What Causes A Dogwood To Not Blossom?

By: Heather Rhoades

Dogwood trees are often planted for their lovely spring flowers, so it can be frustrating when your dogwood tree is not blooming, especially when it looks healthy otherwise. It leaves a homeowner wondering, “Why would a dogwood tree not bloom?” There are a few reasons. Let’s look at what causes a dogwood to not blossom.

Reasons for a Dogwood Tree Not Blooming

Too Much Nitrogen

Many dogwood trees are planted in the middle of lawns and most lawn fertilizers are very high in nitrogen. Nitrogen is good for growth of leaves, which is why it makes a good lawn fertilizer, but too much nitrogen can stop a plant from flowering.

To correct this, stop using lawn fertilizer near your dogwood tree. Instead, use a balanced fertilizer or a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus.

Too Much or Too Little Sunlight

Dogwoods naturally grow on the edges of forests, which means that they spend part of their day in shade and part of their day in sunlight. If your dogwood tree spends all day in shade or all day in sun, the dogwood tree may not be able to bloom correctly.

When you plant a dogwood tree, consider the type of sun it will be getting. Your dogwood tree should get about a half day of sun to really blossom properly. If you suspect sunlight may be the issue, consider moving the tree or improving the amount of light it gets.

Improper Pruning

A dogwood tree not blooming can be caused by improper pruning. Dogwood trees do not need to be pruned to keep them healthy, but if you are pruning them for shape, be sure that you only prune them after they have finished blooming. Pruning dogwoods at other times can remove the immature buds and cause the dogwood tree not to flower.

Cold Snaps and Temperature

On any ornamental flowering tree, the blossoms will be very tender to cold. It is no different for a dogwood tree’s flowers. A cold snap in early spring can kill all of the blossoms but leave the rest of the tree looking healthy. Also, if your dogwood tree variety is not suited to your area, it may not be able to produce flowers due to the cold weather.

Lack of Water

If a dogwood tree does not get enough water, it may not bloom. Make sure that your dogwood tree gets at least 1 inch (2.5 cm.) of water a week. If it does not get this much water a week from rainfall, supplement with a deep watering from the hose that extends to the edges of the canopy of the tree.

The point of having a flowering dogwood tree in your yard is to see the dogwood tree flower in the spring. Making sure that your dogwood tree is getting the type of care it needs is the key to fixing a dogwood tree that will not bloom.

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Flowering Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood - Cornus florida
Dogwood Family (Cornaceae)

Flowering dogwood is recognized by most people for its spring floral display that can be white or pink. The showy part is actually a leaf-like bract under the tiny flowers. It is a common understory tree in wooded areas throughout the state. The Kentucky champion tree is in Warren County and is about 35 feet tall.

  • Native habitat: Massachusetts to Florida, west to Texas, Mexico and Ontario.
  • Growth habit: Shrub-like or a small tree with low branches. Usually has a flat-topped crown and is wider than high when mature.
  • Tree size: 30 to 40 feet with a greater spread.
  • Flower and fruit: True flowers are greenish yellow and insignificant the four bracts are showy. The four together are 3 to 4 inches across. Blossoms are effective for 10 to 14 days in April or early May. Fruit is a glossy red drupe that ripens in September to October. It can persist until mid-December. Birds love it.
  • Leaf: Opposite, simple leaves are 3 to 6 inches long and oval. Leaves are bronze-green to yellow-green as they unfold, then turn dark green in summer. Fall color tends to be red to reddish purple.
  • Hardiness: Winter hardy to USDA Zone 5.

There are nearly 100 cultivars of flowering dogwood. Selected cultivars by category include:

