The dogwood (Cornus) is a deciduous perennial tree that can grow approximately 15 feet tall--some varieties can reach heights up to 40 in perfect conditions. It produces a showy white flower in early spring that has four petals with a brownish- yellow center. In fall, the leaves turn purple and the tree produces a small red fruit that houses the seed. The trees have shallow roots, prefer moist, well-drained soils and cannot tolerate drought. Dogwood trees are easy to care for and grow best in a partially shaded area in your garden.
Choose a shady spot in your garden to plant your dogwood sapling. The soil should be well-drained and not permit standing water. It should be slightly acidic from 5.2 to 6.0 pH. Do not fertilize a dogwood tree in the first year. This can kill the tree.
Dig a hole that is as deep as your root ball but two to three times bigger around. Place the tree into the hole and backfill with the native soil. An inch of the root ball should appear on the top of the surface of the soil.
Stake the young tree by tying two strings to bottom of the stem. Tie the string to a stake and place on opposite sides of the tree.
Water the dogwood sapling with at least 3 inches of water. The sapling should be watered with at least an inch of water a week for the first year.
Apply 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch at the base of the tree. The mulch should extend 8 to 10 inches from the base of the tree but should be at least 3 inches away from the trunk to discourage pests. The mulch will keep the soil moist and prevent weeds.
Fertilize your young dogwood in the second year with 1/4 cup of 12-4-8 fertilizer in February and again in the middle of June.
Prune your dogwoods in late fall after the leaves have fallen. Remove any dead or diseased limbs from the tree.