Pagoda Dogwood "Death"

Asked June 23, 2019, 2:46 PM EDT

Will appreciate your response to this mystery. I have (or had) a Pagoda Dogwood planted last summer. It survived the winter, leafed out beautifully and set blooms. It is in a part shade spot on a small hill that drains well. It is mulched, but appropriately...not right up to the trunk. One day I noticed the leaves were wilting. I checked soil moisture and it was fine. In three days the leaves had completely wilted and it is now completely defoliated. The branches and trunk are not dead (or at least they are green when scraped lightly). I suspect a root issue...verticillium wilt? as it would seem the tree was unable to take up water. Could it be winter damage? I wonder if there is any possibility that it might leaf out and, if so, how long would I wait? If I am right about the root issue is there a possibility it would affect the dwarf evergreens and other plants in the border in question? Is there anything one can do to prevent this from happening?

Washington County Minnesota

1 Response

The extreme cold that Minnesota experienced in late January has taken a toll on many plants. Evidence of this is widespread and many species have been affected including native plants that are considered reliably hardy here.

University of Minnesota plant specialist Emily Hoover explains what may have happened:

"Healthy new growth in spring suddenly shrivels and dies. The tree has enough stored carbohydrates in the wood to get the buds growing in the spring. But the underlying vascular tissue that conducts water has died or been significantly injured. When the first warmish days arrive, and water is needed, the buds or new leaves wilt and die due to a lack of water from the root system."

So long as the affected branches are supple and the inner bark remains green, recovery is possible. It's OK to remove branches that are clearly dead at any time. The tree's prospects should be apparent later this summer.

Dogwood species are considered verticillium resistant so if winter damage doesn't account for this plant's condition another cause is more likely.

If the tree dies and you suspect a root problem, inspect the roots when you remove the tree to see if there is evidence of that.