  • Large Flowers:
  • ‘Barton' - Good white cultivar for southern gardens.
  • ‘Cloud 9' - Reaches a height of only 15 feet with a 20-foot spread. Produces many white flowers at an early age.
  • ‘Junior Miss' - Large pink bracts that are resistant to spotting.
  • ‘Spring Grove' - Selection from Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. Heavy producer of flowers and fruit because it sets up to three buds at each shoot tip.
  • ‘Spring Time' - Large flowers and good winter bud hardiness.
  • Pink or red flowers:
  • C. florida rubra - This tree is an old favorite with pink flowers and red fall foliage.
  • ‘Cherokee Chief' - Has rose red to ruby red flowers and red fall color. Reaches a height of 20 feet with a similar spread.
  • Cherokee Sunset™ - Deep pink to light red flowers and variegated yellow and green foliage. Leaves turn red in fall.
  • ‘Red Beauty' - Red bract color on a compact plant.
  • ‘Royal Red' - Dark red bract color to go with bright red new leaves that turn again in the fall.
  • Variegated foliage:
  • Cherokee Daybreak™ - White flowers and green and white variegated foliage. Resistant to leaf scorch.
  • Cherokee Sunset™ - Deep pink to light red flowers and variegated yellow and green foliage. Leaves turn red in fall.
  • ‘First Lady' - Leaves variegated yellow and white. Flowers have white bracts.
  • ‘Welchii' - This variegation is green and white with hints of pink. Does get leaf scorch in full sun. White bracts.
  • Unusual growth habit:
  • ‘Compacta' - Slow-growing form.
  • ‘Fastigiata' - White-flowering form with upright branches.
  • ‘Pendula' - Irregular, weeping habit. Flowers are white.
  • ‘Pygmaea' - Slow-growing (dwarf) plants with a rounded habit. If plants bloom, they are white.
  • ‘Salicifolia' - Slow-growing plant with a rounded growth habit. The leaves are narrow and "willow-like." Does not flower.
  • Rutgers Stellar series:
    Through the breeding efforts of Dr. Elwin Orton, Rutgers University has introduced hybrids of C. florida and C. kousa, known as Rutgers Stellar series. The hybrids start blooming after Cornus florida finishes and produce no fruit. They are highly resistant to dogwood borer and moderately to highly resistant to dogwood anthracnose. They reach an average height of 20 to 30 feet with a 15- to 25-foot spread. The hybrids are more vigorous than the parent trees with characteristics that are intermediate between the parents. The white bracts are rounded and the flower buds are not entirely enclosed by bud scales when dormant.
  • Aurora Dogwood (Cornus x ‘Rutban' ) - This tree is erect with a uniform width. Its white flowers, which have a velvety look, become creamy white with age. The tree starts flowering 2 to 3 days after flowering dogwood has quit.
  • Constellation Dogwood (Cornus x ‘Rutcan') - A low-branching tree with uniform width, and white bracts with acute tips. It starts flowering about the same time flowering dogwood quits flowering.
  • Celestial Dogwood (Cornus x ‘Rutdan') - The white bracts overlap and have a green tinge, although they become pure white after a few days. This tree starts flowering 2 to 3 days after C. florida has stopped flowering.
  • Stardust Dogwood (Cornus x ‘Rutfan') - This low, spreading tree is smaller than the other Rutgers hybrids. This tree has heavy branching to the ground, like a hedge. Its white bracts do not overlap and have acute tips. It begins to flower at the same time flowering dogwood's flowering period is ending.
  • Stellar Pink Dogwood (Cornus x ‘Rutgan' ) - This low-branching tree has rounded, soft pink bracts. This tree blooms one week after flowering dogwood.
  • Ruth Ellen Dogwood (Cornus x ‘Rutlan') - This tree has white flowers and a low, spreading habit like flowering dogwood. It is the first of the Stellar series to bloom, overlapping the last days of flowering dogwood.

Borers are a big threat to flowering dogwood, especially when its trunk is damaged by lawn mowers. It is best to locate dogwood in a bed to Cornus florida protect it from lawn mower damage.

Symptoms of anthracnose include large tan blotches or purple-rimmed leaf spots. Infected leaves tend to remain on the tree after they normally would have fallen. Trees often die within two or three years after onset of the disease.

The wood of dogwood has a high resistance to sudden shock, making it a popular choice for making golf club heads and chisel handles. It is also used for mallet heads and wedges, as it can be hammered on the ends without splitting and mushrooming out. It was once used to make hay forks, hubs of small wheels, rake teeth and machinery bearings because it wears smoother as it is used. Ninety percent of dogwood cut since the late 19th century has been used to make shuttles for the textile industry. With a mechanical loom, the shuttle is hurled at top speed, and a wood has to be used that wears smoother and will not crack under the strain. Dogwood is ideal.

The inner bark of the flowering dogwood root contains the alkaloid cornin. Native Americans used it as a treatment for malaria. They also used the onset of flowering to time the planting of their crops.Pioneers would steep dogwood bark in whiskey, then drink this to treat "the shakes." Some native Americans used dogwood bark to derive a scarlet dye, which they used to color bald eagle feathers and porcupine quills. Dogwood tea, made from the tree's bark, was used as a substitute for quinine during the Civil War. Tea made from dogwood bark was used to induce sweating to break a fever.

In modern times, overuse of flowering dogwood as a cut flower has threatened native stands of the tree. In the Washington, D.C. area, the Wild Flower Preservation Society placed posters on city streetcars, urging people not to cut or buy dogwood sprays. Sales dropped to such an extent that many merchants stopped marketing it.

