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All About The Flowering Dogwood

July 22, 2014

Written by Siobhan Barton.
Fully Mature Dogwood Tree

The Dogwood Tree is a majestic ornamental, well adapted to life in the United States. As long as you offer the tree plenty of water and sunshine, like most plants, the Dogwood will do just fine. There are over 50 species within the Cornus, or Dogwood, genus. These species vary wildly, from shrubs to deciduous temperate trees and evergreens. One of the most common species, and the one about which you’ve most likely heard, is the Flowering Dogwood. The state tree of Virginia, the Flowering Dogwood has conspicuous white to light yellow flowers that offer magnificent blooms in spring. Other species can be quite different; for example, the Blackfruit Cornel, native to California, has small yellow-green blooms and a fruit which turns black when ripe, thus the name. Whatever your desire, there is a Dogwood to suit your needs.

There is one exception to the otherwise glowing record of adaptable strengths the Dogwood offers: water. The Dogwood does not grow well in semi-arid to arid climates, and will most certainly need irrigation if planted in these areas. Although Dogwoods can do well near river banks or streams, they will not grow well in frequently flooded areas where the soil is constantly saturated. Treat your Dogwood with the watering it needs, and its loyalty will rival that of man’s best friend.

Best Dogwood Trees

Quick Tips

Enjoy some quick tips here. For more complete information, read about these hints in more detail below.

Sunlight – Plant in a partially sunny area with some minimal access to afternoon shade. Dappled shade, or partial filtered sun through a taller tree, can work.

Soil – Plant in well-drained, moist soil that is not overly wet. Although adaptable to many soil types, Dogwoods prefer slightly acidic loam.

Water – The shallow roots of the Dogwood run the risk of drying out. Water the tree at least twice a week in most areas and more during dry spells.

Pruning – Pruning is minimal; remove dead or broken branches in late winter, and prune lightly to maintain the tree’s shape.

The Best Places to Plant the Dogwood

The Dogwood Tree is picky. Like a small child, Dogwoods may not adjust well to variances in water and nutrient matter. Also like a small child, Dogwoods can be a bit smelly, offering a strong, though not altogether unpleasant, fragrance. The best similarity between a small child and the tree, though? Your Dogwood will astound you with its beauty, inspiration, and growth.

Dogwoods do best in dappled shade areas, which is when taller shade trees provide protection from the more direct sun rays. Investigate your property for locations where your new Dogwood will be protected from the sun. Consider planting the Royal Empress or Tulip Poplar, fast-growing shade trees that will provide the dappled shade Dogwoods like best. Alternatively, you can place the Dogwood in an area where shade is given by a nearby building. Careful, though; buildings reflect heat, which can dry out the Dogwood quickly.

The most important consideration when planting a Dogwood is water access. Whether it’s a natural bubbling brook, high average weekly rainfall, your handheld watering can, or an intricate irrigation system, your Dogwood will definitely need water. Dogwoods have shallow roots, and even with dappled shade, these root systems will dry quickly. Water the tree to a depth of three feet, and observe the leaves for signs of over or under watering. If the leaves are light-green, prickly, or crispy, the tree needs more water. If the leaves are droopy, green-gray, or enlarged, the tree needs less water.

Growth Rate and Mature Height

Depending on the species of Dogwood you plant, you may have a short stout bush or a 25 foot tall tree. The tree displays medium growth, averaging between 13 and 24 inches annually. If carefully treated, a mature Dogwood tree species, such as the Flowering Dogwood, may reach 40 feet in height.

Pests and Diseases

The Dogwood is currently at risk for both fungus and pest infestations, which is why it is important to buy the sapling from an arborist instead of transplanting the tree from the wild. Dogwood anthracnose is a disease caused by the fungus Discula destructiva. For this reason it can be beneficial to plant your Dogwood in late spring, when warm temperatures will kill the fungus, which thrives in cooler, wet weather.

Dogwood powdery mildew has also become a recent major threat to Dogwoods. The mildew, which often causes a whitish-gray powdery film on leaves that are also contorted, is easily treatable with fungicides, such as horticulture oil.

Dogwoods are delicious, so if deer are present in your region, protect the newly planted tree with ‘Deer Away’ or a similar product. Once your tree has reached a suitable height, deer will be unable to reach tasty morsels like leaves and flower buds.

