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How to Plant a Dogwood Tree

Dogwood trees (Cornus florida) are native to eastern portions of the U.S. Their blooms cover the tree in colors of white, pinks and red throughout the springtime. There are 15 species of dogwoods native to North America. Dogwoods can range in height from 20 to 30 feet, with some growing into small trees and others small bushes. Planting dogwood trees is not a difficult task and novice gardeners should have good luck with them, providing all the plant’s requirements are maintained.

Consider the tree’s light requirements when choosing a planting location. Plant the tree in an area with filtered light, or underneath the canopies of larger trees where the dogwood will receive partial shade. Do not plant the tree in full sun conditions, or it will die.

Clear the growing area of any vegetation or weed growth. Keep a 3-foot-diameter section around the base of the tree clean at all times, so the tree does not suffer damage from lawn equipment that might injure the trunk.

Select an area in your landscape where the soil is rich, fertile and drains well. Amend the existing soil with compost and peat, but make sure it does not retain water. Dogwoods will die if left to grow in soggy or flooded conditions.

Dig a hole that is twice the size of the plant’s root ball. Loosen up the existing soil so the dogwood’s root system will easily be able to spread throughout the planting area.

Remove the dogwood from its container, being careful not to hurt the roots. Place the dogwood into the planting hole and fill the hole halfway up with soil. Pack down firmly. Fill the remainder of the hole with soil and firm up around the base of the tree.

Place mulch around the dogwood tree to help the soil retain moisture and cut down on the growth of weeds and other vegetation. Replace the mulch annually with a fresh application.

Water the tree well, once planted. Continue to water throughout the hot, dry seasons one to two times per week. Continue the watering schedule during the fall months. Dogwoods desire moist soil, but will die if watered too much.

Fertilize 12 to 24 inch trees in March and July with one tablespoon of a 16-4-8 fertilizer. Fertilize six-foot trees in March and July with ¼ cup of the same fertilizer formula. Fertilize established trees at a rate of one cup for each inch of the trunk’s diameter. Spread the fertilizer beyond the drip line of the canopy and water it in well. Apply a fresh application of compost around the base of the tree yearly.


Dogwood trees planted in sunny, dry conditions will die.

Dogwood trees growing in the wild usually are found growing under the canopy of larger trees where they receive filtered light.

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