American Dogwood tree health

Asked June 24, 2018, 7:44 PM EDT

Hi. I purchased an American Dogwood tree from Herringrun Nursery on May 12, 2018 for my mom as a mother’s day gift. The tree looked very healthy when it was purchased and for about 2 weeks after we had planted it. However, recently the leaves look wilted and my mom is concerned that the tree may be sick. I was hoping you would be able to help identify what, if anything, could be the source of the problem. I have attached a few images. Thank you!

Baltimore County Maryland lack of establishment dogwood tree

1 Response

Looks like the tree is not able to establish itself. Most likely you are dealing with poor planting techniques and poor site conditions, etc. This can include planting too deeply, poor soil drainage, etc.
Planting too deeply - You should be able to see the flare at the base of the trunk where it joins the root system. Plant trees with the top of the root ball slightly above the existing soil line. This is helpful when planting in heavy clay soils that drain poorly. You can lift and replant the tree.

If the tree was container grown and the roots were encircled within the container, sometimes the roots cannot expand and grow into the surrounding native soil. Use a sharp knife or blade to cut four one-inch-deep cuts the length of the root ball. New roots will rapidly grow from the cut areas of the roots.

Also, if the soil is clay and you added topsoil and a lot of organic matter to the planting hole only this can create a 'bathtub effect'. Water sits in the planting hole and drowns the tree. The surrounding clay (which doesn't drain well) won't let the rain out. Incorporate the organic matter throughout the entire eventual root zone. Make sure mulch is no thicker than several inches and keep away from the base of the trunk.
Dogwood trees are understory trees and grow best in morning sun and afternoon shade. If located in full sun, they will require more moisture during dry periods.

Here is our website on the planting process and after care - watering, etc. https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/trees-and-shrubs/planting-process

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