Variants of the Dogwood

Cornus refers to a specific genus, and within the genus are over 50 species of the commonly known Dogwood. These species are divided into four subgenera, or sub-genus species. These sets are determined by distinguishing characteristics of the flowers and bracts[1]. The four main subcategories are:

Flowering Dogwoods (Benthamidia)
Bunchberries or Dwarf cornels (Chamaepericlymenum)
Cornels (Cornus)
Dogwoods (Swida)

Choosing the right Dogwood for your property means considering what your location has to offer and for what you are looking. A symbiotic relationship, where both your Dogwood benefits from necessary water, sun, and nutrient supplies and you benefit from the best height, shade, and beauty of the Dogwood, is in everybody’s interests.

Noteworthy Tips on the Dogwood

– Dogwoods do not usually require a great deal of fertilization; skimp on the mulch and meter out the water!

– The name Dogwood comes from the word “dog-tree”, which was introduced into English in 1548.

– Dogwood is also thought to derive from “dagwood”, which would involve using the tree’s thin twigs for creating daggers.

– Chaucer used the term “whippletree” to refer to the Dogwood, which is the name for the piece of wood connecting the horse’s harness to the drag pole of a cart.

– Dogwoods have been used medicinally for generations; the bark is rich in tannins, so ground bark or leaves are used to treat pain, fevers, backaches, dizziness, weakness, excessive sweating, uterine bleeding, and incontinence.

[1] Bract – a specialized leaf, usually associated with the reproductive actions of the plant. These “leaves” often sit below the flower or on smaller stems.

Comments 36 comments

  1. very goos article wth a lot of information

    i am looking for a fully grown dogwood tree that i need ti plant in my front yard. can yoiu locate one for me in where in USA? if so, please send me an e mail with the total price of the tree + freight to raleigh NC + cost of plantation and fertilizers

    i need this asap

    thanks

    1. July 13, 2018 by julliet

      I have a fully grown dogwood tree in front yard. It’s in Cary, NC.
      Are you still looking?

      thanks

    2. March 17, 2019 by Lewis

      I planted 3 dogwoods today do u still need one? An where exactly do u reside?

  2. wow great information I needed that for my project thanks a lot where did you get all of that information???

  3. April 1, 2017 by Sue

    sue/april1,2017 when can you expect to see trees get their leaves in the spring especially on a newly planted tree as of
    may 2016.

  4. April 12, 2017 by Lynne

    I planted a nursery bought white flowering dogwood last spring ( about 4″ tall ) and it flourished with and abundance of new leaves and branched. I watered faithfully ( we live in Tennessee ), it’s planted on a slope, so water doesn’t flood & it’s near a huge magnolia tree for sunlight protection in the afternoons. I don’t think it survived the winter ~ would trimming off all the dead branches help at all to give it a chance? Thanks

    1. April 30, 2017 by Brian

      You might want to give it a proper funeral at this point. I don’t think you will be able to revive it once it has reached this stage. Sorry.

  5. May 7, 2017 by Carol

    I have a 5 year old dogwood, it flowered beautifully this year, but we had a terrible two weeks with torrential rain. Now the leaves are turning brown on the edges and do not have the foliage it had last year. Will it come out of it?

  6. May 11, 2017 by Barb Jennings

    What time year is it to buy and plant white dogwood?

  7. May 19, 2017 by Rick

    do dogwoods send up shoots from the ground or send off seedlings like maples?

  8. June 14, 2017 by Priscilla

    My friend has a dogwood tree that half the tree has stated to bloom and nothing on one side. Can we fix it?

  9. June 28, 2017 by Deb

    We have a dogwood several years old. This year it flourished with green leaves and flowers. However much rain lately and our tree appears to be turning a red brown in color. We are in vt and exspect to see this if fall. Is this something wrong with our tree?
    Thanks deb from vermont

  10. August 23, 2017 by Edie

    I heard that the Digwood trees will Keep Flees
    Out of the ground and yard where you plant the dog wood at,is this true please let me know something. Ty Edie

  11. We planted a Dogwood when we moved in last spring. Had a hard time through last summer. It looks good now although it sits in full sun. Question: it has small red balls on tip if every branch. Are they fruit? Will it ever flower?

  12. I live in Florida and I have a septic tank in my front yard will the roots be harmful to the septic and how far should I plant from septic?

  13. November 10, 2017 by Sheryl Linn

    I read the emails and someone asked about fleas. The emails would be better if you showed your answers to their question. I also would like to know about flea question.

  14. My Kousa dogwood still has it’s leaves despite the fact that all my other deciduous trees have lost theirs. This is its 2nd autumn. Is it normal for the tree to have its leaves so late? They have hardly even begun to turn color.

