The Dogwood Tree: An American Treasure
Even the novice gardener tends to recognize a Dogwood tree. Dogwood trees are native to the eastern US and frequently seen naturally there and in the landscape throughout the United States. The native and most popular Dogwood, Cornus florida, is the state tree of Missouri and Virginia as well as the state flower of Virginia and North Carolina. The stunning, four petaled blossoms are unique and a sure sign that spring is here!
What makes the flowers of the Dogwood so beautiful and different? They are modified leaves or bracts. The flowers are actually the clusters in the center of these bracts. Dogwood varieties are White, Pink or Red, simply named for the color of the flowers. As the blossoms fade, light green leaves emerge, providing shade as temperatures increase. These leaves transition to a vibrant red to purple-red in autumn. From fall through winter red berries provide seasonal interest as well as a feast for many varieties of birds. The scaly, light gray bark only elevates this native tree's charm. The mature height and width of a Dogwood ranges from about 15 to 25 feet, making it a great flowering tree for small and large yards.
Dogwoods thrive in growing zones 5 to 9, covering most of the US. These beloved trees can generally tolerate full sun especially in cooler climates, but in warmer climates they tend to prefer some shade. Too much shade will cause these trees to be weak and lanky and severely inhibit flowering. So, be sure to choose only partial shade. Dogwoods perform best in a rich, acidic, well-drained soil, but are pretty adaptable as long as they are not water-logged or extremely dry. Remember, dry areas, be vigilant on keeping the soil moist, but not wet, in order to set your tree up for success. About 2 - 3 inches of mulch is great for your Dogwood. This will keep the soil moist and cool longer, protecting those shallow roots. It also prevents damage from lawn mowers and weed eaters which can weaken your Dogwood. Keep the mulch a couple inches from the trunk to avoid disease. The TreeGator is a great item to purchase with your Dogwood tree. It will help your tree establish quickly and with little effort on your part. An acidic, slow release fertilizer is a great option to add to the soil when planting and every year in early spring. There is generally no need to prune a dogwood, but if your tree requires pruning, prune when your tree is dormant.
In the Landscape:
Striking when lining driveways, staggered throughout your property, or as a single specimen, Dogwood trees are versatile in the landscape. These trees are also drought tolerant once established and adaptable. Dogwoods grow taller in shade than in sun, but can tolerate both environments with only slightly different care requirements. The flowering Dogwood is the perfect tree to add value, beauty, and interest to your property.