Dogwood leaves turning brown

What’s Wrong With My Dogwood?

Flowering dogwood is one of our finest native trees for blazing fall foliage. This one grows in Grumpy’s back yard. Photo: Steve Bender

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

Image zoom emLeaf scorch of flowering dogwood. And it’s my tree! Photo: Steve Bender/em

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

Image zoom emSpot anthracnose on dogwood leaf. Photo: MA Hansen,

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

Image zoom emPowdery mildew on dogwood leaves. Photo: J Hartman,

Description: A whitish film spreads on leaves. Affected leaves may shrivel and drop.

Cause: Powdery mildew is a fungus. There are lots of different kinds of mildew that attack lots of different plants. This particular mildew likes dogwoods. I find it generally shows up later in the growing season, usually on the newest leaves, but I have seen it in early summer too. Like spot anthracnose, it prefers trees growing in groups under tall trees. It also likes cool, rainy weather.

Solution: If it shows up in late summer, let it go. It won’t do enough damage to hurt the tree. If it appears in early summer, consider spraying according to label directions with neem oil, horticultural oil, or Natria Disease Control.

Problem #4 — No Blooms Like These

Image zoom em’Cherokee Brave’ flowering dogwood. Photo: Wayside Gardens/em

Description — Your dogwood grows just fine with lots of healthy, green leaves. Just no blooms.

Causes: The most common causes for dogwood not blooming are: not enough sun (tree grows in shade, but won’t bloom well there); tree dried out in summer and didn’t set flower buds; tree is too young to bloom; instead of being a named selection like ‘Cherokee Brave’ (above), tree is labeled just “white” or “pink” and could bloom heavily or hardly at all.

Solutions: Give flowering dogwood at least a half-day of sun with light shade in the afternoon. Water tree during summer droughts. Buy named selections chosen for their outstanding displays rather than unnamed trees that could do anything.

Tree Problem: My Dogwood Tree is Yellowing Early

Why are the leaves on my dogwood tree turning yellow?

If your dogwood’s leaves are yellowing faster than the trees around it, or during a time of year that they normally wouldn’t, the likely culprit is a condition known as Chlorosis.

What Causes Chlorosis?

Caused by an iron deficiency, chlorosis is the result of your trees inability to absorb enough iron from the soil, making it difficult for it to produce chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the chemical that gives the leaf its green appearance.

There are several reasons chlorosis may occur. If the soil in which your tree is planted in is too alkaline (having a PH above 7.5) then it will be unable to absorb enough iron.

Reversing Chlorosis in Dogwoods

Soil PH can be lowered by adding organic matter like compost and mulches containing pine needles. Using fertilizers containing chemicals such as aluminum sulfate, sulfur, and sulfur-coated urea can also be effective.

It is important to note here that soil low in the minerals magnesium, manganese, and boron can also result in yellowing of leaves in dogwood trees.

Additionally, damage to the tree’s roots could impact its ability to properly absorb minerals, as can over-watering and/or poor drainage which can cause roots to rot. To determine if your soil has poor drainage you can perform the following simple experiment:.

  1. Dig a hole near the tree in question that is one foot deep and one foot wide.
  2. Allow the hole to completely dry out. This may take several days.
  3. Fill the hole with water and keep track of how long it takes to completely drain.

Ideally, it should take between 30 minutes up to 4 hours. Anything less and the soil is too dry. Anything more, the soil is too moist which can cause the aforementioned root rot.

Other causes of foliage discoloration

Other causes of discoloration of foliage include fungal infections like Crown Canker Disease, as well as insect infestations (i.e. Scales, Dogwood Borer). There are many factors involved in diagnosing and treating these conditions which is why it is recommended that you contact a certified tree expert to assist you in improving the health of your dogwood tree.

