Apr 8, 2009.

  1. devi

    devi Member

    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Port Townsend, WA, USA
    I cut back my red twig dogwoods last month. Dan Hinkley's catalog had suggested cutting back hard in late winter. These shrubs have been in the ground for four years so they are well established. I cut back to about 18- 24 inches, a good haircut. Now they are weeping a white oozy liquid which is dipping down the stems . . . oh my. What did I do to my dogwooods. Will they be OK? What is the white stuff--sap?
    thanks Devi
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

    Messages:
    20,667
    Likes Received:
    547
    Location:
    WA USA (Z8)
    Cut them down lower, the point of the severe treatment is to remove the older less well colored portions and keep all the stems present bright. Also if you cut back part way you get an unpleasant hedged or "Hydra Effect" (PlantAmnesty) appearance with multiple new stems coming out of the ends of the old parts.

    If regrowth next season is not vigorous enough to restore tops to a good size, then wait until they have recovered in a few years before resuming hard pruning - and then select and cut out only the oldest-looking, least colorful 1/3 of canes each time. New spring growth is supported by energy stored in roots and stems, sometimes when shrubs have most of the top removed there is not enough stored energy left for the top to be quickly and vigorously restored immediately afterward.
     
  3. devi

    devi Member

    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Port Townsend, WA, USA
    Really. So i should chop them off closer to the ground? Is the idea to promote new canes from the ground up, the crown? Are they leaking sap now?
     
  4. kaspian

    kaspian Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    459
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Maine coast, USA, zone 5
    I think the main idea is that you get the brightest red coloring from young, vigorous stems. As they plants get older, the branches take on a duller look, and the overall shape of the plant becomes sort of congested-looking.

    Ron's suggestion is not so much to reduce the height or width of your plant, but to remove the older, less vigorous branches -- just a few at a time, never more than 1/3 of the overall mass -- so as to encourage the plant to produce more brightly colored young foliage. It's more of a selective thinning-out than an all-over "haircut."
     
  5. devi

    devi Member

    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Port Townsend, WA, USA
    Yes, but I've already cut them back . . . my mistake . . . they are about 18 - 24 inches tall now, each remaining branch or stem an inch or two in diameter. The question now is should I cut them back more, to the ground essentially, or let them go and generate from the stumps. They seem to be weeping some white sap or something. That has me worried a bit. They've been in the ground four years so have established root systems. Sigh. I hope they recover. If they do, i'll leave them alone for a few years until they recover and then only lop off 1/3 of the oldest branches, as you've suggested. Thanks for your help.
     
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

    Messages:
    20,667
    Likes Received:
    547
    Location:
    WA USA (Z8)
    I'd cut them all lower. Otherwise you will have an unattractive effect. You may find they come back well and can be pruned down every year or every other year. When I've tried this on a Bailey's redtwig dogwood recovery was too slow for annual cutting down of all stems. Thomas, ORNAMENTAL SHRUBS, CLIMBERS AND BAMBOOS (Sagapress/Timber) asserts (under C. alba) that

    "To achieve the greatest brilliance of the winter bark of this and all its forms it is best to remove two-year-old stems from the base every February; if all the stems are cut down, as is often recommended, the result is a gap where there should be growth, until the end of July"
     
  7. devi

    devi Member

    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Port Townsend, WA, USA
    OK, I'll get my lopers out today and do the deed. And then back off in future years. Thanks for sticking with this to answer my questions. all best from port townsend. Devi
     

Share This Page