Please save my dogwoods.

Asked May 12, 2020, 12:19 PM EDT

Over the years I have killed two dogwwods in my yard. Currently, I have an established dogwood that has not flowered for the past few years. It appears to be a healthy tree otherwise. Will it flower again? Is there anything that I can do to help? I planted my new tree about 3 weeks ago. I am watering it weekly, but the leaves are still appearing kind of limp. Will this pass? Am I overwatering? Is there anything else that I should be doing? For what it's worth, we live in Grants Pass

Josephine County Oregon

1 Response

Young dogwood trees need time to become established before they bloom reliably. However, when a dogwood tree does not flower, treatment involves assessment of location and cultural practices.

Flowering dogwood (Cornus nutalli) is a native forest understory tree found naturally in acidic (pH 5.5-6.5), well-drained soil in semi-shaded areas. It typically grows 15’-30’ tall and 15’-25’ wide. For landscaped areas, flowering dogwoods:

  • Provide three seasons of interest, with pink or white flower bracts in the summer, red berries in summer, and attractive red to burgundy color in the fall. The flowers and berries support native wildlife such as pollinators, birds, and small mammals.
  • Are suitable for partially shaded locations with moist, well-drained soil. They are not tolerant of full sun, hot and dry, poorly drained sites, or flooding.
  • Are prone to several diseases for which resistant varieties are now available.
  • Are shallow-rooted and do not compete well with turf. They may need irrigation during the drier months of July and August. If overhead irrigation is applied, water early to allow leaf drying before nightfall, which will minimize disease problems.

The Kousa dogwood (C. kousa), also called Chinese dogwood, has a longer bloom season and different growth characteristics and is more tolerant of dry conditions than the native flowering dogwood. There are several hybrids between the native flowering dogwood and the non-native Kousa dogwood that exhibit better disease resistance and longer bloom periods than the native species.

Other trees or multi-stemmed shrubs in the same genus as dogwood, but less commonly seen in landscapes, include cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), and bigleaf dogwood (Cornus macrophylla).

Tree Health and Disease-Resistant Dogwoods

Proper tree care is a must from the moment the saplings are planted in the soil. While dogwood trees are generally very low maintenance and drought resistant, saplings will usually need to be watered and the soil surrounding trees may need to be mulched regularly. The key to maintaining the health of your dogwood is to plant it in a suitable location and take proper care of your tree to minimize stress (e.g., water during drought, avoid mulch against the trunk, etc.). Trees that are stressed due to unsuitable cultural and environmental are more susceptible to diseases and pest problems. Your dogwood tree will also require periodic pruning; note that over-pruning a tree puts it at great risk of disease, as bacteria and fungi can enter through improperly cut branches.

One reason for dogwood trees not blooming can be too much nitrogen. Many dogwood trees are planted in the middle of lawns and most lawn fertilizers are very high in nitrogen. Nitrogen is good for growth of leaves, which is why it makes a good lawn fertilizer, but too much nitrogen can stop a plant from flowering.

Select disease-resistant dogwood cultivars to reduce the chances of problems with common dogwood diseases. Research your selections prior to purchase. Some cultivars exhibit characteristics that may or may not be desirable to you or wildlife (e.g., double flowers, lack of berries).

Here is an article you will find useful:

https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/flowering-dogwood-trees-selection-care-and-management-disease-problems

Hope this helps!