Legend has it that dogwood was once a tall tree, but that changed when it was chosen to make the cross where Jesus Christ was crucified. The legend says the tree was ashamed, and asked Christ to forgive it. Christ commanded that from that moment on, the dogwood would be slender and twisted so that it could no longer be used for a cross. The tree was designated to bear flowers that were cross-shaped, with a crown of thorns in the middle, and nail prints stained with red at the outer edge of each petal. Of course, flowering dogwood is not native to the area where Christ was crucified.

The Tree Center

Everyone loves to see flowering dogwood trees in their garden, and they are indeed beautiful trees, covered with pure-white blossoms, like a late spring snowstorm has passed through. While white is the classic color, we are not limited to it, and for a brighter beauty, as a wonderful way to bring color into your spring garden, the Red Flowering Dogwood Tree is an obvious winner. No matter if you plant it on the lawn in front of your home, or along the edges of a wilder woodland area, you will love the way that the brilliant red flowers glow across your landscape. Even if you have some existing white trees, imagine how beautiful a red one will look, like a princess at a ball.

The Red Flowering Dogwood Tree grows quickly when young, and you will soon have a beautiful specimen. In time it will grow between 15 and 30 feet tall, depending on your soil and climate, and the tree’s location. It has a rounded crown, and you can allow it to grow naturally into a multi-stem tree, or train it to just one or two main trunks. It will normally be as wide as it is tall, or even wider, and in an open location it will grow wider than it will if it is surrounded by other trees. The branches develop into a beautiful layered structure, and in flower, or just in leaf, this is always a beautiful, graceful, and elegant tree – one of the best. When choosing a planting spot, take its final size into account. Don’t plant beneath wires, or crowd it up against a building or a fence. Give it plenty of room and allow at least 10 feet from the trunk to your home, a fence, your property line, or any other potential obstructions.

The beauty of the Red Flowering Dogwood begins in spring, when the flowers emerge on the bare branches. Each blossom is 3 to 4 inches across, with four broad petals. These are actually modified leaves, called ‘bracts’, not flower parts. You can see the true flowers, sitting in a cluster in the middle between the bracts. They are small and greenish, with no petals. The ‘flowers’ cluster all along the branches, and every year will see more and more blooms, until the branches are hidden by their profusion. Flowering lasts a full 3 to 4 weeks, and then, as the leaves begin to emerge, the flowers fade and the bracts fall. The flowers then develop into a cluster of green berries, which turn red by late summer and fall. They are harmless to eat, but unpleasant. Wild birds love them, though, and they will soon be taken, providing a valuable fall food source for your neighborhood birds.

The leaves of the Red Flowering Dogwood are heart-shaped, and up to 6 inches long and 3 inches wide, with a long, tapering tip. They are slightly hairy when they first appear, but soon become smooth and a little glossy. They are a rich green all summer, looking beautiful, and then in fall this tree puts on its second big performance of the year, when the leaves turn rich shades of red, from deep red to bright scarlet. Even in winter it is attractive, with the delicate tracery of the branches spread out in the cold, or perhaps highlighted by falling snow.

The Red Flowering Dogwood is hardy through zone 5, and it grows well in all the warmer zones, so it can be grown almost anywhere in the country, outside of the coldest areas. It should be planted in full sun, or in partial shade, and it grows best in rich, moist, slightly acidic soil. In practice this is a vigorous tree that will grow well in all soils except for very alkaline ones, so it can be grown almost anywhere. In warmer zones some afternoon shade is valuable, and more sun and a protected location are ideal in colder zones. Use mulch over the roots, keeping it away from the trunks, to conserve moisture and keep the soil cool. Water regularly, and deeply, during dry spells, although established trees are moderately drought tolerant. This tree has some pests and diseases, but if planted in a well-lit spot, and watered properly, it will grow well, and usually be free of problems. If you live in an area with a high risk of dogwood anthracnose, we recommend you grow the Kousa Dogwood, or a disease-resistant hybrid dogwood instead. Check our current selection, we only carry the best varieties.

The Red Flowering Dogwood is a selected form of the native flowering dogwood, Cornus florida. That tree grows all the way from Massachusetts to northern Florida and west into Texas. Virginia, Missouri and North Carolina have all made it their state tree. Wild trees are found growing mostly along the edges of forests and in clearings, and their spring display is a big event in areas where there are many trees growing wild. Those trees are all white flowering, but over the years gardeners and nurserymen have selected varieties with colorful flowers, and this is one of the best if you want rich, red blooms. These trees are always in high demand, and that will peak when they are in bloom, so order now, while these trees are still available, and enjoy those beautiful red blossoms in your own garden.

What's Wrong With My Dogwood?

