Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a deciduous tree native to the United States. The dogwood provides year-round beauty beginning with delicate pink, red or white flowers in early spring, followed by dark green leaves in the summer giving way to a reddish-purple hue in the fall, and finally, producing red berries throughout the winter. Growing from 20 to 40 feet in height, depending on the variety of tree, dogwoods are a favorite for many gardeners because of the relative ease with which to plant and grow this beautiful tree.
Select a planting site that receives partial shade daily, since dogwood trees do best in partial shade instead of full sun. The area should also be large enough to accommodate the size of the mature tree.
Prepare the soil in early spring as soon as the ground begins to warm up and is workable. Either till the ground with a small rototiller or use a shovel to turn and loosen the soil. Amend the soil with compost to make it well-draining, which is essential for avoiding root rot in dogwood trees.
Dig a hole that is only as deep as the height of the root ball and two to three times larger than the width of it. If planting more than one tree, space the holes 6 to 20 feet apart depending on the variety of tree and how large it will get at maturity.
Set the tree in the hole with the top of the root ball slightly higher than ground level. Fill the hole halfway with soil, then water in well to help settle the soil around the roots. Once the water drains out, fill in rest of the way with soil. Form a raised ridge of soil about 1 foot out around the trunk of the tree.
Water the tree well after planting using a drip irrigation system or a soaker hose so the roots receive a deep watering. The dogwood tree should receive approximately 1 inch of water each week, watering down to a depth of 6 inches.
Apply fertilizer to young trees in the first two to three years only, since older dogwood trees typically do not require fertilization. After planting the tree, apply a slow-release fertilizer such as a 20-20-20.
Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch each spring around the base of the tree to help control weeds and maintain consistent moisture in the soil. Use shredded bark, chopped leaves or pine needles.
Prune the dogwood tree in late winter to maintain the shape and tidy up. Cut off dead, diseased, and broken branches, and any suckers or water sprouts that form. Prune the tree lightly.