The Q&A Archives: Wilting, Yet Dry, Leaves On Dogwood Trees

Question: I recently planted a small (6') flowering dogwood tree on my front lawn. It seemed to thrive initially. However, the leaves are now curling and feel dry to the touch. The bark looks fine, and the young branches appear to be a healthy light green near the leaves.

I live in a new community, where some of the property was supplemented with fill. Before I planted the tree, I dug out 18-24" around and replaced the fill with perennial soil and potting soil. I recently watered with plant food hoping that that would solve the problem. I see no pests on the tree, and there are virtually no holes in the leaves (i.e. from bugs). There are quite a few slugs in the garden nearby, and it's been a little difficult to control those. Earthworms are abundant as well. Wells are the water source, and there is a high iron content.

I'm at a complete loss as to what to do and would very much appreciate your ideas.

Thanks and regards...Sylvia Meszaros

Answer: Usually this is a symptom of water stress, either under or overwatering, or possibly transplant stress. Dogwoods need an acid soil that is rich in humus; it is possible that the soil is simply unsuitable for the plant, especially when the roots extend beyond the original hole. The soil should also be evenly moist yet well drained so it is never soggy or sopping wet. They are shallow rooted, too, so they may need watering more often than some other plants do. Finally, they appreciate a layer of several inches of organic mulch such as shredded bark over their root zone (not touching the trunk) to help keep the soil cool and moist. You may find that the original potting soil dries out faster than the surrounding soil, so you need to check with your finger to see if you need to water. You may also see that the soil has settled significantly since you planted the tree. This can cause it to suffer from a lack of air in the root zone. If this has happened, you might consider lifting it and replanting it a bit higher. Before you do something that drastic, you might also wish to consult with your county extension to see what they think is the problem because there are some foliar diseases and pests that do attack dogwoods as well. I'm sorry I can't be more specific.

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