This week I am going to talk about dogwoods. Dogwoods are always a favorite of mine in the spring. They also have great fall color in their deep red leaves. They are not difficult to grow given the right conditions, and they are found naturally, as they are a native plant. Let’s talk about varieties, where they like to grow, taking care of them, and pests that can be a problem for them.
The showy flowers on dogwoods are actually not flowers. They are bracts that turn white. Bracts are usually there to support the flower. The actual flower is the in the center of the four white, showy bracts.
Dogwood varieties are split into white bracts and red/pink bracts. Some white bracted varieties are Barton, Cherokee Princess, Bay Beauty, and Welchii. Some red/pink bracted varieties are American Beauty Red, Cherokee Sunset, and Junior Miss. Most of the dogwoods planted in Georgia are the native white bracted variety. Most white varieties are grown from seed. You can also purchase dogwoods that are grown from vegetative cuttings. Plants grown from vegetative cuttings are usually more expensive but they may flower earlier or have more showy flowers.
Since they are native, dogwoods are well adapted to the soils that we have in the mountains. However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind if you are selecting a site to plant them. They do like well-drained soils, so planting them in a place with some slope will help. Planting them in a poorly drained area will most likely result in the tree dying. Dogwoods also like areas that have partial shade. If they are planted in full sun, they’re more likely to have health problems down the road. If they are planted in dense shade they can grow, but won’t flower as much. Planting along a tree line is a good place for them. When planting make sure you dig a hole 2-3 times the size of the rootball. You want the root ball to be level with the surface of the soil, and then backfill the hole with soil. Place mulch on top of the bare soil. Container grown trees can be planted at any time so long as you take care to keep them watered. Balled and burlapped trees can be planted when the trees are dormant (November – March). Newly planted trees don’t need fertilizer because that can actually make it more difficult for them to take up water.
The most common insect pest dogwoods have is the dogwood borer. It’s a moth that in the caterpillar stage will bore into trees. The best prevention is to make sure you don’t damage the bark of the tree with lawn mowers or weed eaters. Dogwood anthracnose is a disease that can kill dogwoods. The symptoms are leaf spots and stem cankers. Spot anthracnose can also cause leaf spot, but is usually not fatal to the tree.
Kousa dogwoods have become popular because of their brilliant blooms in the spring. They will put on a ton of large flowers. Our native dogwoods are Cornus florida and the kousa dogwood is Cornus kousa. Kousa dogwoods are originally from Japan, Korea, and China.
If you are ever in Chattanooga on the Incline Railway there are some beautiful dogwoods planted along the ascent. Dogwoods are beneficial to wildlife and well adapted to our environment, so they are a great choice for planting. If you have questions about dogwoods contact your County Extension Office or email me at Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.