Dogwood trees in bloom

Q: I planted a flowering dogwood about three years ago in a sunny, sheltered place in my backyard. It bloomed the first year and hasn’t since then. Any ideas why it’s not flowering? A neighbor has two in her front yard and they bloom every year.

A: Many trees and shrubs can take a while to bloom after you plant them, even if they were in bloom at the nursery. Plants know they’re on Earth to reproduce, and if they think they’re going to die, they bloom and go to seed in an effort to raise a family quickly. That’s why trees and shrubs often are in bloom when you buy them.

Potted plants eventually become rootbound and stressed, think they’re going to die and therefore bloom at a younger age than they normally would. When we liberate them from the pot, providing good soil, water and nutrients, the plant suddenly realizes life is good. And just as many of us put off starting a family until we are in a better financial situation, most trees and shrubs will wait until they’ve established a strong healthy root system before putting all of that energy into blooming and raising a family.

Don’t worry and be patient. Dogwoods often take five to seven years before they begin to bloom in earnest. The good news is that if it takes a while to bloom, it’s because the plant is happy and healthy rather than because it’s under stress, and should keep blooming away for years to come.

Q: Our lawn is infested with white clover. The problem is that one of my young children is allergic to bee stings, and the clover attracts so many bees I’m afraid to let him play on the lawn. I’d prefer to avoid using chemical weedkillers. Other than digging it out, is there a natural way to remove the white clover from our lawn?

A: There is a natural way to rid your lawn of white clover, but it requires patience and perhaps a bit more lawn maintenance than you might be used to providing.

White clover, like many other members of the legume or pea family, is a nitrogen fixer — meaning that it can transfer nitrogen from the air to the soil. Some folks actually encourage clover to grow in their lawn as a way to reduce the need to fertilize as often. In nature, clover is found only in soils that are low in nitrogen and cannot survive in fertile soil.

An effective natural control is to fertilize your lawn on a regular schedule. Choose an organic lawn food and feed at the recommended rate in late April, mid-June, mid-September and most importantly in late October.

The only other requirement is that in order to fertilize you must also water and mow your lawn during the summer months rather than allowing it to go dormant. I used this method at Seattle University. It was effective, but took a while to work. At the end of the first year of regular fertilizing, there was only a slight reduction in clover. By the end of the second year, it disappeared and never came back. Plus the lawn looked great!

Q: What is causing the buds on some of my daylilies to become deformed and never open? Almost every bud on several varieties has the problem. Is there a cure for whatever is causing this?

A: The buds of your daylilies (hemerocallis) are infested with a troublesome new pest called daylily midge. The pest is a tiny fly that was first reported in our area in 2009 and has probably found its way into most of Western Washington by now. The first signs of trouble are deformed brownish buds that resemble golf balls or triangles. If you open the bud, be ready for a shock. There can be anywhere from 1 to 300 tiny maggots inside. The first line of defense is to remove distorted buds as soon as you see them. Seal the buds in a plastic bag, freeze them and then throw them in the garbage.

Infected buds that fall on the ground allow larvae to enter the soil where they pupate to re-emerge and infect more buds next spring.

The early blooming varieties are the most susceptible, while later blooming varieties are relatively resistant. Although it might seem prudent to remove infected daylilies from your garden, one method of control is to use the highly susceptible varieties as trap plants. The infected buds can be removed and destroyed regularly, and the midges are so drawn to the more susceptible varieties that they often leave neighboring daylilies alone. For more information on this pest, go to: type in “Daylily Midge.”

Ciscoe Morris: [email protected] “Gardening with Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING-TV.

What Causes A Dogwood To Not Blossom?

Dogwood trees are often planted for the lovely spring flowers, but 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 may 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 trees’ 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, the dogwood tree may not bloom. Make sure that your dogwood tree gets at least 1 inch 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.

