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Silky Dogwood for Deer

dogwood image by rebekah gonzalez from

The stems and leaves of the silky dogwood tree (Cornus amomum) remain a favorite food for deer, especially in the winter. Some gardeners use the trees to provide food for deer so they stay away from other areas of their garden. Others use the tree to welcome deer to their wildlife-friendly yards. Silky dogwood also attracts a variety of other animals and birds, making the tree a valuable resource for encouraging the presence of the local fauna.


Silky dogwood grows up to 12 feet in height and spreads up to nine feet wide, resembling a bush more than a tree. In the spring, clusters of yellowish-white flowers appear, followed by small berries that turn blue when mature in late fall. The leaves of the silky dogwood put on a great autumn display, turning shades of red.


Silky dogwood grows in almost any soil in hardiness zones 4 to 8. The tree prefers full sun to partial shade as long as the soil remains moist. Since the plant grows from seedlings, gardeners need to protect the plants from wind and wildlife, including deer, who make tasty meals out of the young plants.

Maintenance and Growth

During the first few years of growth, remove weeds around the plant manually. Once the tree establishes itself, herbicides work well to control the weeds. The tree require little pruning, especially if deer visit the tree in the winter to eat the twigs and leaves. The tree may experience limited growth if deer excessively browse the tree’s foliage.


Silky dogwood remains susceptible to scurfy scale, a tiny, whitish-gray insect that appears pear-shaped. Since scale insects tend to move slowly, people rarely notice them. But their sap-sucking causes branches to die and the tree to weaken. Another insect that attacks silky dogwood includes the webworm. Silky, large web-like bags spread over several branches indicate the presence of webworms. The best way to get rid of the problem involves cutting down and destroying the bags of worms.


Deer rely on the twigs, stems and leaves of the silky dogwood for food in the fall and winter. Rabbits also eat the twigs. A variety of game birds eat the berries all winter long since the fruit stays on the tree for months after maturing. Migrating songbirds help themselves to the fruit as they head south for the winter. The trees work well as windbreaks or as privacy screens when planted in a row. The trees help control streamside erosion, too.

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