Cornus species – The Dogwoods

Where should I plant my Cornus?

Although in general dogwoods appreciate partial sun and moist, but well-drained, humus-rich soils, selecting a site based on the type of dogwoods you are planting will ensure success: The colorful twig dogwoods (Cornus stolonifera ‘Hedgerows Gold’ and Cornus alba ‘Gouchaltii’) are derived from species that are native to swampy soils or floodplains, but will grow in average, well-drained conditions, full sun or partial shade (see note under Cornus ‘Hedgerow’s Gold’). Cornelian cherry dogwoods (Cornus mas ‘Aurea’ and Cornus mas ‘Tricolor‘) are probably the most tolerant of difficult dry soil conditions and full sun. Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ and Cornus ‘Golden Showers’ are more particular about their growing conditions and grow best in moist, well-drained, humus-rich soils shaded from afternoon sun or woodland conditions.

How do I plant my dogwood?

Keep rootball moist (but not soaking wet) until planting. If you are unable to plant soon, keep the plant outdoors in a sheltered, shaded location away from direct sun and wind. At planting, dig a hole only as deep as the rootball, but at least as wide as twice the diameter of the rootball (the wider the hole, the better!). Add humus (compost, peat moss, etc.) to the soil removed from the planting hole before backfilling. Loosen the roots of your dogwood. Do not be afraid to cut the outer roots to break them free before backfilling so that they have good contact with the soil. Make sure to keep the plant high enough when backfilling so that the finished soil surface is even with the top of the original rootball. Remember: digging and planting too deeply is one of the most common factors contributing to the loss of newly planted shrubs.

Water-in well to soak the soil and encourage soil contact with the roots. When rainfall is scarce (or less than one inch per week), water weekly for the first year after planting. Watering will necessarily be more critical the first few weeks after planting, especially if dry, sunny, and hot weather follows. A one to two inch layer of coarse mulch over the root zone will help maintain soil moisture.

How do I keep my dogwood healthy?

Once established, trees planted in the lawn should be kept free of turf grass competition by use of a broad ring of mulch or less competitive groundcover over the root zone. Shrubs or trees in landscape beds should also be mulched to maintain a cool, moist root zone. Mulches should be no deeper than two inches deep and placed so that it does not touch the trunk. Periodic deep watering may be necessary during periods of drought. Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ and Cornus ‘Golden Showers’ are especially sensitive to prolonged hot, dry conditions.