The wild dogwoods (Cornus florida) could more aptly be called “spring snowflakes,” as they color the hillsides winter white. It’s almost impossible to imagine northeast Texas without dogwoods, and spring is an ideal time to add one–or two or three–to your landscape.

When purchasing dogwoods and deciding where to plant them, remember the following hints. They will help ensure many years of enjoyment.

Dogwoods need very well-drained soil. Avoid sites that are poorly drained. Buy your trees from a reliable nursery; those in the wild may carry disease. Plant where the tree will receive several hours of sunlight, preferably morning sun. Too much shade and overcrowding invites the growth of fungal leaf problems.

Water weekly during drought periods. Water deeply, as light watering encourages shallow roots, which makes a tree more vulnerable to stress. Maintain mulch over a wide area to conserve moisture.

Geneva Thomas, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


When my wife and I moved to Hideaway Lake, one of the first sights that caught my eye were the beautiful dogwood trees that are native to this area. The beautiful white blooms stand out so well underneath the green canopy of oaks and pines. Reading information from various sources (Texas Parks and Wildlife, Southern Living) and visiting with some of the Master Gardeners who live at Hideaway, I give you the following tips:

Tip 1: Resist transplanting native dogwoods from the wild. Borers are common in wild, flowering dogwoods. Check with your nursery for certified disease and insect-free stock.

Tip 2: Dogwoods do best in moist areas with good well-drained soil. They prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. Do not plant dogwoods too close to heat reflective walls or structures.

Tip 3: You only need to fertilize a dogwood once or twice a year. Dogwoods are sensitive to excess fertilizer, so only very small amounts are needed in spring.

Tip 4: Mulch in a wide circle around the tree, keeping the mulch off of the trunk.

You often hear people say that dogwoods will not thrive except under larger shade trees. There are numerous healthy dogwoods around Hideaway that are out in the full sun. It appears that they are shaded from the hot summer sun by larger trees on the western exposure.

Jerry D. Mullins, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


Dogwoods are known as under-canopy trees. However, heavy shade from trees may promote powdery mildew or leaf spot to form on the dogwood’s leaves. By planting dogwoods in a sunnier, more open space, you get more flowers and less disease problems. Light shade in the afternoon is beneficial.

Dogwoods are shallow rooted and should be heavily mulched. They also need consistent soil moisture, especially for the first three years. During those years, place a soaker hose around the tree and leave the hose on all night, several times a week for sandy soils. For mature trees, thoroughly water every week during the drought season. Before watering, check the soil moisture several inches deep with your fingers, and water more or less frequently as needed.

Dogwoods are thin-barked trees, and any accidental hitting by trimmers or lawn mowers can be fatal to the tree. Many trees die from these kinds of accidents.

Cynthia J. Johnson, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Posted in Trees