Better Blooms on Lilacs, Dogwoods and Rhododendron

Q. Mike: Our three lilacs are six years old and had a total of three flowering “bunches” this year,which is typical of just about every year. They are almost six feet tall and healthy (very green and lots of new growth), and get atleast six hours of sun per day (more in the middle of summer). Can you please help—before I rip them out of the ground and feed them to the compost pile?! Thank You!!

    —Jamie in Rosman, N.C.

A. Lack of sun is the most common reason for badly blooming lilacs. “Six hours” may seem like a lot, but it’s pretty close to the minimum necessary to get those huge sprays of flowers you’re hoping for. And how can your plants get MORE sun in the summer?! Generally,that’s when leafed-out trees turn full sun into deep shade, not the other way around. Anyway, with lilacs, the more sun the more blooms;maybe you can prune back a few other plants to let even more rays through.

Lilacs are notorious for sulking for years after planting—so don’t expect blooms right away, new lilac owners! But six years is plenty long to get over it, and you say you do get pitiful little displays every year, so it could be overfeeding—which produces big plants with lots of growth but few flowers. If you’re using chemical fertilizers,stop and sin no more; an inch of compost a year will provide the naturally rich soil they crave.

Prune off those few flowers right after they fade; then don’t prune the plants again till next year. Pruning from June on risks cutting off buds, which of course, reduces flowering. Keep the plants well-watered during droughts; lack of summer water can cause the flower buds that are forming to dry out. And finally, lilacs bloom best in cold climates; your mild NC winters may simply be limiting your display (but making the rest of your life a LOT easier!).

Q. My rhododendron has large buds that never open. The plant gets full southern sun and the soil is rather clayish, but we try to augment with fertilizer. My spouse also likes to add topsoil to the base of the plant for some reason. The plant has been in this location for seven years. Why doesn’t it bloom?
—Heidi from Green Brook, NJ

Q. I have a compact Rhododendron on the south facing side of my house. In the spring, its blossoms start out a rich, light pink, but after several days they turn white. Why? And only a small percentage of the buds produce flowers. I have examined the non-blooming buds and they look brown inside with no sign of insects. The soil is fortified with peat moss and liquid fertilizer throughout the season. The surrounding mature trees provide shade all summer long, with about two hours of sun maximum once their leaves are out. Do you have any suggestions that will enhance the appearance of this plant?
—Dr. Fred in Elkton MD

A. “Full Southern sun?” Yow! You New Joisey-ites are lucky your darn plant is still ALIVE, much less blooming. Rhodies are “under story” plants in the wild; as Dr. Fred seems to know, they thrive in the summertime shade of deciduous trees.I’m surprised the Red Cross hasn’t come by to charge you with Plant Crimes for baking the poor thing—it needs shade! It also needs your husband to stop with the fertilizer and “topsoil” and to mulch with peat moss and compost to provide the NATURALLY-rich (not chemically enhanced) soil rhododendrons crave. It also needs some shade so those buds don’t bake dead in the summertime; did I mention that?

Dr. Fred: Your flowers start out pink and open to white because that’s what color they are. Rhododendron flowers come in virtually every color of the rainbow; and several varieties behave exactly the way you describe, including “King George”and “White Pearl”. If it’s really compact, I’ll bet it’s “Loder’s White”.

You also need to replace those chemical feedings with compost. And I’m a little concerned that your South-facing buds may also be cooking a bit after those protective leaves drop, but it’s more likely that you just need to have a heavier hand with the water during dry times.Rhododendrons are THIRSTY plants that should be first in line for the hose when we go a week without rain; otherwise the flower buds dry out.

Q. I am baffled by two questions, and am hoping you know the answers. (1) When do I fertilize my dogwood trees? And (2) Why did some bloom and others not, even though I planted them at the same time? (They all bloomed last year.)Thanks a million,

    —Geri in Stafford, Va.

If you’re talking about chemical fertilizers, how about ‘never’? Is ‘never’ good for you? Chemical fertilizers are one of the biggest reasons for lack of bloom on dogwoods. So wake up and smell the compost, Ger! And then give some to your trees—some peat moss too;because like many Spring blooming beauties, dogwoods thrive in a naturally rich, acidic soil. (It also takes dogwoods a REALLY long time to flower—so again, be patient new owners; it will be at least five years before you can expect a new tree to bloom.)

