Gardening secrets: How to grow flowering Dogwood trees and shrubs in you garden
Flowering dogwood is a small, showy, deciduous tree. Trees typically grow even 6m tall. Young trees tend to be upright to rounded and mature specimens growing up to 50 percent wider than tall. The crown is round to flat-topped. The lateral branches are somewhat horizontal and form a recognizable feature in the winter landscape.
Flowering dogwood is named for the showy spring flowers. The common name dogwood comes from one colonial description of the fruit as being edible but not fit for a dog. The common name dogwood is also thought to be from the use of the wood for skewers or “dogs.” Other common names include boxwood and cornel.
When to plant
Plant dogwoods in the spring, before tree growth starts and when the soil is moist.
Where to plant
Dogwoods thrive in both sun and shade, making it a great understory tree or shrub.
Dogwoods do best in moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil that contains organic matter.
- Dig an extra-wide hole to ensure the roots have room to grow outwards
- Don’t plant too deeply, the root flare should be above ground level
- For container grown dogwoods, loosen the root ball with a soil knife to prevent the roots from continuing to grow in the circular shape of the pot
- For bare root dogwoods, soak the roots in a bucket of water prior to planting
- Create a berm of soil around the outer edge of the root ball to hold water
Dogwood care and pruning
Dogwood trees and shrubs have a naturally attractive shape, so they require little pruning unless needed for aesthetic reasons or to improve their vigor. The best time to prune is in the late winter (when the tree is dormant) to early spring, before new folige emerges.
Water your dogwood on a regular basis until it is established. Then, provide additional water during hot dry spells and mulch to help retain moisture. Keep the mulch pulled back a few inches from the tree trunk. Dogwood trees prefer moist soils, with many tolerating boggy conditions, so they aren’t necessarily drought tolerant.
Be careful when fertilizing a young dogwood shrub or tree—many newly planted trees are killed by applying too much fertilizer. For this reason it is often safest to hold off on fertilizing until your tree is in its second season. If you have an established dogwood that you feel would benefit from fertilization, have your soil tested to determine the best course of action. Additionally, fertilizer applied too late in the season can stimulate new growth that is vulnerable to winter damage.
Dogwoods are subject to anthracnose, a fungal disease that causes leaf spotting and twig dieback. Preventive measures include providing good air circulation to keep foliage dry, and watering in the summer during periods of drought. Any diseased twigs and branches should be pruned off.
The most common insect pest is the dogwood borer, whose larvae burrow under the bark of the trunk and limbs. Because newly hatched larvae enter the tree through wounds or broken bark, avoid damage to the bark when doing lawn maintenance and don’t prune from April to June when borers are most active. Infected trees can be treated by spraying with an insecticide.
Flowering dogwood is a spectacular flowering tree native to our region and one of the most popular small ornamental shrub – trees in America. Flowering dogwood has been named the state tree of both Virginia and Missouri, and the state flower of North Carolina. It is a plant with four-season character – showy spring flowers, summer and fall foliage, fall fruit and winter branching habit. Trees can be used in groupings, as specimens or in naturalized areas. The average lifespan is 80 years.