The Q&A Archives: Dog Wood Trees

Question: I have three different times tried to grow nice looking dog wood trees. Problems - The Trees at first look as if they are going to make it then all of a sudden they start dying out on me. The leaves start to curl, turn brown and leaves fall off; branches seem to dry out as well. I was told that PINK Dog Wood Trees are more difficult to grow than the White Dog Woods. I have planted 8 trees three different times and they are not doing very well. I now have 3 trees 2 yrs.old and they are starting once again to do the same thing. I have been told I water not enough or too much. What is it I'm doing wrong. Please help! I would like to have nice Pink Dog Wood Trees. Thanks!

Answer: A leaf and stem disease called anthracnose has weakened and/or killed many dogwoods in the mid-Atlantic region. The symptoms include small, purple-rimmed spots or large tan blotches on the leaf, with the entire leaf eventually turning brown. Twigs may die back several inches, or all the way to the main stem. Trees are often killed 2 or 3 years after symptoms first appear. The fungus thrives in cool, moist weather, and since dogwoods prefer to grow in the dappled shade of larger trees, this can create cooler, more humid conditions than in full sun, increasing the disease problems.

This might be your trouble--or it could, indeed, be related to water or other factors. As I said, dogwoods prefer dappled shade and moist, rich, cool soil--the trees are native to open woodland areas. When watering any new planting, be sure to water deeply, soaking the soil to a depth of at least a foot. Then let the area dry out a little before watering again. Dogwood won't endure saturated soils, or dry soils either. In fact, anything that causes the plant stress will increase the likelihood that it will succumb to disease.

I would contact the nursery where you purchased the trees and see what their senior horticulturist advises. Ask if they have been hearing of other problems with their dogwoods. There are a few varieties that appear to be resistant to the anthracnose disease, so if you think this has been the problem, you might try one of these: 'Cherokee Princess', and 'First Lady' and 'Plena/Pluribracteata' appear somewhat resistant.

I hope this helps.

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