Grumpy loves flowering dogwoods. He thinks that anybody who can grow them and doesn't has a serious developmental flaw. But sometimes your beautiful dogwood suddenly doesn't look so pretty anymore. Here are 4 common problems and what to do about them.

Problem #1 -- Scorched Leaves

Description: One day, your dogwood looks as happy as a Wall Street banker trading on inside information. The next, the leaves turn whitish tan, especially around the edges, and start dropping. This usually happens in mid- to late summer.

Cause: Dogwood has shallow roots and doesn't like long periods of hot, dry weather. If it dries out even for a single day, the outermost leaves will scorch and stay that way or drop. If this isn't severe, the tree will recover.

Solution: Put down several inches of mulch around the base of the tree (not touching the trunk). The mulch will cool the soil and help it retain moisture. Check the leaves regularly during hot, dry spells. If you see wilting leaves in morning, water the tree immediately and thoroughly.

Problem #2 -- Leaf Spots

Description: Small, brownish purple spots with tan centers dot the leaves. This most often occurs to dogwoods growing under tall trees following a spell of rainy weather in summer. Diseased leaves dry and hang on through winter. Cankers forming on the twigs can eventually girdle and kill branches or the entire tree.

Cause: Spot anthracnose is a fungal disease that targets dogwoods. It spreads via water splashing the spores from leaf to leaf. It's more of a problem for understory trees than trees growing out in the open.

Solution: Remove and diseased branches and leaves and throw them out with the trash. Spray healthy spring flowers and foliage according to label directions with Daconil. Repeat as soon as you see any spots appear on leaves. Also plant resistant dogwood selections, such as 'Appalachian Spring.'

Problem #3 -- Powdery Mildew

Eastern Redbud (American Redbud)

The eastern redbud is a small flowering tree with pink flowers

The Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a relatively small deciduous tree that produces pink and dark magenta flowers from spring until summer. Just like with magnolias, eastern redbuds produce flowers before the leaves appear on the trees.

Masses of small rosy-pink flowers in the shapes of pea create a dazzling display of flower clusters on the redbud tree. The thin flower-covered branches grow in all directions to give the tree a truly dramatic look. Adding to the drama are many pink flowers that grow on the trunk.

Although eastern redbud trees are famous for their pink flowers, there are also some species that produce white flowers.

You can expect an eastern redbud to grow to between 20 and 30 ft. (6 – 9 m) and with a spread of up to 33 ft. (10 m). For smaller gardens, choose a smaller dwarf tree such as the ‘Ace of Hearts’ that only grows to 9 ft. (2.7 m) tall. Redbuds grow well in zones 5 – 9.

Root Diseases

The seedlings of this tree may suffer from root infection caused by the Pythium fungus species. It usually kills the seedlings before they reach the woody stage. Those that survive suffer from twig die-back, discoloration and scorching of the margins of the leaves. Roots of mature dogwood trees may also suffer from infection caused by the fungus Clitocybe tabescens. ‘Root rot’ due to poor drainage can destroy the health of the tree.

Disease Control

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While for some stem and root diseases physical injury is the main concern, those diseases, specially of the flower and leaves can be controlled by a regular spray of fungicides. The spread of these diseases usually depend upon the humidity conditions that is well out of our control. Hence, using fungicides is the only way of ensuring healthy growth of the trees. Killing the pests that secrete the honeydew on the plant helps get rid of sooty molds because the fungi cannot grow without the honeydew. Various formulations of neem oil work great for pests. Neem oil is one of the most sought after pesticides. It is a popular and effective insecticide, fungicide and miticide too. You may control fungus diseases of dogwood tree with the help of neem oil. Dogwood tree pruning promotes reduction of certain diseases as more air circulates within the canopy and the tree receives more sunlight.

Other Dogwood Tree Problems

If a dogwood tree is planted too deep into the soil, then the roots would suffocate. Always plant at the same depth as in the nursery. Over-application of fertilizers over the root area can kill the roots. It is important to carry out a soil test to determine the nutrients that the soil is deficient in. Adding too much nitrogen through fertilizers can reduce flowering of these trees.

Mechanical and chemical injuries are other common dogwood tree problems. Mechanical injuries are most commonly caused by lawn mowers or string trimmers. In case of a mechanical injury, remove the dead tissue with your fingers. Do not pull off the bark or any other intact part of the tree around the infected area. Avoid using wood paints or tools to scribe or clean the wound. Dogwood trees are very susceptible to certain common herbicides. Never spray herbicides to young sprouts or the root base with herbicides.

Dogwoods are beautiful trees that are a sight to behold when in full bloom. To ensure that these trees continue to enhance the aesthetic aspect of your garden, learn about the various dogwood tree diseases, and provide specific treatment for each disease.

Watch the video: Learning About Dogwood Trees

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