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How to Fertilize Dogwood Trees

By Barbara Raskauskas ; Updated September 21, 2017

One of nature’s most spectacular displays comes in spring with the blooming of dogwood. White or pink star-shaped flowers appear on bare branches making it standout in the landscape. The branches of the dogwood tend to sprawl horizontally from main leaders as compared to other tree varieties that project their branches more on a 45 degree angle upward. Even in fall, as the dogwood heads toward dormancy, its orange to burgundy colored leaves capture our attention.

Dig the hole for the dogwood tree two to three times wider and as deep as the rootball’s width and height. Place the dirt on a tarp on in a wheelbarrow where you can mix in organic matter equal to 25 percent of the volume of dirt (compost or leaf mold are good choices, but pine bark mulch will do). Place the tree in the hole so the top of the ball is at ground level. Backfill the hole, pressing the dirt with your hands or feet to force out air. When the hole is three quarters filled, if planting a ball and burlap tree, release the rope from the top and pull the rope and wrap down to the sides. Finish filling the hole.

Water thoroughly and then water every two weeks unless there is a saturating rain. Apply three inches of mulch.

Fertilize the second year; do not fertilize the first year. Give the roots time to adjust to the soil and moisture conditions. Though dogwoods do not need to be fertilized, if you want to fertilize, do so during the second year in March and again in July. For a tree about six feet tall, apply one-quarter cup of 12-4-8 (percent of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) fertilizer starting two feet from the trunk and distributing the fertilizer outward.

Fertilize a mature dogwood less if at all. Keep the tree mulched, but keep the mulch away from the trunk. Dogwoods have shallow roots, so take care not to damage its surface roots with the lawn mower.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel or spade
  • 12-4-8 fertilizer
  • Mulch


  • Take the guess work out of what your soil needs by having the soil tested and analyzed for what you want to grow. Aim for a pH level (acidity) of 5.5 for dogwoods.


  • Be careful not to over-fertilize your dogwood. It can lead to the death of the tree. If in doubt, do not fertilize at all or use only a fraction of the manufacturer's recommendation.

About the Author


Barbara Raskauskas's favorite pursuits are home improvement, landscape design, organic gardening and blogging. Her Internet writing appears on SASS Magazine, AT&T and various other websites. Raskauskas is active in the small business she and her husband have owned since 2000 and is a former MS Office instructor.