Caring for Dogwood Trees

Dogwood trees are native to the United States and Asia, five species of which are flowering. Their red, white or pink blooms add color to the yard in spring and the leaves turn reddish purple in the fall. For best results, follow these care guidelines.

Soil Requirements for Dogwoods

Dogwood trees prefer moist, well-draining soil, rich in humus, with a slight acidity level. 

Sunlight Requirements for Dogwoods

Dogwoods can grow in full sun or shade, but prefer a partially shady environment. When planting in full sun, be sure to water more frequently.

Planting Care for Dogwoods

Spring is generally the best time to plant flowering trees. Dig a hole about 3 times the width of the diameter of the root ball. Cover with soil, leaving about 1/3 of the root ball above ground. Cover the soil with a thin layer of organic mulch to help keep the soil moist and conserve water. 

Watering Dogwoods

Water dogwood trees weekly to a depth of about 6 inches, especially during dry spells. 

Fertilizing Dogwoods

If you choose to use fertilizer, add a slow-release fertilizer once or twice a year. Dogwood trees grow best when there is mychorrhizal fungi growing in the soil around the tree. Mychorrhizal fungi live around the roots of most plants growing wild. This type of fungus has a symbiotic relationship with the dogwood, receiving carbohydrates from the dogwood and giving moisture and minerals. You can have your soil tested to see if it contains this fungus. If not, you can purchase online or at a gardening store and add to the soil before or after planting.

Pruning Dogwoods

Pruning should be done to remove damaged or diseased limbs or to help improve the aesthetic value of the flowering dogwood. Dogwoods are "bleeders" meaning if they are pruned in the winter they will ooze sap. Pruning will be easier if done in the summer, when the dogwood isn't bleeding sap. 

Fighting Pests and Diseases

There are some pests and diseases that can threaten the health of your dogwood tree. Keep an eye out for these killers and treat immediately. One common disease is dogwood anthracnose, which is caused by the fungus Discula destructiva. Signs of this disease first occur as light brown spots on the leaves, migrating to the smaller twigs, then to larger limbs, and finally to the trunk in the form of cankers. Recognizing this disease early and treating with a fungicide specific for this disease can wipe out the disease. A common pest is the dogwood borer, an insect which is attracted to damaged areas of the tree or burr knots. The dogwood borer will burrow under the bark and eat healthy tissue. Besides recognizing the insect itself, look for fine reddish dust on burr knots or damaged areas that the borer leaves behind. To fight against this pest, be careful not to damage your dogwood. If the borer has already been identified, then treat with insecticide. 

By following these care tips, your flowering dogwoods should flourish, providing you with many years of beauty.