I have a dogwood tree in my front yard that is suffering badly from what I believe is a fungal infection - rust/wilt/anthracnose. I was away for work most of the summer, and have returned to fund the tree in very poor condition. What steps can I take now to help the tree? Is it now a lost cause that should wait until leaves drop and it's time to prune? I should also mention that my neighbor has an infected dogwood right next to mine, and their yard/garden hygiene is very poor. Do I need to try and get that tree treated as well? Please advise. Thank you, -Arran Campbell
Jefferson County Kentucky
The flowering dogwood is a popular tree for our landscapes, but they are prone to disease, especially if they are grown out in the open. In nature they are an understory tree, with larger shade trees around them. Sometimes we cannot give them the perfect environment but we can try to make them as stress free as possible.
This has been a wet year and I have seen many dogwoods that look diseased and downright shabby. The best thing you can do now would be to test the soil (they prefer an acid soil), cut out dead wood and use an acid fertilizer labeled for use on dogwoods. In the spring if leaves begin to show spotting or other signs of disease then a fungicide application would be practical. The affected leaves you see now are going to fall anyway pretty soon. Fungicides are protective not curative so spraying now would only expose you to chemicals that will not help the tree at this time.
Prune the tree (live wood) in the spring after they bloom. Dogwoods have already formed the buds that will be blooms for next year so pruning or shaping should not be done in the fall.
The university has a great publication on dogwoods, including diseases and their treatment. The flowering dogwood:
Feel free to contact our office if you have other questions.
Let me know if I can help you further!
Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service
810 Barret Ave
Louisville KY 40204