Caring for a red dogwood is easier if the proper planting site is chosen. The red dogwood prefers nutrient-rich soil in a moist, shady area, though if there is enough shade and moisture, it will tolerate most types of soil. The red dogwood will not tolerate extremely dry conditions and dry, sandy soil. Dogwoods, unlike most other trees, require extra watering during dry periods.
When planting the red dogwood, dig a planting hole that is three times the width of the root ball and as deep as the root ball. For best results, amend 50 percent of the back fill with rich compost or rich planting soil. Mix the 50 percent amended soil with the balance of the non-amended soil.
New Dogwood Care
After planting, water the tree well enough so that the ground is soaked, but not enough that the water puddles around the tree. Mulch the red dogwood with compost or pulverized bark. Fertilizer is not necessary at this step, because of the amended soil used to back fill.
Pests and Disease
The dogwood anthracnose is lethal to the red dogwood. It is caused by Discula destructiva, a fungus known to kill whole populations of red dogwood. The disease shows up as light brown spots on the leaves. The spots grow larger and might have purple borders. The disease eventually moves from the leaves to the twigs and then to the main branches and trunk of the dogwood. Once the disease moves to the trunk, cankers form, killing the tree. Dogwood anthracnose is treated with fungicides and should be treated as early as possible. Remove all fallen and pruned material from underneath the tree. Keep the leaves and any fallen branches picked up, as they will continue spreading the disease.
The dogwood borer kills red dogwoods by disrupting or blocking the flow of sap. This pest is most common west of the Rockies. The larvae burrow in the tree bark and eat the healthy tissue of the red dogwood tree. The dogwood borer is particularly attracted to trees with wounds. Avoid damaging the red dogwood as much as possible. The dogwood borer could be eradicated with an insecticide.
The red dogwood needs moist soil. If the planting spot chosen has normally moist soil, there is no need to water the red dogwood. If it is planted in an area that tends to dry out, water the red dogwood with at least an inch of water every week. In arid conditions, you might have to water with an inch of water two or three times per week, depending on the soil composition.
Obtain a soil test kit from your local nursery to test the nutrients in the soil. Test the soil every two to three years. If nutrients are not missing in the soil, there is no need to fertilize the red dogwood. If the soil test shows that one or more nutrients are missing, choose a flowering shrub and tree fertilizer based on the missing nutrient.