After that it gets tricky. Dogwoods bloom best in full sun, but the tree itself prefers afternoon shade in warmer climes, for which your Virginia certainly qualifies. Dogwoods that grow in full sun in your zone MUST be watered during dry times to prevent stress to the tree.

My best guess for your “Bizarro Boom” is that some of your trees got more sun and/or water than others last summer. Or, if they’re not all the same variety, some might be the type of dogwood that only blooms every OTHER year.

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What’s Blooming Now: In Seattle, Dogwood Trees!

Landscape Architecture

Are you wondering: “What are those trees blooming in late spring, with large flowers in shades of pink or white?” They might be dogwoods, a powerhouse of landscape design that has a number of great cultivars and varieties. Here are a few of our favorite dogwood varieties, along with some details about their care and preferences.

May 24, 2018

These late spring bloomers are hardy crowdpleasers.

With species native to both the east and west coasts and a huge range of cultivars and varieties, Dogwoods (genus Cornus) are a powerhouse of landscape design. The genus ranges from beautiful stately trees to adaptable shrubs and low groundcovers. Most noticeable at this time of year are dogwood trees, showing off large blossoms ranging from deep mottled pink to white, from May to June.

We think dogwoods make some of May’s best blooms… but, it turns out, these showy flowers aren’t really flowers at all! Dogwoods tend to produce many blossoms at once and the blossoms, hardy to wind and rainfall, tend to persist longer than other late spring blooms (like Lilac or Magnolia).

So what makes dogwood blossoms so hardy? The petals of each flower are not actually petals — they are in fact “bracts” — leaves modified to look like flowers in order to attract pollinators to otherwise inconspicuous clusters of flowers at the center of each “bloom”.

Let’s look at a few of our favorite dogwoods.

Eddie’s White Wonder

A tried and true favorite that is becoming a popular street tree in Seattle is the hybridized Pacific Northwest native, Eddie’s White Wonder Dogwood. This tree was created in the 1950s in Vancouver, B.C. by hybridizing the west coast native Cornus nuttallii and the east coast native Cornus florida to create an exceptionally disease-resistant tree.

Shown Above: Eddie’s White Wonder Dogwood – Cornus x

We love it not only for its disease resistance, but also for its profusion of 4”-wide, creamy white blossoms, and its loose, yet narrow, growth habit. Blossoms emerge at about the same time as the leaves, creating a layered effect of lush blossoms and deep green foliage. Proven to be an excellent street tree, the narrow, upright growth habit is a perfect accent for any yard. Due to its hybrid parentage, it prefers light to open shade but will tolerate full sun if watered deeply and regularly.


A classic beauty, the Satomi Dogwood is a pink flowering cultivar of the kousa species native to Japan, Korea, and China. This species has been naturalized in the Pacific Northwest and this cultivar is highly disease-resistant. Brilliant pink flowers bloom later, and last longer, than other cultivars — at first emerging soft pink and aging to a deep, lustrous rose color. With leaves that emerge before the blossoms, the tree has a full canopy by May, with branches covered in flowers by June.

Shown Above: Satomi Dogwood – Cornus kousa

While this tree has the classic layered appearance of most other dogwoods, it tends to have a broader canopy that is sensitive to improper pruning, so always consult an expert before pruning this tree. Satomi dogwood does well in open shade to partial sun with regular water, and makes an excellent focal point in any garden.


A recently created species released in 2006, Venus Dogwood is a modern hybrid with three parent trees that are all specialized cultivars. Bred from Cornus kousa ‘Chinensis’, Cornus nuttalii ‘Goldspot’, and Cornus kousa ‘Rosea’, the Venus Dogwood is thought to produce the largest and most prolific bloom of any dogwood. Similar in appearance to Eddie’s White Wonder, Venus Dogwood flowers open a pale green-white color and mature to 6”-wide, lustrous white saucers, with elegant bracts that taper at the base. The growth habit differs from Eddie’s White Wonder, taking after its kousa parentage with a layered habit, growing wider than it is tall.

