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Home and Garden Bulletin No. 88
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Prepared by Crops Research Division, Agricultural Research Service
The flowering dogwood (Cornus
florida) is native to much of the
eastern half of the United States.
It can be grown wherever the winter
temperature does not normally go be-
low -150 F.
Dogwood is a versatile little orna-
mental tree. As a landscaping
plant it is as suited to one-story
houses and small yards as it is to
mansions and large estates. It is
adaptable to several types of soil,
though it grows best in a moist,
fertile loam that is slightly acid. Its
primary demands, within its area of
climatic adaptation, are good soil
drainage and protection from drought.
When .it grows in the open in full
sunlight, dogwood normally reaches
a mature height of 12 to 15 feet. In
shade or when crowded by other trees,
it grows somewhat taller and does not
flower as freely as it does in full sun.
For success in growing the flowering
* Buy nursery-grown trees.
* Plant them in late winter or early
* Prepare planting holes carefully; be
sure the planting site is well drained.
* Maintain a mulch around the tree.
* Water frequently during dry
* Protect the bark from mechanical
* Prevent borer attack by wrapping
the bark of newly planted trees and by
spraying the trunk and branches with
Most of the flowering dogwoods
that are sold are either the white-
bracted wild form, Cornus florida, or
the pink-bracted form, C. florida rubra.
Several other forms are sometimes
available. C. florida pendulaa" has
weeping branches, "pluribracteata" has
double flowers, and "xanthocarpa" has
yellow fruits. All of the varieties of
flowering dogwood are similar in th
hardiness and cultural requirements.
The special forms of dogwood ar
propagated by grafting them to the
wild form. If shoots grow from
below the graft, the shoots will ex-
hibit characteristics of the wild form
of dogwood. For example, a pink
dogwood would have white-bracted
flowers on growth originating below
the bud or graft union. To prevent
this "turning white," prune off all
shoots that arise below the bud or
Wild trees are difficult to transplant
successfully and they often are poorly
shaped. If you want to try to trans-
plant wild trees, follow the directions
r transplanting given on page 5.
Nursery trees are usually grown in
e sun. Their tops usually are pruned
and trained to a desirable shape, and
they have been root pruned frequently;
they can be transplanted with most of
the roots intact.
Nursery-grown trees usually are sold
with a burlap-wrapped ball of soil
surrounding the roots. They recover
from transplanting shock more quickly
than bare-rooted trees or trees dug
from the woods.
The best time to plant dogwoods is
in late winter or spring, before growth
Dig a planting hole twice the diam-
eter of the football and at least 18
inches deep. Refill the hole to the
depth of the football with the loosened
soil. Tamp the soil to provide a firm
base for the tree.
If the roots of the dogwood are
balled and burlapped, you need not
remove the burlap before setting the
tree in the hole. After the tree is set,
you can cut the twine around the top
of the football and fold back or cut
off exposed parts of the burlap.
.v; N. -
The flowering dogwood is a versatile ornamental tree, suited for planting
in natural settings or in formal gardens.
Dogwood branch in winter. Twigs
on the left are tipped by buds for
next season's flowers. The other
twigs end in leaf buds.
Place the dogwood in the hole and
pack soil under the football until the
tree sits slightly higher than it grew
in the nursery. Then refill the hole
with a mixture consisting of equal
parts of soil and organic matter-peat
moss, well-decayed manure, or leaf
mulch. Press the soil mixture firmly
around the football and water thor-
After the plant has settled, its depth
should be about the same as it was
before transplanting. Avoid planting
After planting, cover the soil be-
neath the branches with a mulching
material-peat moss, oak leaves, or
forest litter. Apply a layer about 3
inches deep. Add new mulching ma-
terial periodically to maintain the
A mulch helps to keep the soil moist
near the surface, where dogwood roots
are most active. It helps to prevent
the growth of weeds. And as the
mulching material decays it releases
nutrients for use by the dogwood tree.
If you maintain an adequate mulch
around dogwood trees, few weeds
should grow there. Those that do
grow can easily be pulled by hand.
Be careful if you use a hoe or othl i
weeding tool around dogwoods; th
implements may harm the shallow
roots of the tree.
Normal rainfall ordinarily provides
enough moisture for mulched dog-
woods. During droughts, however,
the trees should be watered at weekly
intervals. When you water, soak the
root area thoroughly. Be careful,
however, that you do not drown trees
growing in poorly drained soil.
If dogwoods are planted in reasona-
bly fertile soil that is well supplied
with organic matter, they seldom need
fertilizing. Free blooming is promoted
by moderate rather than quick growth.
If you want to stimulate growth of
your trees after they have recovered
from transplanting, or if they sh
signs that the soil is infertile, you c
apply the same fertilizers that you usI
for your lawn or garden. Apply them
from late winter through early summer.
