The loss of a newly planted dogwood can usually be traced to one of two problems, improper planting or improper watering. Improper planting means the tree was planted too deep or that dirt or mulch was piled up around the trunk.
Let’s look at how to plant first. Dogwoods are shallow rooted trees and it would be difficult to plant too shallow. Whether the plant is balled and burlapped, or containerized, planting instructions are similar.
The hold should be dug approximately twice as large as the ball or container. This means digging the hole 6 to 8 inches deeper than the plant will be placed in the ground. Good loose soil or some type of peat sand mixture in the bottom of the hole is necessary to insure good drainage. The soil in the bottom of the hole should be crown shaped and packed firmly but not rock hard. If the plant is a B&B, set the plant in the hole, cut and remove all string, and open the burlap and fold back. Make certain the top two or three inches of the ball are above ground level.
If planting container plants, remove the pot, make certain the roots are loose and again leave one to three inches of the root ball above ground level. If the plant appears root bound, cut the roots so they are good and loose. You will not hurt the plant anymore by root pruning than you will by pruning the top growth.
If your soil is hard and compacted, mix some sand or peat with the soil as you fill in the hole. Tamp the soil good and tight but don’t pack it rock hard. NOTHING you do to the plant will be more important than the way it is planted.
Now add 2 to 3 inches of mulch. No more please! Fix the mulch in the shape of a cup starting at ground level at the base of the plant and gradually increasing to a depth of 2 to 3 inches as you leave the plant. Mulch an area 12 to 15 inches around the plant.
Now, let’s talk watering. This is the next most important thing you will do for the plant. The plant should be thoroughly watered at the time of planting. This means the ground should be saturated to the bottom of the root ball. Therafter, the plant should be watered every 7 to 10 days. Be certain that enough water is applied to soak the plant to the bottom of the root ball. Do NOT take the hose and squirt the top of the ground for 2 to 3 minutes and consider that as watering the plant. It is usually necessary to give the plant a gentle soaking for several hours to water the bottom of the root ball.
This is where good drainage is important. The water should always collect underneath the plant and not stand around the roots. Standing in wet ground will kill the plant just as quickly as being dry.
If the plant is properly planted and properly watered through the first Summer after planting, plant loss will be minimal.
A quick word about fertilizer. We do not recommend fertilizer at the time of planting. Fertilize lightly after bloom or sometime in late Spring and then give the plant a heavy feeding in late Fall or Winter.