Wilting, Yet Dry, Leaves On Dogwood Trees – Knowledgebase Question

Usually this is a symptom of water stress, either under or overwatering, or possibly transplant stress. Dogwoods need an acid soil that is rich in humus; it is possible that the soil is simply unsuitable for the plant, especially when the roots extend beyond the original hole. The soil should also be evenly moist yet well drained so it is never soggy or sopping wet. They are shallow rooted, too, so they may need watering more often than some other plants do. Finally, they appreciate a layer of several inches of organic mulch such as shredded bark over their root zone (not touching the trunk) to help keep the soil cool and moist. You may find that the original potting soil dries out faster than the surrounding soil, so you need to check with your finger to see if you need to water. You may also see that the soil has settled significantly since you planted the tree. This can cause it to suffer from a lack of air in the root zone. If this has happened, you might consider lifting it and replanting it a bit higher. Before you do something that drastic, you might also wish to consult with your county extension to see what they think is the problem because there are some foliar diseases and pests that do attack dogwoods as well. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific.

Dogwood Trees: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

Dogwood Trees are extremely popular all over the world with native varieties in America, Europe, and even Japan. Their large four petal blossoms, with twisting branches and unique gray bark, offer year-round interest and can be used to make a beautiful statement in your landscape.

Dogwood Trees are extremely popular all over the world with native varieties in America, Europe, and even Japan. Their large four petal blossoms, with twisting branches and unique gray bark, offer year-round interest and can be used to make a beautiful statement in your landscape.

However, with so many different types of Dogwood Trees that come indifferent shapes and sizes, how do you decide which variety is best for your landscape?


First of all, ensure you research different varieties to see how large Dogwoods get and take their growing zones and climate preferences into consideration. There are many different varieties that grow large, up to 30 feet tall, stay small around 10 feet, and there are even varieties available in shrub form.


Are you looking for an accent tree to complement an existing garden, or do you want your new Dogwood Trees to be the focal point in your landscape? Do you want a stand-alone tree or multiple trees planted in a row for a privacy screen in the summer? If you would like a hedgerow along a property border or close to your home, then a dogwood shrub may be the best option.

Dogwoods also can be used as shade trees. Their large canopies create a nice shaded area beneath them that’s perfect for hanging out. A well-placed tree or two can shade driveways and parts of the home to provide relief from blistering summer heat.

Area and Growth

Dogwoods are pretty versatile and can be planted almost anywhere, including close to structures like homes or sidewalks, and under other larger trees.

Step out into your landscape and look around. Look for an empty space, or wooded area that could benefit from bursts of color. Once you have an idea about the space you have, you’ll know if a larger or smaller variety will work best and how many to purchase.

Growing Zones

Before purchasing Dogwood Trees, find your growing zone. You don’t want to plant your trees in an area that gets too hot or too cold for them.

Most dogwood varieties are best suited for growing zones 5 through 9, while some are cold hardy up to zone 3. Growing zones are included on every product page.


In the late fall and winter, Dogwood Trees become covered with ornamental berries that range in color from bright red to dark blue. Birds and smaller animals like squirrels and chipmunks will enjoy feasting on them. If you would like to attract wildlife to your landscape to admire, then Dogwoods are excellent choices for your landscape. They’ll bring Blue Jays, Robins, and Cardinals to your yard. However, if you don’t want animals to be attracted to your landscape, thenyou may want toconsider planting a non-fruiting tree.

*Remember that dogwood berries aren’t toxic but are quite bitter and may irritate the digestive system. They may cause diarrhea or vomiting in pets if they ingest a large amount of berries, but most cats and dogs avoid the berries due to their bitter taste.

Existing Plants

Will your new Dogwood Trees fit in with your current landscape? It’s important to visualize how your new dogwood will look in the space before planting it.

Also, consider the blooming color of your tree and ask yourself if it will fit in with your landscape. Will white complement the colors of your other blooming plants, or will pink go with the color of your home? Will yellow clash with your existing garden?

Fall Color

Dogwood Trees put on colorful floral shows in the spring and in the fall, their leaves create a vibrant show. Some leaves, like the ones of the Celestial ShadowDogwood, turn shades of light pink to purple, while the Red Dogwood’s leaves turn shades of orange and burgundy.

The Red Twig and Yellow Twig Dogwoods drop all of their leaves, leaving vibrant red and yellow trunks in the landscape.

It’s important to consider if you would like to add traditional fall colors like reds, oranges, and browns to your landscape or if you would like to add unique colors like pinks and purples.