Signs of low soil fertility are small,
sparse, pale leaves and short twig
Use 2 pounds of fertilizer per inch
of trunk diameter. Broadcast the fer-
tilizer in a band 2 to 3 feet wide under
the ends of the branches. Do not place
fertilizer near the trunk.
Dogwoods seldom need pruning, ex-
cept for removal of dead, injured, dis-
eased, or insect-infested parts. Make
pruning cuts back to a crotch. Treat
all cuts over '2 inch in diameter by
coating them with a tree-wound dress-
g; this helps to prevent harmful fungi
borers from invading the tree.
The best time to transplant dog-
woods is in late winter or spring as
soon as the soil thaws and before the
leaves begin to unfold.
Dogwoods growing around the home
are not easy to transplant, but you can
avoid transplanting losses by digging
carefully to preserve most of the roots
uninjured and by protecting the roots
from drying while they are out of the
If you are collecting wild trees, you
are most likely to be successful if you
choose only small trees-not over 3
feet tall. After you replant them, cut
the branches back severely to compen-
sate for loss of roots in digging.
Poor appearance of dogwood trees
en is due to factors other than
sease-poor planting site, low soil
Irtility, heat, or drought. A few
diseases affect dogwood, however.
Some of them are temporarily dis-
figuring but have no lasting effect on
the trees. One disease-trunk can-
ker-frequently is fatal to the tree.
Trees with low vitality, particularly
those growing on poor or wet sites,
often are the victims of this disease,
but vigorous trees also may be
Cankers sometimes start at injuries,
such as those resulting from bumping
the trunk with a lawn mower. A
fungus (Phytophthora cactorum) attacks
the bark, cambium, and outer sap-
wood. The infected tissues are dis-
colored and often a black fluid exudes
from the lesion and runs down the
Cankers may enlarge slowly for
several years. The bark falls from
older parts of the lesion but covers the
advancing margin of the lesion. Dis-
eased trees often bear large crops of
flowers and fruits for several years
prior to their death. Affected trees
often decline slowly over a period of
years, but may die within a year or two
after infection. In late stages of the
Dogwoods are extremely sensitive
to the weed-killing chemicals 2,4-D,
2,4,5-T, and silvex. The trees can
be severely injured or killed by wind-
carried droplets of the herbicides,
fumes from nearby applications, or
traces of the herbicides in equipment
used for applying insecticides or
Do not use these materials around
dogwoods. Do not apply insecticides
or fungicides to dogwoods with
sprayers that you have used for
applying weed killers.
disease, tops of affected trees may be-
come lopsided. When the canker
finally encircles the trunk, the tree
There is no certain control for the
disease. Sometimes small lesions can
be cured by cutting away all diseased
bark, sterilizing the exposed wood and
bark at the edge of the wound with
shellac, and painting the wound with
tree-wound dressing. Attempts to
save trees by cutting out large lesions
have been unsuccessful.
Wood-decay fungi may enter the
tree through wounds made by bumping
the trunk with the lawn mower. Be
careful when mowing around dog-
woods. As soon as possible after
injuring the bark, paint the exposed
wood with tree-wound dressing.
Decay in the lower part of the trunk
sometimes can be cut out. After re-
moving all the decayed wood, sterilize
the cavity by painting with shellac.
Then coat the cavity with tree-wound
Leaf and Flower Spots
Several diseases can infect dogwood
leaves and flowers and cause spotting
and dying. These diseases often mar
the appearance of the tree and can cause
defoliation at times. Usually they do
no permanent harm to the tree. One
disease that seriously disfigures flowers
and leaves is called spot anthracnose.
If your trees are attacked by spot
anthracnose or the other leaf and
flower spots and you want to prevent
their recurrence, spray with a garden
fungicide-captan, zineb, or maneb-
mixed and applied as directed on the
package label. Apply the spray as the
flowers open. For best control of leaf
and flower diseases, spray every 3 or 4
weeks during spring and summer.
In late summer or early fall, mildew
often develops on dogwood leaves.
The leaves are covered with a thin,
cottony growth and may appear to
have been powdered. The disease usu-
ally appears too late in the season to
do much damage. If you want to con-
trol it, apply a sulfur dust or sprang
when the mildew first becomes
parent. More than one applicatil,
may be needed. For best results, keep
the leaves covered with the sulfur.
The fungus Myxosporium nitidum
causes twigs of dogwood to die back.
This dying back sometimes may be-
come conspicuous on the tree and make
the tree unsightly. To control the dis-
ease, prune the dead twigs back to
sound wood. Fertilize the tree and
water it during dry weather.
Heat and Drought Injury
During hot, dry weather, dogwood
leaves often curl or cup and change
color. The leaves fold upward on the
midrib and at the same time the mid-
rib curls downward at the tip. Be-
cause of the closing of the leaves, the
tree appears to have less foliage than
normal. The leaves may turn red
reddish purple. Some leaves may dr
Dogwoods growing in the open a
more likely to develop these symptoms
than dogwoods growing in shade.
