Before Getting to How to Plant a Dogwood Tree, Some General Information!

Knowing how to plant a dogwood tree can help the tree have a good start in its growth. There are many varieties of dogwoods, such as Kousa, Cornelian cherry, and flowering dogwood. In fact the flowering dogwood is the state tree for Missouri and Virginia and blooms with beautiful white, pink, and rose blossoms! So we have created this seven step guide on how to plant these wonderful trees. Below you will also find some more information that will help you pick the right location to plant.

kousa dogwood
cornelian cherry dogwood
  • Uses: Dogwoods are perfect for landscaping, especially near utility lines, patios, and larger buildings because of their size. Moreover you can use the bark for medicinal purposes. The fruit of the Cornelian cherry dogwood is also very delicious in jams and is greatly underused in America.
  • Size/Shape: With variations depending on the dogwood, the flowering dogwood at maturity has a height of 25′ and a spread of around 25′.
  • Color: In the spring, these trees are known for their white, pink, red flowers. However in the fall, the leaves turn a beautiful red-purple. When the bright red fruits are ripe, songbirds come to enjoy them.
  • Hardiness Zones: 5-9 (flowering dogwood)
  • Bloom Period: blooms in April–May.
  • Cultivation: With partial sun (it prefers dappled shade) and proper pruning, watering, and mulching maintenance these trees can grow 13–24″ per year. You can also add a beneficial fungi to its soil called mycorrhizal fungi which will help grow its roots by 20 times and prevent some root diseases.
  • Soil Preference: The dogwood tree can grow in acidic, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, well-drained and clay soils. However it does prefer moist conditions.
  • Wildlife Value: Many birds and various animals such as foxes, squirrels, rabbits, and beavers eat the delicious fruit. Deer and rabbits also browse the foliage and twigs. 
how to plant a dogwood

How to Plant a Dogwood Tree in 7 Steps

When to Plant Dogwood Trees

For bare root trees in hardiness zones 7 and below, plant when the tree is dormant and when the ground is thawed, hence early spring. If you plant in the fall, you risk having a very harsh winter damage and kill the trees before their roots establish themselves in the soil. In the summer the low moisture and high heat may cause stress and damage. Therefore you can plant once the ground thaws and there is no rain or snow. Depending on your region, this can be anytime between February to May. If you are planting in a container and not bare root, you are more flexible since you’ll be planting with the soil that the roots have established themselves in. However even with a container, be careful during the winters since the ground can’t be frozen and it shouldn’t be too wet.

when to plant dogwood tree

However for planting in zones 8 and above which don’t have cold winters, you can plant bare root trees in the winter and fall since the tree is dormant and doesn’t risk damage from the harsh winters. Additionally, it is easier to plant containerised trees in the winter for these zones.

How to Plant a Dogwood Tree: Materials Needed

  • Another helper to hold the tree vertically when you plant (will need two sets of hands)
  • A bucket/bin to soak the tree roots in water if the tree is bare root.
  • A shovel or spade for digging
  • Tree guards for protecting against animal damage
  • 1-2 Gallons of Water
how to plant materials

1. Prepare Tree

  • When the dogwood tree arrives, it will come either in a container or bare root (without the soil it was in). Take it out of the box it was packaged in and place your tree in a cool (not freezing) place out of the sun, e.g. your garage.
  • If the tree is bare root and has been in transport for more than 4 days, be sure to soak immediately in water for 6-24 hours and plant immediately after.
  • If the tree is bare root and you need to wait for more that a week to plant, be sure to keep the roots wet by spraying with water. Keep the roots in the plastic wrap so that they stay moist and healthy. You can keep the trees in a cool shaded basement or garage. Then soak in water for 6-24 hours and plant afterwards.
prepare tree how to plant

2. Prepare Soil

You should prepare the planting area before planting the tree.