Shown Above: Venus Dogwood – Cornus x

In addition to its robust flowers, this hybrid is prized for its vigorous growth and hardiness — it’s a fast grower, resistant to anthracnose, powdery mildew, and drought. While this hybrid is considered drought-tolerant, it prefers open to dappled shade and may scorch in direct sunlight. This tree makes a perfect accent for shady woodland gardens as an understory tree or large shrub.

Cherokee Brave

An up and coming cultivar we have been noticing at local nurseries this year is the Cherokee Brave Dogwood. The flowers emerge just before the leaves, making it a nice accent for staggered spring color and summer foliage.

Shown Above: Cherokee Brave Dogwood – Cornus florida

The flowers are compact, colored an unusual deep pink, with each bract tipped in bright white. Excellent red-to-orange fall color and a compact, upright growth habit make this a fantastic statement tree if planted alone, or a striking seasonal screen if planted in a trio. Since this tree is bred from the eastern Dogwood (Cornus florida), it can take full sun or open shade and may be hardier in hot weather and drought than the west coast species.

What else is blooming?

This post is part of our ongoing “What’s Blooming” series. As we add more, we’ll update the list here, so you can continue learning about the lovely plants blooming (or otherwise looking great) in the Seattle area each month.


What’s Blooming Now: A Quick Guide for Spring Plants in Seattle Wondering what’s blooming in Seattle in the spring? Maybe you’ve noticed some flowers on your walks around town and don’t know what they are? We are certainly big fans of when the flowers start peeking out in the spring. Here is a quick guide to some of our favorites that you will find in Seattle.


What’s Blooming Now: June in Seattle June in Seattle is also known as “Juneuary,” thanks to our famously rainy early summers. But there are still plenty of flowers to enjoy at this time of year, and you could argue they look even better glistening with raindrops. Read on to learn about the Japanese Snowbell, the Pacific Mock Orange, and Creeping Honeysuckle.


What’s Blooming Now: Moon Gardens in July How much do you love a moon garden? When designing your landscape, don’t forget you can plan not only for the experience of the garden in the daytime, but also the late night hours! These blooming plants are great candidates for a beautiful (and great smelling) night garden.


What’s Blooming Now, In August: Hydrangeas Hydrangeas may be well-known, but did you there are a variety of different types? From the aptly-named ‘Incrediball’ to even a climbing version (really!) — here a the details on a few of our favorites, recommendations on where to plant them, and how to make sure they get what the need to be a champ bloomer.

The dogwood tree is legendary for the beautiful blooms it produces. Every spring, strikingly colorful flowers appear on the branches of this popular tree and dazzle us with their gorgeous red, white or pink petals.

Though it may be best known for its spring blooms, the dogwood tree is a year-round favorite due to the colorful berries it produces in the summertime and occasionally in the fall. Dogwood leaves are equally attractive, appearing as a brilliant green in spring and summer and changing to vibrant reds, yellows and oranges during the fall. If you’ve seen this tree’s beautiful autumn leaves or summer flowers, you might become excited about the prospect of growing your own. We’ll give you a few tips about how to go about doing that.

The dogwood is a great tree to grow on your property because in addition to being beautiful, it is also a very versatile tree. Do you need a smaller tree? Or a larger tree? Do you think white flowers would match your property the best, or would red be better? Either way, you can choose a dogwood that will fit your needs. The dogwood tree generally gets to about 25 feet tall, while trees in home gardens generally stay at about 15-25 feet. This is a good size for a home tree since they won’t get big enough to interfere with power lines or damage your roof. You can also enjoy the flowers from right outside your window!

Another reason dogwood is so attractive is because it grows very quickly. It can grow about a foot every year if you take proper care of it, which means that you can have a full-size tree after only about ten years.

