Many people have dogwoods growing in the landscape, and many people have questions about their care. You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Here at Gardening Know How our goal is to try to provide answers to all of the inquiries you send our way. In this article, you’ll find the 10 most commonly asked questions about growing dogwood trees in the landscape, complete with our best answers.
Dogwood trees have slender, graceful branches, but most gardeners invite them into their yards for the eye-catching spring flower display. If your tree remains flowerless, check the care you are giving it. Dogwoods need sun and adequate irrigation, so an absence of either can preclude flowers. The most common issue involves fertilizer. Dogwoods planted on lawns absorb lawn fertilizer and all that extra nitrogen keeps the leaves growing at the expense of the blossoms.
Dogwood trees are naturally graceful and attractive, so you probably won’t want to trim off too much. And don’t prune dogwoods in spring, since it can attract borer insects. In early winter, trim back dead, damaged or crossing branches. Remove suckers and enough lower branches to provide access, if desired. You can also remove undersized twigs to open up the canopy and allow air and sunshine in.
You can easily grow dogwoods from seeds collected from native trees. Take the seeds in late fall and soak them a few days to soften the pulp, then remove it by rubbing the seed against a fine wire screen. Plant the seeds that don’t float to the top of the water. Insert them into a growing medium of peat and sand, about 0.5 inch deep and 1 inch apart. The seeds germinate in spring and you’ll want to keep them watered through the growing season. Transplant in their first or second winter.
If your soil is not acidic, you can use an acid lover’s fertilizer like that used for rhododendron. Use a ratio of 12-4-8 or 16-4-8. Don’t fertilize dogwood trees the first year, but once they are taller than you are, use ¼ cup of fertilizer in early spring, then feed again three months later. Dig in the granular fertilizer around the edges of the root zone then water well. Give mature trees ½ cup per inch of trunk.
If you need to move your dogwood tree, you’ll want to do it while the tree is dormant, at some point between the time the leaves fall and bud break. Wait until the soil is workable in spring. Transplanting when the sap is running risks root injury or rot.
One of the ways that dogwoods react to stress is by dripping sap. Try to figure out what is causing the tree stress. Look particularly carefully for pests, especially at branch junctions. Are you giving it adequate fertilizer? It may just be that the tree is reaching the end of its life. Dogwoods only live 10-15 years.
If dogwood leaves are dropping in fall, it’s perfectly normal. The tree is deciduous. If your tree’s leaves are falling during growing season, it may be water stressed. Be sure it’s getting at least 2 inches (5 cm.) of water every week. It may also have a fungus that is killing the leaves. Treat the tree with a fungicide just in case.
A tree with no leaves in spring is a tree that is suffering from distress. The first thing you should do is check the water the tree is getting. Failure to leaf out often indicates water stress. The tree needs a couple of inches (5 cm.) of water every week. You should also remove all grass and weeds in the area that may be competing for water and nutrients. If this doesn’t help, call in a tree expert to help you help the tree.
If your container is big enough to give the tree roots elbow room, your dogwood should be happy enough in a container. Keep in mind that container grown dogwoods will need additional watering and may need to be root pruned to prevent their growth from becoming too much to handle.
It’s fun to grow new dogwood trees from cuttings. Take the cuttings in spring as the tree finishes blooming. Make the cuttings between 3 to 5 inches (5-13 cm.) long. Remove the bottom leaves and cut the others in half. Dip the bottom end of the cutting in growth hormone then plant it in a small pot of sand and perlite. Keep the medium moist by misting the leaves and keeping the entire pot in a plastic bag. Roots should appear within six weeks.
We all have questions now and then, whether long-time gardeners or those just starting out. So if you have a gardening question, get a gardening answer. We’re always here to help.