  • Dogwoods do well in soils with a pH of about 5.5 to 7. They do prefer moist, well-drained soil therefore soil that is soggy and doesn’t drain well will cause damage.
  • Before planting, you can test the soil for acidity and drainage (you can use inexpensive DIY methods). Most soils fall in the 6.0-7.0 pH range.
  • Although optional, feel free to add organic matter such as compost to your soil to increase nutrients. Or add lime to balance the acidity if needed.
  • Till the soil so that the nutrients become integrated into the soil and the soil becomes less compact so that the roots grow well.
prepare soil

3. Dig

  • You want the top of the root ball to be slightly above ground when you plant so that there is a small mound above ground around the tree.
  • For a tree in a container, dig a hole that is about two times the width of the container it came in so the roots have some space to extend into. The depth of the hole should be about 1/4 less than the depth of the container since you want the top of the root ball to above ground level.
  • In the case of bare root trees, dig a hole that is also two times the width of the root ball/the circumference of the roots. The depth can be about the same as the root ball.
dig hole how to plant fruit trees

4. Place

  • If it is in a container, gently take out the tree from the container and place in the middle of the hole. Make sure that when you place, the root ball is slightly above ground.
  • If bare root, first put some soil in a mound in the hole so that when you place the tree down, the roots slope down and fan out and it is above ground. Trim the roots as needed so that they do not twist. This will enable the tree to spread its roots further. 
place roots how to plant fruit trees

5. Fill

  • If you are planting from a container, simply backfill the soil to ground level.
  • If bare root, holding the tree vertically, place the nutrient rich topsoil you dug out back near the roots. Once half the soil is placed around the tree, carefully press the soil down with your feet to destroy air pockets. DO NOT put fertilizer or compost into the hole where the roots are as this will damage the tree. Put the rest of the soil on top and press down repeatedly with your foot so no roots are uncovered. There should be a small mound above ground for the tree.
  • If the dogwood tree is on a slope or in a location with a water shortage, then make a berm around the tree. Create a 2’ rim of soil around the tree above ground level to keep the water close.
  • Cover the top of the soil near the tree with mulch so that the moisture stays in the soil. Moreover weeds are less likely to grow. However, the mulch should not touch the bark of the tree but should be about 2′ away from it.
fill soil how to plant fruit trees

6. Water

  • Immediately after planting, water the tree with about 1-2 gallons of water. If the soil goes down, add more soil. 
  • For the first year, water about one to two times a week with 1-2 gallons of water. After the tree is established, you can water yourself only when the tree becomes stressed and experiences drought.
  • In the winter, make sure that the tree is also watered enough to prevent any damage from desiccation. This is damage when the amount of moisture lost by the leaves) exceeds the amount of water taken in by the roots.
water apple tree

7. Protect

  • Immediately after planting the tree, place a tree guard around the trunk. This protects the dogwood tree from rabbits and rodents who will eat the bark and kill your tree. The tree guards should let air flow in. Mouse guards which rap around the bark are the best protectors. However we don’t recommended using them in the summer since insects can create habitats between the mouse guard and the bark. 
  • Dogwoods can be susceptible to damage by the cold and strong winds. If you plant in a location with a wind tunnel, especially in the winter, be sure to have wind barriers around it like hedges or evergreen trees.
protect tree
flowering dogwood

How to Grow a Dogwood Tree After Planting

After you have mastered how to plant a dogwood tree, you will need to take care of it. Fortunately, the dogwood tree is pretty easy to grow. Here are some basic information on watering and pruning a dogwood tree.

How to Water a Dogwood Tree

  • When you just plant the dogwood, be sure that it has sufficient water. Therefore, if there isn’t rain, do soak the tree roots by watering.
  • If you water once a week to a depth of 6 inches, this will enable healthy growth.
  • During the winter be careful not to overwater but also make sure the tree isn’t damaged by lack of water.
  • After the dogwood tree is established, you only have to water when there is a severe drought. Although dogwood trees are drought tolerant, they still appreciate water in the summer heat.
how to water a dogwood tree

How to Prune a Dogwood Tree

When to Prune

  • The best time to prune a dogwood tree is when the tree is dormant so late fall and winter. This way the tree won’t be susceptible to boring insects and its wounds won’t bleed a lot of sap.

How to Prune

  • The dogwood tree doesn’t need to be pruned consistently since it will naturally grow into a beautiful shape.
  • However if you see damaged or diseased wood, prune these anytime of the year by cutting the branch back to a healthy branch.
  • You can also prune the suckers which grow off the lower trunk since they use a lot of the tree’s energy.
  • Moreover prune back any low hanging branches to add some space for you to be able to access under the tree. If you like the shape of the low hanging branches, then you can keep them.
  • Lastly, prune downward, upward, & inward growing branches since they may rub against other branches and cause damage.
how to prune a dogwood tree

Knowing how to plant a dogwood tree is an important step in growing these beautiful trees.

You can read more in our growing guide about not only how to plant, but also how to take care of your tree. If you would like to discover other trees, explore our tree catalog or shop page.

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