Once your Dogwood arrives and you’ve mapped out the perfect planting location, dig a hole that’s double the width of the root ball and just as deep. Then take a shovel or pitch fork and loosen the soil around the sides of the hole. Be sure to remove any debris like grass, clumps or rocks from the soil.

Take your fingers and gently comb through the roots to loosen them and then place your tree in the hole. Make sure it’s standing straight up at a 90-degree angle. If you’re unsure if your plant is straight, use a level.

Gently backfill the soil in the hole about half way, then give your tree a slow drink of water with a trickling hose until the soil becomes moist. Then finish filling the hole until the soil becomes level with the ground around it, and give your tree another slow drink of water.

Sprinkle someRoot Rockettransplant fertilizer on top of the soil to give the roots a head start. Also, spread a layer of mulch around the base of your tree to help the soil retain moisture, and to keep competing weeds away.

If your area receives a lot of heavy winds, use a tree staking kit to keep your tree in place until the roots become established.


Dogwood Trees are often a popular choice for planting because they are extremely low-maintenance.

They will survive in locations with full sun, as well as partially shaded areas. Dogwood Trees will alsosurvivein dry areas and in wet areas, close to streams and ponds.

Even though Dogwood Trees will adapt to a variety of different soils, ranging from sandy soils to ones heavy with clay, they prefer slightly acidic soil. To find out the pH balance of your soil, you can use a soil tester from your local gardening store.

If you need to increase the acidity of your soil, you can do so by adding organic matter or peat moss to it. Also, you can keep the acidity of your soil by maintaining your layer of mulch around the base of your tree. As the mulch decays, it will add nutrients and acidity to the soil.

Dogwood trees don’t need to be constantly checked onorbabied. A little neglect goes a long way for them, actually; so don’t worry about keeping up with a watering schedule. You will only need to water your Dogwoods during prolonged periods of dryness or during droughts. Give them a deep watering to a depth of about 6 inches.


Even though Dogwood Trees often don’t need to be pruned unless you would like to shape them, it’s best to prune them in the fall about six weeks before they start dropping their leaves. That will give them plenty of time to heal before they enter dormancy.

Be sure to remove any dead, damaged or diseased branches as soon as you spot them to prevent them from spreading a fungus or disease to the rest of the tree.

Use a clean pair of loppers or hand pruners – you can make sure that they are sterile by cleaning them with rubbing alcohol. Use them to make your cuts at 45-degree angles facing upwards to promote new growth.

Pests and Care Tips

The leaves will actually tell you a lot about how your tree is doing. If the leaves turn brown, start to curl upwards and look like they’re crispy, then your tree isn’t getting enough water. If the leaves turn dark shades of brown or black and droop as if they’re too heavy for the branches, then your tree is receiving too much water.

Dogwood borersare clear winged moths with dark blue to purple bodies and yellow stripes. If they find a crack or hole in the tree, they will lay their eggs on the inside so their larvae can hatch and feast on the inner flesh of the tree. Borers are easy to avoid by keeping your tree healthy and fertilized. However, if you do notice them on your tree, spray the trunk and branches with an all-natural organic pesticide. The organic pesticide will keep the bugs away without harming the tree or environment.

Other pests includescales, which will appear as small black bumps on the branches and leaves, andspider mitesthat will leave fine webs in the branches and leaves. These bugs can easily be taken care of with an all-natural, organic pesticide spray.

Furthermore, you can useneem oil. Sprays that contain neem oil are made from neem leaves, fruit and seeds. They have a bitter taste and naturally repel pests. You can also make your own pest repellants at home by mixing two parts water and one part soap. Make sure the soap is a gentle cleanser, like Dawn.

Choose Dogwood Trees

One of the most popular flowering trees available, Dogwood Trees are classic and ultra-lush. And did we mention stunning? With these tips, tricks and benefits, you’ll be on your way to instant curb appeal with a Dogwood garden all your own.

Cornus kousa, or kousa dogwood, has an impressive list of outstanding characteristics. Since few properties are large enough for an arboretum, choices have to be made. Trees with year round interest draw my attention. The kousa dogwood has outstanding exfoliating bark when it is of sufficient age. Like the sycamore or London plane, a old kousa dogwood will randomly shed bark, revealing new bark of a paler color, from underneath. As a result, an old trunk is multi-colored, and highly textural. As much as I like bark, I like the kousa dogwood. This tree furthermore sets brilliant red fruit in September. That shiny fire engine red is my idea of fall fireworks.

