The Q&A Archives: Dogwoods

Question: I am interested in planting a dogwood, as they are
beautiful and provide food for birds. Can you tell me when
the best time is to plant this tree and does it require
full/partial sun or will it flower well in shade? Also,
do they come in a variety of sizes or do they all grow
to full-sized trees?

Answer: Flowering dogwood grows to a height of about 10 feet in 18 years, 20 feet in 35 years. The beautiful flowers (actually bracts) are a wonderful welcome in early spring. They can sometimes be infested with borer insects (look for holes in the trunk) and a disease called anthracnose (look for dark spots on the leaves.)

In my experience, dogwood trees are rather slow growers. According to Michael Dirr's "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants", our native dogwood tree (Cornus florida) grows slowly after transplanting but eventually assumes a medium rate; another native dogwood tree, the Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) grows slowly at first then at a medium rate; and the Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa) grows slowly, although possibly at a medium rate in youth. In his terms, "slow" means less than a foot a year and medium means between one and two feet a year.

Dogwoods prefer afternoon shade, moist, rich, slightly acidic soils. Most trees and shrubs can be planted in the fall, when the weather is cool and natural rainfall helps the roots become establshed.

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