Dogwood half dead

Asked May 4, 2019, 7:24 PM EDT

Just purchased this property, in the front yard is a substantial dogwood tree. Meaning years of growth. Seems that half meaning one side branch appears to be dead. One side had beautiful blooms and the other nothing, now in leaf. I pinched several stems and they broke off easily. Down on the lower part of the trunk it has developed what I'll call suckers. Was going to trim off the dead side but seeing these stems develope not sure if I should wait. The bark on some of the branches is pealing away on the suspected dead side has moss and the white scaly looking algae. Not sure of planting date or care this specimen has received. Knownthe property was vacant for over a year. Any advice beyond amended soil and fertilizer would be appreciated

Kentucky horticulture kentucky cooperative extension dogwood

5 Responses

The branch without foliage is dead. The water sprouts ("suckers") are the plant's attempt to put out new growth. The extra shoots can be thinned leaving the largest, most healthy one(s) as a replacement after the dead branch is removed.
The green moss and lichens (white, scaly-looking stuff) are not the reason the branch died but are just growing on the dead branch and are not causing any harm. You will find the reason for the branch dying at the base of the trunk. I think the hint is in your statement that property remained vacant for a year. During that time I suspect that the lawn remained un-mowed for long periods and was probably mowed "professionally." Bumping the trunk of a dogwood with a mower damages the bark and cambium (thin layer of growing, dividing cells) below the bark. These open wounds are also attractive to female dogwood borers looking for a place to lay their eggs.
Dogwoods are an understory species. The recommendation for this and similar trees is to mulch out to the dripline. The mulch should be organic (e.g. wood chips) and no more than 2 to 3-inches deep. Finely ground mulch should be only 1 to 2-inches deep. Mulching eliminates competition by turf for water and mineral elements, keeps the soil cooler in summer and warmer in the winter, and adds organic matter to the soil.
Fertilization is generally not necessary. Watering deep and once a week during drought periods is much more beneficial.

Thanks for your response to my ailing dogwood. Is it okay to trim off the dead side of the tree at this time, or should I wait till the fall season. If I remember correctly the tree sap is moving upwards feeding the foliage. Your help is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance. D. Adkins

This time of year (mid-May) is the peak forthe flight time for the female dogwood borer. If you prune the dead branches out of the tree between now and mid-August you should treat the cut surface with an insecticide. The synthetic pyrethroides (or the natural pyrethiums) are the recommended product. Lindane and Dursbane are no longer available but if you still have some you can still legally use these products. They have a longer protection period. Fall and winter are also good times to prune because the borer is not in flight.

William, thanks for you advice, your expertise is greatly appreciated. D Adkins

You are welcome. It is my pleasure.