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Dogwoods: The Right Way

You may find it hard to find a dogwood tree by late April. That is because a lot of nurseries try to be sold out by then. Dogwoods can be quite temperamental at times. So, keeping them in nursery pots in the hot summertime can be a gamble. Usually, you will see new stock by early fall. Fall is the best planting opportunity you have with these persnickety trees.

 Early spring, before budding begins is acceptable for planting. However, the fall, before the tree slips into dormancy is your best bet. If you wait too late in the spring you risk summer heat setting in early and then it will be an uphill battle for survival. Dogwoods that have been transplanted from a pot to the ground and have had their root systems disturbed do not fare well in the hot temperatures and scorching rays of the summer sun.

Dogwoods can be a little picky about where they put their roots. Clay soil is ok but they will be much happier if you amend your clay with some compost or organic matter to improve drainage. Clay soil will hold moisture fairly well. Sometimes too well and this can prove to be problematic for your new dogwood. Sandy soil drains too quickly and will also need to be amended with organic matter. This will help sandy soil to retain some moisture. Loam soil is actually best for dogwood. However, very few of us have loam soil in this area. So, remember to amend your soil accordingly. We recommend and sell Daddy Pete’s Planting Mix, which is a combination of composted cow manure and pine bark fines. It is made here in Piedmont NC.

Dogwood trees grow best in partial shade. Putting them in or near the treeline or in the shadows of larger trees is a good location. Receiving morning sun and early afternoon sun is optimal for a dogwood to grow and be the best that it can be.

You will need to dig a hole 3 times the width of the root ball. Yes. I said THREE TIMES!😁then to a depth that is equal to the height of the root ball. However, you will want to loosen the dirt at the bottom of the hole just a bit and mix in some compost or other soil amendments. Be sure that the root ball is just a bit above ground level. When you backfill the hole do not cover the top of the root ball.

Be sure to amend the soil before you put it back into the hole with your new tree. Do not tamp the dirt. Fill the hole then water thoroughly. The water will cause the soil to settle, then you can finish filling the hole, Water again, and add more soil if it settles more. Mulch the dogwood to a depth of about 2 or 3 inches. Don’t get the mulch up against the trunk of the tree. Pull it back a few inches to allow for air. Mulch harbors moisture. When piled against the trunk of the tree it may cause rot, disease in the bark, or even borers to enter the bark. 

Overall, planting and caring for a dogwood is much like the planting and care of any newly planted tree, with the exception of the lighting and soil. 

Mid-September is a good time to start planting dogwood trees and any time till the ground freezes. This will give your dogwood time to acclimate so that next spring it can grow, grow, grow. 

Happy Planting!


D. Ellen Kincer