  15. I could cry, my beautiful mature dogwood “sabrina” has lost the bark on the trunk this winter. All these years it was growing so nice, I live in zone 5b. Cold this winter. Did I loose it?…
    Please tell me it’s not dead.

  16. February 25, 2018 by Shayna

    could they survive in weather around Quebec, Canada? would love to get one…But i would like to ask which kind of Dogwood would be able to sustain itself if different climates which we have?

  17. April 9, 2018 by Delores Baker

    my dogwood doesn’t want to bloom, even though it did when I bought it several years ago. we live in Brookings Or. and it is in full sun, we have acidity soil. What do I need to do for it.

  18. May 9, 2018 by eric

    my dogwoods don’t seem to be blooming what should I do

  19. May 13, 2018 by Mary C.

    I have three trees that look like dogwoods in most respects, but instead of the familiar single blossoms about three inches across, these have clusters of much smaller flowers, still with four petals, clustered around the same kinds of centers that the usual single blossoms have. What can anyone tell me about these?

  20. May 20, 2018 by Brenda

    There are many great questions but there are no answers could you please reply so all can see?

  21. May 23, 2018 by f wagner

    I have a 15 year old dogwood bought from Ladies home Journal, It was to be a hot pink. first year it was light pink and then for several years it was half pink and half white. last year it was not as abundant in blooms. Now this year it is full of white blooms. not a sign of pink. is there anything there anything that can be done to revert it to pink? Our soil is more alkaline and we live in eastern wash. where it is col in the winter and hot in the summer other than color the tee is healthy

  22. May 24, 2018 by Al

    Our Dogwood is 2 years old about 8 feet tall and apparently healthy. However it has never bloomed, Do we have a variety that never blooms or is something else going on.

    1. March 7, 2019 by Cindy Lichtenstein

      I have the same problem, my dogwood is about 2 years old and seems to be healthy, it gets taller each years and has green leaves all summer but hasn’t bloomed yet. What should I do????? I hate to take it down. Did you ever get any answers on yours?????

  23. May 24, 2018 by ken

    What is the seedling of the wild white Dogwood tree?

  24. May 27, 2018 by audre becker

    I live in Barrington Il. just north of Chicago. I have seen dogwood trees blooming here. Planted a small one bout 5 years ago. It’s about 4-5 ft. tall with healthy abundant leaves, however, have had no blooms. Appears to be well drained and gets a fair amount of sun, Why does it not boom?

  25. June 7, 2018 by Shirl

    iS A Korean Dogwood the same as a Kousa Dogwood?
    \
    Is it supposed to have kind of speckeled bark?

  26. June 26, 2018 by Doris Seavey

    My dogwood tree is three years old , and as yet to bear a single flower the leaves seem to be folding lenghwise like they want to roll up ,what can I do thank you.

  27. July 21, 2018 by Sandra Montgomery

    My dogwood lost all of its leaves. Just fed it some miracle gro. I cant tell if it’s dead but I can still bend the branches so it’s not completely dry. Is it true your suppose to bury the longest root facing east? Don’t know what to do. I planted it in honor of my deceased brother.

  28. August 27, 2018 by baby_shark_dododododo

    this is great! I have a report on “Adopt-A-Tree” and I picked the Dogwood Tree and this is grreat for my poster!!!!

  29. what dogwood has a dime size berry at this time of year?
    don prout
    Branchville nj
    dprout98@gmail.com

  30. September 2, 2018 by Joyce blair

    Dogwood tree rarely flowers in spring and extremely slow growth..12 years and about 6 feet only in height..live Ontario Canada. Any info for me re this. Thank you

  31. We live in North Central Ohio, and have a pink dogwood tree. Every year for the past 13 years that we have lived here, it has bloomed in the early spring. This year has been an unusual one. It is currently OCT 5th and this is the third (yes, third) time I have seen blooms on the tree this year. Early Spring (as usual), mid Summer, and now the Fall. We had a very humid Summer, and my husband did trim some limbs from the tree mid Summer. Could that be the reason for a mid-Summer bloom? As for the Fall bloom, the temperatures have been dropping to the high 40s at night, and then up to mid 70s during the day. Have you ever heard of this? Thanks!

  32. I planted some white flowering dogwood trees about three and a half feet from my carport now I’m thinking I might have made a might have made a mistake. They won’t bust up my concrete right? If i did make a mistake what is the minimum distance from the carport?