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My Mother Wants To Know If You Can Trim Back…

Glenda Asked

My mother wants to know if you can trim back a white dogwood tree and lilac bush? If so, when would be the time of year to do it?

The Gardener’s Answer

Hello, Glenda: Dogwood trees should not need any extensive pruning if planted in a space where they can grow to their mature size. As with all plants, you can remove any dead or diseased branches as soon as you notice them any time throughout the year. If you are pruning to thin, shape, or remove crossing branches, this should be done right about now (late winter/early spring) before any new growth starts. You can enjoy the blooms from the removed branches one last time by forcing them indoors. Place them in water and they should bloom within a few weeks. Be sure to change out the water frequently to avoid any bacterial growth. As for your lilac, pruning at this time of year would remove spring flowers. The general rule of thumb when it comes to pruning our flowering shrubs is we prune after they have finished blooming, and summer-flowering shrubs we typically prune the late winter or early spring before new growth begins. As always, make sure your pruning tools are clean and sharp. If you want more information on pruning, visit

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