Dogwood tree in bloom.
image by MickCaw2:commons.wikimedia.org
Dogwood trees, known botanically as the cornus family, are deciduous trees that bloom in the spring, produce decorative fruit (or drupes, as they are called in the summer) and decorative foliage colorations in the fall. Dogwoods are grown as ornamental trees, and are relatively low-maintenance considering the multi-season show they provide.
Maintain a sunny to partially shady exposure for your dogwood. For optimal bloom performance, you need sun, but scorching sun also stresses the tree and can quickly dehydrate it. Striking a balance of these elements is key, and will depend on both the varietal of dogwood as well as your climate. Afternoon shade in hot climates can be beneficial.
Water your dogwood regularly and deeply in the morning hours. The shallow roots will need consistent moisture, but avoid wetting down the trunk and foliage. Soaker hoses wrapped in a doughnut formation around the tree at the drip line can provide deep watering just where you want it. Keep the top 6 inches of soil moist at all times and use a wood dowel or your hands to test the soil moisture periodically to come up with a predictable watering regimen.
Feed your dogwood with natural soil amendments and mulch as opposed to chemical fertilizers. Amend the soil with well aged manure and compost at planting and once a year by scratching it very lightly into the soil surface around the drip line.
If you want to use a chemical fertilizer, select something like Miracid that provides the acidity dogwoods enjoy; apply in the early spring and in very light well-diluted doses. Only apply fertilizer to dogwood trees that have been in place more than 1 year to allow the roots to develop without redirecting plant energies to top growth, which is what nitrogen fertilizers do.
Mulch your dogwood every year with at least a two-inch thick blanket of shredded bark, cocoa hulls, peat moss, compost or leaf mold. The mulch boosts the nutrient level of the soil as it degrades down into it, preserves moisture and keeps down the competitive weeds that dogwood trees cannot tolerate.
Prune your dogwood tree infrequently, as its natural shape is attractive and excessive pruning disturbs bloom performance. Inspect the tree each year during the dormant season and prune away any damaged or diseased branches. Look for branches that cross or abrade one another and remove any you find to avoid the invitation of disease at the wound. Thin the canopy branches to allow sunlight penetration into the center of the tree and cut off any branches that are drooping to the degree that they touch the ground.