Skip to main content

How to care for your new dogwood tree this summer

Dogwood trees are a great choice for almost any garden or yard. They’re medium-sized with lovely flowers in white or pink and grow bright red berries that birds love to eat. If you’ve decided to add a dogwood tree to your life, but aren’t sure how to care for it, then you’re in luck! In this helpful guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to make sure your new dogwood thrives, from sapling to success.


When your dogwood sapling arrives, the first thing you’ll want to do is put it in the ground. Before that, however, you have to choose a planting site. Dogwoods, being shorter trees, are understory trees. This means that, in the wild, they’re shaded and protected by taller trees. Keep this in mind when choosing where to plant your dogwood, and select somewhere with morning sun and afternoon shade. In milder climates, you can plant them in full sun, but remember they’ll need to be watered more frequently.

The best times to plant your dogwood are in early spring or late fall. During these times, deciduous trees, like dogwoods, are dormant. This makes the transition less stressful for your tree and increases the likelihood that it will survive and establish a healthy root system. If you live in a colder climate or somewhere with a harsh winter, stick to planting your dogwood in spring rather than late fall.

Dogwoods aren’t the pickiest tree when it comes to soil type, but they prefer rich, well-draining soil. Dogwoods do best in soil that is slightly acidic. When digging the hole to plant your dogwood, the hole should be twice as wide as the root ball. This gives your tree plenty of support and makes it much easier for young roots to spread.

Young dogwood tree with pink flowers
Image used with permission by copyright holder


When you first plant your dogwood, water it well. Over the next few weeks, while your dogwood is establishing itself, keep the water moist but not muddy. A layer of mulch can help keep the soil moist, but start your mulch layer an inch or two out from the trunk of your tree. Wet mulch pressing against the trunk of a young tree can lead to abrasions, rot, or fungal infections.

Once your tree is established, you can switch to watering it once a week. In hotter climates, droughts, or if your tree is in full sun, your dogwood will need to be watered twice a week or every few days instead. In warmer climates, water your dogwood during early morning. If you water it in the afternoon, the water may evaporate before the tree can absorb it. In cold climates, water your tree during late morning, especially in winter. This helps keep the water from freezing.


Dogwoods need very little pruning in general, and typically don’t need any pruning in their first year after planting. However, there are a few reasons you may want or need to prune your dogwood. If your dogwood has any diseased or broken branches, those need to be pruned away as soon as they’re noticed, to prevent the problem from spreading. Check your dogwood thoroughly before or just after planting it, to be sure it wasn’t damaged on its way to your home. After that, a brief once over whenever you go to water it should be sufficient.

The other reason you may want to prune your dogwood is to shape it. This serves more of an aesthetic purpose, as it keeps your dogwood growing the way you want it to grow. Pruning can also be helpful for size control, if you need to keep your dogwood on the shorter end of its height range.

Aside from emergency pruning for diseased or heavily damaged branches, the best time to prune your dogwood is in late fall or winter, when the tree is dormant. This way, the pruning is less stressful for the tree. It also leaves your tree less vulnerable to insects that may prey on any exposed wounds.

A dogwood tree with white flowers in a field
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Prepping for season changes

No season lasts forever, so naturally you need to know how to prepare your dogwood for seasonal changes. Luckily, the transition from summer to fall is simple. While the temperatures are still high, your dogwood needs extra water. As the fall weather begins to cool, return to watering your dogwood only once a week.

The transition from fall to winter is a little more involved. Pruning your tree, laying out a thick layer of mulch, and putting up a windbreak can all help keep your tree warm and healthy through winter. When the spring thaw comes, you can take down the windbreak and thin the mulch out.

Using this guide, you now have everything you need to make sure your new dogwood survives its first year and thrives for another five or six decades afterwards. Dogwoods are relatively easy to care for, especially if you start them off right. Plant them somewhere with partial shade and rich soil, keep them moist, and prune away any damaged or diseased branches. Before you know it, you’ll have a sturdy tree covered in beautiful flowers.

Editors' Recommendations

Cayla Leonard
Cayla Leonard is a writer from North Carolina who is passionate about plants.  She enjoys reading and writing fiction and…
Are mulched leaves good for grass? Here’s how to mulch a lawn full of leaves this fall
Simple ways to mulch your leaves this autumn season
A pile of fallen leaves

Leaves can be a lot of fun to crunch underfoot or pile up and jump into, but they can also be annoying for gardeners to deal with. Luckily, you can turn your annoying leaf clutter into nutritious fertilizer for your garden! Leaf mulch and leaf mold are easy to make and use, and it's an effective way to add nutrients to your garden soil. If you've ever wondered are mulched leaves are good for grass and if there are ways to make your leaves decompose faster, this article is for you. We'll walk you through everything you need to know about how to mulch leaves.

Best ways to mulch leaves from the garden
Mulching leaves is a straightforward process, and you have two main options for how to go about it. You can collect leaves when they’re dry and create leaf litter, or collect them when wet and turn them into leaf mold.

Read more
6 plants you should cut back to keep your garden thriving this fall
To cut or not to cut? Here are the plants to trim in the fall
A sage plant with purple flowers

Fresh spring growth is a welcome sight in any garden, and it all starts with getting ready at the end of fall and the start of winter. Cutting back plants is one way to prepare your plants for new spring growth, and many plants can benefit from this severe pruning. This form of pruning might sound intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. If you're wondering how to cut back fall plants, which plants to cut, and why cutting your plants back is effective, then this is the guide for you! We'll answer all your questions, so you can feel confident as you cut back fall plants.

What is cutting back and why do it?
Cutting back is a type of pruning. Typical pruning involves removing specific branches that are diseased, damaged, or growing too closely to another branch. Cutting back, on the other hand, means pruning away all or most of a plant. This provides a few key benefits for your plants and your garden as a whole.

Read more
The colors of fall flowers can be striking: 11 flowers that’ll have your garden bursting with autumn colors
Keep your fall garden gorgeous and colorful with these flowers
Beautiful light purple asters

When you imagine a beautiful flower garden, you might picture it in spring or summer. The colors of fall can be just as striking, though! As your summer garden fades, why not replace it with a stunning fall flower garden? No matter the climate you live in or the colors you prefer, there are plants that will look great in your autumn garden. These 11 flowers can satisfy any gardener, whether you’re looking to fill a full flower bed or just one or two containers to spruce up your porch. Here are our favorite flowers to bring the colors of fall to your home or garden!

Celosia, also sometimes called cock’s comb or wool flowers, are sure to stand out in any garden. These unique flowers come in shades of pink, orange, red, yellow, and purple. They can be shaped like fox tails (triangular and bushy) or like coral, wide and wavy. They grow easily in containers or gardens. Celosia are low-maintenance flowers. They enjoy full sun, although they will tolerate some shade, and do best in well-draining soil. Celosia won’t tolerate standing water or wet feet, so let the soil dry between waterings.

Read more