Experts and BHG readers answer.
What kind of care do dogwoods need?
Members of the elegant and graceful dogwood clan offer remarkable variety in features from season to season. Many dogwoods offer showy flowers in spring or summer and gorgeous color in fall; others have variegated foliage, interesting bark, or brightly colored red or yellow stems in winter. One of the most popular ornamental trees is flowering dogwood (Cornus florida). This star of the wood-lands and landscapes of America has had a hard time lately. Myriad pests and diseases threaten its existence in New England and the mid-Atlantic states. Many midwestern dogwoods lack bud hardiness because nurseries sell southern-grown plants to folks in colder zones. Ask your seller where the plants came from before you buy. Look for plants grown locally for the best chance of success.
Dogwoods like an acidic, well-drained soil that is mulched to maintain coolness and moisture. Most varieties prefer partial shade, but some can handle full sun. Dogwoods that experience poorly drained soil or drought conditions show signs of stress, then decline and die. Kousa dogwood (C. kousa) and pagoda dogwood (C. alternifolia) are more disease-resistant than flowering dogwood. Redosier dogwood (C. stolonifera) sports bright red stems in winter and looks dramatic planted en masse in the winter landscape. A yellow-stemmed form (C. stolonifera 'Flaviramea') is also available. Cornelian cherry (C. mas) has yellow blooms early in spring, and later develops red fruits that resemble cherries.