Mistakes to Avoid when Growing a Dogwood Tree

A flowering dogwood tree is a striking landscape feature. When growing a dogwood tree, avoid making these mistakes to insure that it grows into a healthy tree with plenty of blooms.

Soil Requirements

Planting dogwoods in soil that is wet or poorly draining makes it susceptible to fungus. Seedlings are especially vulnerable to fungus and a poorly draining soil can quickly kill off seedlings. When planting, apply organic material over the soil surface (leaf litter is a good easy-to-find option) that will help with drainage. Don’t add organic material in the planting hole as this can cause root rot.

Planting Location

In the wild, dogwoods are usually found in a forest where they receive shade from taller and wider trees. If possible, dogwoods should be planted in partial shade. Planting in too much shade or too much sun is detrimental to the growth of the dogwood. Don’t plant in a location that receives less than 60 percent sunlight. If you do plant in full sun, take special care to water a couple of times a week.

Planting Depth

Planting dogwoods too deep is another common mistake. Plant the root ball level with the surface soil. If purchased from a nursery, plant to the level it was planted in the nursery. If planted too deep, roots will not receive enough oxygen and suffocate.


Dogwoods, especially the first couple of years, are thirsty trees. Young trees and trees that are growing in dry climates should be watered weekly.


Fertilize twice a year, in May and July. Young dogwoods are often killed by over-fertilization. For a small tree about 1 to 2 feet tall, work 1 tbsp. fertilizer into the surrounding areas. For a 6-foot tall, newly planted tree work about ¼ cup fertilizer into the soil. For a fully grown, established tree, work 1 cup of fertilizer for each inch of trunk diameter into the soil. When working fertilizer into the soil, always keep a couple feet away from the trunk. When adding fertilizer, use a low nitrogen fertilizer. Too much nitrogen will prohibit flowering.


Don’t prune dogwoods the first year. Avoid pruning in late spring when leaves are forming. If pruning in the summer, be aware the the dogwood branches will ooze a sticky sap. Autumn is generally the best time for pruning.

Damaging Trunk and Branches

Damaged dogwoods trunks and branches are susceptible to the dogwood borer, a pest that attacks burr knots and damaged areas and burrows into the bark, eating healthy tissue. The dogwood borer leaves behind a fine reddish-brown dust. To protect your dogwood from damage from lawnmowers and other threats, pound several thick stakes around the tree trunk, about 6 inches away from the trunk.

Chemical Injury

Dogwoods are vulnerable to many herbicides. Never apply herbicides to exposed roots. Make sure that you have separate sprayers for herbicides and fertilizers.

Avoiding these common mistakes will help you to produce a healthy flowering dogwood tree!