How to Grow: Dogwoods

Learn all about selecting the hardiest dogwood trees and shrubs for the North.

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How to Grow: Shrub Dogwoods

Cornus sppdogwood

 

Other Name

shrub dogwoods

 

Sun Requirements

full sun, part sun, part shade

 

Bloom Period and Seasonal Color

Spring with white or yellow flowers with colorful summer berries and attractive fall foliage and bark color

 

Mature Height x Spread

3 to 10 feet x 3 to 6 feet

 

Added Benefits

Native, attracts beneficials, fall color, deer resistant

 

Shrub dogwoods are in the same family as the flowering tree dogwoods that a common throughout southern parts of New England. These deciduous shrubs don’t have the same stature as the flowering tree dogwood. I’ll cover those in the tree section of this book. But they’re native, tough plants that offer many other benefits. The clusters of white or yellow flowers bloom in spring followed by colorful blue or white berries that birds love. In fall the foliage turns a purplish-red. Some varieties have colorful bark that contrasts well against the white snow in winter giving your garden some color in this bleak time. The shrubs are equally suited as a wildlife planting as they are a specimen in a mixed shrub border.

 

When, Where and How to Plant

Dogwoods are hardy throughout New England. Purchase plants from a local garden center and plant from spring to early fall in well drained, compost amended soil. Shrub dogwoods grow well in wet soils as long as it’s not standing water. They can grow in full sun to partly shaded locations, but have the best fruiting and stem color in sunny spots. Keep well watered the first year. Depending on the variety and usage, space plants 4 to 8 feet apart. For hedges, plant closer together. For specimen plantings, further apart.

 

Growing Tips

Shrub dogwoods need little care once established. Mulch with wood chips or bark mulch to keep weeds away and the soil evenly moist. Fertilize annually with a thin layer of compost around the drip line of the shrub.

 

Regional Advice and Care

Prune brightly colored bark varieties in spring to promote more 1-year old growth. The younger stems tend to have the best winter color. Prune to remove dead, diseased and broken branches any time.

 

Companion Planting and Design

Shrub dogwoods grow well on a bank to prevent erosion and cover an area. They are a good shrub for wildlife hedges to provide food and shelter for birds and other animals. Since they tolerant moist soils, plant them along a stream or pond. Plant the brightly colored bark varieties where they can be viewed in winter from a window. Plant varieties with good fall foliage color with other fall foliage shrubs, such as fothergilla and viburnum. Plant compact types in a mixed shrub border or along your foundation.

 

Try These

The red twigged dogwood (C. sericea) grows 8 to 10 feet tall and wide with bright red stems in winter. There is a yellow twigged version as well. ‘Ivory Halo’ is another red twigged variety, but this one has variegated white and green leaves giving it more interest in summer. ‘Arctic Fire’ is a red-twigged dogwood that only grows 3 to 5 feet tall. Silky dogwoods grow 6 to 8 feet tall with blue berries. they’re particularly adapted to poorly drained soils.

Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.

How to Grow: Dogwood Trees

Cornus spp and hybridsdog wood trees

 

Botanical Pronunciation

KORE-nus

 

Other Name

Flowering dogwood

 

Sun Requirements

full sun, part sun

 

Bloom Period and Seasonal Color

Spring in colors of white or pink with red fall foliage color

 

Mature Height x Spread

20 to 30 feet x 20 to 30 feet

 

Added Benefits

Native, fall color

 

There is no small, deciduous tree more outstanding when in full flower than the dogwood. The large white or pink blooms are larger than flowers on many other trees. But the color show doesn’t end there. Dogwoods produce colorful fruit during the summer that birds enjoy. In fall they have a reddish-purple fall foliage color to brighten a landscape. In winter the grayish-brown, alligator skin-like bark is revealed. Because it is a native tree that naturally grows on the forest edge, dogwoods are versatile in the landscape as specimen trees in yards to forest trees growing in part shade. Some types are small trees that barely reach 10 feet tall, while other types have interesting horizontal branching patterns.

