Dogwoods are beautiful flowering trees with large and very shallow root systems which necessitate careful site selection, planting and maintenance. The shallow roots are highly susceptible to drought stress and cannot tolerate weeds or competitive plants pulling away needed water and nutrients. According to Texas A&M University, planting your tree inside a ringed berm serves a dual benefit, allowing more water to be captured in the root zone and holding mulch in place to tamp down weeds. The berm will help to solve two key stress issues with dogwood and ensure a better performing tree overall.
Excavate a planting hole that is twice the diameter and roughly as deep as the root ball. Loosen the soil in the bottom of the hole to allow easier root penetration, but do not remove it.
Slide the dogwood from its nursery pot and set it into the prepared hole, turning the tree so its most pleasing aspect is facing the direction from which it will be viewed and the tree is upright and plumb in the soil. Keep the top of the root ball level with the surrounding soil, but never above the surrounding soil.
Rake through the excavated soil to lighten it. Backfill the tilled soil down around the root ball to secure the tree in place. Tamp down the soil gently with your palm to fill in any air pockets.
Build up a berm, about 4 inches in height, roughly along the drip line with the remaining soil that rings the tree. Firm the sides of the berm with your hands to create a soft structure.
Fill the inner ring of the berm with water to drench the dogwood root ball thoroughly and collapse any air pockets. Add a bit more soil to fill in any divots that appear after watering.
Fill the inside of the berm with good quality compost or another organic mulch such as shredded bark or leaf mold.
Water the tree once a day for the first week after planting with roughly a quart of water each day. Increase the interval to every other day in the second week, providing two quarts, and every third day in the third week, with two to three quarts. Water once per week thereafter when the soil feels only lightly moist. Never allow the soil to dry out beyond the top 1/4 inch crust of the soil.