Usually the affected tree gradually
returns to a normal appearance in
fall when the weather cools and fall
rains begin. If hot dry weather con-
tinues too long, however, severe
dieback of the top may follow. To
prevent this, keep the tree well
mulched and water it weekly during
the dry period.
Unless dogwoods are protected from
insect attack, they may be killed or
seriously disfigured. Insecticides rec-
ommended for use on dogwoods are
available at garden-supply stores.
low label directions for dilution
care in handling.
The dogwood borer is probably the
most common insect pest of established
dogwood trees. It makes irregular
burrows under the bark on the trunk,
around the base of limbs, or frequently
at the edges of wounds or scars on
the trees. Small trees or the base of
branches may be girdled. Healthy
trees may be attacked.
To prevent borer attack, spray the
trunk and lower branches of the tree
with DDT. Begin spraying about
May 15. Spray once a month through
If borers attack your trees, they
can be cut out. Inspect the trunks
and branches in late summer for
evidence of injured bark or of fine
boring dust being pushed from the
burrows. Cut the borers out with a
rp knife, trim the edges of the
und back to green bark, and paint
round with tree-wound dressing.
Flathead borers often attack newly
transplanted dogwoods or dogwoods
seriously weakened from other causes.
They bore under the bark and may
cause death of the tree.
The best preventive for flathead
borer attack is to keep the trees
growing vigorously. Wrap trunks of
newly transplanted trees with burlap
strips or kraft-paper wrapping-avail-
able from garden supply stores.
Dogwood Twig Borer
The wilting of leaves on individual
twigs or the dropping of girdled tips
usually indicates infestation by the
dogwood twig borer. The borer tun-
nels down the center of the twig,
expelling boring dust through a row
of small holes in the bark.
The dogwood twig borer usually
does not infest trees in large numbers.
To control the borer, prune out and
destroy infested twigs. This can be
done any time after the injury becomes
apparent in summer.
Dogwood Club-Gall Midge
The dogwood club-gall midge causes
spindle-shaped or tubular swellings
from Y to 1 inch long at the tips or
along the stems of dogwood twigs.
Some of the twigs may be killed above
the swollen part and the tree may be
deformed if the infestation is heavy.
Prune and destroy galls during sum-
mer. To prevent heavy attack, spray
three times at weekly intervals with
DDT or lindane beginning just after
leaves start to grow in spring.
Several kinds of scale insects some-
times are serious on dogwoods. These
insects attach themselves to twigs and
branches of the dogwood, giving these
parts a crusty appearance. They suck
juices from the tree. If they are nu-
merous, scale insects can weaken the
trees or kill heavily infested branches.
For controlling scales, spray in early
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IllM llAll B IIIIWBIII
3 1262 08856 1369
Swollen twigs infested with dog-
wood club gall. These swellings
should be pruned and burned in
spring, before growth starts, with
white-oil emulsion or lime-sulfur di-
luted for dormant spraying. To kill
the young insects, before they attach
themselves to the bark and develop a
protective coating, spray with mala-
thion. Apply two sprays, the first
when the leaves are about } inch long
and the second about 10 days or 2
Other insects-aphids, leafhoppers,
and whiteflies-sometimes are an an-
noyance, but they seldom are injurious.
If they become numerous and you want
to control them, spray with malathion.
Insecticides used improperly may be
injurious to man and animals. Use
them only when needed and handle
them with care. Follow the direc-
tions and heed all precautions on the
Keep insecticides in closed, well-
labeled containers in a dry place.
Store them where they will not con-
taminate food or feed, and where
children and pets cannot reach them.
Avoid repeated or prolonged con-
tact of insecticide, with your skin.
,Avoid spilling it on your skin, and
keep it out 'of che eyes, nose, and
mouth. If you'spi~hny on your skin,
wash it off with soap-and water.
After handling an insecticide, do
not eat,.drink, or smoke until you
have 'washed your. hands and fac
Wash your hands'and face immediate
after applying insecticide.
When handling insecticides, wear
clean, dry clothing. If you spill in-
secticide on your clothing, launder
the clothing before wearing it again.
Do not inhale insecticide dusts or
To protect water resources, fish, and
wildlife, do not contaminate lakes,
streams, or ponds with insecticide.
Do not clean spraying equipment or
dump excess spray material near such
To protect honey bees and other
pollinating insects, apply insecticide,
when possible, during hours when the
insects are not visiting the plants.
Avoid drift of insecticide into bee
Avoid drift of insecticide sprays to
nearby crops or livestock.
Dispose of empty insecticide con-
tainers at a sanitary land-fill dum
or bury them at least 18 inches d
in a level, isolated place whei
they will not contaminate water
supplies. If you have trash-collec-
tion service, wrap small containers
in heavy layers of newspapers and
place them in the trash can.
Issued January 1963
Slightly revised April 1966
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington, D.C. 20402 Price 5 cents
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE 1966 0-206-861
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