Notice I have made no mention of the beautiful white flowers that mature in my yard in June. In a good year, those flowers may last 3 weeks; my gardening season lasts 7-8 months. I need more interest than what great flowers provide before I am moved to dig the the hole required to plant a tree. Even my beloved magnolias whose bloom is so fleeting have great bark and branching, and large luscious leaves all season. A long season of interest-I look for this. My Kousa dogwoods are next to invisible after they bloom. You can only spot it in this picture, as the leaves are beginning to turn.

Their green leaves fire up slowly, come the beginning of fall. The contrast of that red, and that green is riveting. The shape of the leaves and the pattern of the veins are never more showy than they are in September. The changing of the guard from the summer foliage to the fall display is an event I follow closely.

The late September Kousa color is peach; that peach will deepen and mature. I do not know the science well enough to state the evolution of the color depends on night temperatures that are steadily dropping. So many times I research my instincts about nature to find out my notions have no basis in fact. Suffice it to say, the fall color on the kousa changes dramatically over the course of the fall.

I have four kousa dogwoods on the north side of my house. All four have grown steadily over the past 15 years. This kousa planted at the front corner of my Romeo and Juliet balcony has grown such that the branches have come up and over the deck; they are at my eye level now. One branch of that dogwood grows over the driveway far below. I never notice that branch until the fall colors up the leaves. The garage lights make those leaves glow an orangy red.

The vibrant red kousa leaves, underpainted and glowing from inside with that early orangy peach color, are the star of my north side garden show for weeks. The fall is all about the evolution of the leaves. How they grow and photosynthesize over the summer, then turn, how they fade-how they drop-a gorgeous visual lesson in the process that is nature. The process I am writing about takes the better part of 3 months. That three month spectacular leaf turn and drop makes a kousa dogwood a tree I would not do without.
There comes that brief time when the red leaves of my dogwoods are just about as intense as the red fruit. That spectacular fall color is one of many reasons why a Kousa dogwood is worth any gardener’s consideration. I have considered no end of plants for my own garden, and for the gardens of clients. Decisions get made; trees get planted and take hold. A good choice matters much.

A tree is one of nature’s biggest plants. I think about every tree I plant, and its location, long and hard-given the space it will occupy, and what conditions on the ground it will influence. I additionally hope any tree I plant will outlive me. That given, I choose which tree for where with great care. Today I am delighted to have a foursome of Kousa dogwoods thriving in my garden. Their fall leaves in color delights me. The summer season has no end of visual delight. I have three other seasons besides the summer; I have interest in some off-season delight.

That congested thicket of red-orange kousa leaves peak, thin, and fall. Those last few dogwood leaves holding on today speak eloquently to the end of the season. Consider cornus kousa for your garden. Should you already have one, consider more. The fall color-enjoy every bit of it.

Dogwood turned brown

One of my Kousa Dogwood trees just turned completely brown (see photos). I presume it is dead or nearly so. For my edification – what do you think happened? Is there anything i should do to prevent same for the other kousa dogwood? Can i replant a new dogwood (or maybe a regular old flowering dogwood vs kousa) in its place? Background: The trees were planted about 5 or 6 years ago. Both are at the edge of wooded tree line (mainly oaks, a few gums, etc) where they get some (maybe couple hours) afternoon/ late afternoon sun. The trees do get water (irrigation system) — but i don’t overwater. I use pine straw mulch in the garden bed and there are other shrubs/ perennials in the same garden area. The trees have never been spectacular; and last year i noticed a few branches on each tree lost all its leaves (maybe had anthracnose but i am not sure). This year both trees did bloom and leaf out and had buds. So i thought they were recovering. Then suddenly in early July (seems like it happened the week i was on vacation ) the one tree just turned brown. In the second photo, i noticed that a few of the leaves of the willow oak behind/ above the tree also have some brown leaves– is that a coincidence? Any insight you can provide will be most appreciated.

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