 

When, Where and How to Plant

Dogwoods are hardy to zone 5 and some to zone 4, depending on the selection. Purchase trees from your local garden center and plant from spring to early fall in full to part sun in well-drained, slightly acidic soil, rich in organic matter. Dogwoods aren’t tolerant of salt spray, pollution, heat or drought. Depending on the selection, space trees 10 top 20 feet apart.

 

Growing Tips

Water young trees well and create a mulch ring around trees in the lawn with wood chips, pine needles or bark mulch to keep the soil moist and protect the trunks from lawn mowers and string trimmers. Fertilize in spring with a tree plant food.

 

Regional Advice and Care

Dogwoods are slow growing. Prune trees in spring only to remove dead, diseased or broken branches. Too much pruning can create the opportunity for diseases, such as dogwood anthracnose, and insects, such as dogwood borer, to attack. Plant resistant varieties and keep trees healthy to avoid these problems.

 

Companion Planting and Design

Dogwood trees look great planted as specimen trees in a lawn with flowering annuals, such as impatiens; or perennials, such as lamium, planted underneath the tree. Plant dogwoods at the corner of your house or along the forest edge.

 

Try These

The flowering dogwood (C. florida) is the most popular and best flowering type. The ‘Cherokee’ series features selections with white, pink or pinkish-red flowers on disease resistant trees. ‘Cherokee Sunset’ features variegated pink and yellow leaves. ‘Rubra’ is a common pink flowered selection. ‘Pendula’ is a weeping form. The Kousa dogwood (C. kousa) can have better disease resistance, hardiness and drought tolerance than the flowering dogwood. Venus’ grows 20 feet tall with white flowers. ‘Santomi’ is a dwarf selection only growing to 8 feet tall. The Pagoda dogwood (C. alternifolia) is a tough growing native that features white flowers, blue berries, and a horizontal branching pattern making it interesting in winter as well. The Cornelian cherry (C. mas) has attractive, but not as showy, yellow flowers early in spring, and edible red fruits on hardy trees.

Excerpted from my book, New England Getting Started Garden Guide.

 

Podcast Transcript

The dogwood tree is a classic native of the Eastern American forests. The most widely known version is the flowering dogwood or Cornus florida. It grows up to 30 feet tall producing white or pink colored flower brachts in spring. The flowering dogwood is said to have gotten its name from its hard wood. Native peoples would make skewers or “dags” from the wood. Hence the tree was known as dag or dogwood.

Cornus florida graces many yards with beautiful flower displays all around homes and public parks a little further South of our region. Unfortunately, other than in protected spots, flowering dogwoods aren’t quite hardy enough to grow in Vermont. Their flower buds will often get killed by late spring frosts. But there are some dogwoods that do quite well here and should be considered.dogwood

One of my favorites is the pagoda dogwood or Cornus alternifolia. Another native tree, pagoda dogwoods have tiered branches on 20 foot tall trees with alternating leaf patterns It gives a yard or garden a Japanese feel. Although not as showy as the flowering dogwood, pagoda dogwoods have flat, white flowers in spring, colorful red fruit stalks and black berries in summer and fall that birds love. It’s a tough tree that can take part shade and still look attractive. There’s an even more attractive version that’s variegated, too.

Another dogwood is actually called a cherry. Cornelian cherry or Cornus mas, grows 20 feet tall and features bright yellow flowers that bloom early in spring, even before the forsythia open. The bright red fruits are loved by birds and can be eaten by us, too. Like the pagoda dogwood, this tough tree takes part shade and less than ideal conditions.

Now for this week’s tip, when planting peppers, cover the transplants for the first few weeks with a floating row cover over wire hoops. Peppers are finicky plants about temperature and too cold or windy weather can slow flower and fruit production.

From the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio

Go here for a video on how to plant a tree.

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Charlie Nardozzi

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