Shriveled alternate dogwood leaves

Asked June 7, 2018, 7:41 AM EDT

My alternate dogwood has been in the ground for three years. This year it leafed out and bloomed beautifully. About three weeks ago, all the leaves shriveled completely and died within a couple of days. Thoughts? Is the tree a total loss?

Howard County Maryland

1 Response

This is a dogwood that likes well drained soil. If it is surrounded by clay soil, it may have succumbed to the "bathtub effect" and drowned. This happens when the planting hole is full of highly organic soil, and the native clay soil is not used as backfill when it was planted. Then, when there is very heavy rain, the rain fills the planting hole readily, because highly organic soil has large pores (spaces) between particles. But, then, the water just sits in the hole for days because it can't drain out into the clay soil fast enough (clay soil has tiny particles close together.) And the plant drowns.

If your tree is alive, you will see some green underneath when you scratch the bark. Or, new shoots will come up from the base if the roots are not entirely dead.
If no new growth appears, pull it out and examine the roots. Healthy roots are light colored. Rotted and dead roots are dark, brown, black or gray.

If you replant in that spot (assuming the soil is clayish), backfill with the native clay soil with only a handful or so of organic amendments or amend the soil in the entire bed evenly with organic amendments.