Growing a dogwood tree requires a certain amount of preparation. First, you need to figure out where the best place to plant the tree is. In their natural habitat, dogwood trees grow underneath other trees, thriving with a little bit of shade. Too much shade, however, can be detrimental to the growth of flowers so be careful. You also want to make sure that air can circulate properly around your dogwood. If you have other, taller trees, they’ll be perfect to shelter your dogwood. Think about how the color of the tree you have will contrast with the flowers of the dogwood you’ve chosen. For example, the rich green of evergreen looks great when matched with white or pink dogwood flowers.

Once you’ve chosen a spot, you will want to make sure all of the conditions are right to keep your tree healthy. A slightly acidic, well drained soil is best, as well as a little mulch around the the area of the tree. You might need to get stakes to put around your tree to help hold it up. After you’ve completed your preparation, it’s time to choose a tree! There are quite a variety of dogwood trees to choose from, so here are a few examples of trees that bloom beautifully:

Cornus Florida – The Flowering Dogwood

The flowering dogwood is the most popular and common dogwood tree. It has a variety of cultivars you can choose from, like the “Cherokee Princess” which sports beautiful white flowers, and the Gulf Coast Pink, a popular pink variety of dogwood from northern Florida. Flowering dogwoods tend to grow to a maximum of 25 feet tall. This tree turns a vibrant red in the autumn.

Cornus Nuttallii – The Pacific Dogwood

As its name suggests, this tree is native to the Pacific Coast. Its range stretches from southern British Columbia all the way to Southern California. It’s a beautiful tree although it can grow very large, sometimes reaching 50 feet tall. There are varieties, however, such as “Starlight” which don’t get that big and work better in a yard. The berries on this species are particularly beautiful, coming in in a beautiful pink-red shade. You have to take care with this one because it has a tendency to be susceptible to dogwood anthracnose, which is a disease caused by a fungus.

The Cornus Stellar series

This is a hybrid series of trees that is made by breeding two different dogwood species together. The Stellar Pink is an example. It stays relatively small, peaking at about 20 feet tall and its leaves are a dark green that change to purple-red during the fall. It doesn’t produce fruit but is highly resistant to diseases that can plague other types of dogwood, such as anthracnose and dogwood borer.

Cornus Kousa – The Kousa Dogwood

This one is also a relatively small tree, growing to about 20 feet tall. During the late summer this tree grows large, edible fruits that resemble raspberries. It flowers later than other types of dogwood, growing flowers with yellow-green bracts and turning a vibrant shade of red during the fall. This tree is also resistant to diseases like anthracnose that plague other types of dogwood trees.

Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’

This is another hybrid tree that crosses the Pacific Dogwood with the Flowering Dogwood. It flowers during the early spring with large, white, overlapping bracts. It’s an excellent choice for gardens since its distinctive layered branching shows off the flowers very well. During the autumn it turns a red color and it resists diseases very well.

Tagged as: Dogwoods, Oregon Flowering Plants

Local Trees: The Enchanting Dogwood

Ideally, you’d be reading this in very early spring, when the dogwood bloom is beginning to work its elegant magic in the older neighborhoods fanning out from Lower Bidwell Park and downtown Chico. Their flowers bloom before dogwoods leaf out, so the blooms appear to float, suspended on slender, graceful branches. But now, although their bloom time is over for the year, the new foliage on dogwoods makes them attractive landscape trees, creating filtered shade in gardens and yards across town.

Cornus florida closeup of pink flower by Famartin There are between 30 and 100 different species of Cornus (depending upon the source one consults). These various species of dogwood are native throughout much of earth’s temperate latitudes and boreal (subarctic) ecosystems of Eurasia and North America. China, Japan, and the southeastern United States are particularly rich in native species. The best known and most widely cultivated dogwood species include: common dogwood (C. sanguinea) of Eurasia; flowering dogwood (C. florida) of eastern North America; Pacific dogwood (C. nuttallii) of western North America: Kousa dogwood (C. kousa) of eastern Asia, and two low-growing boreal species, the Canadian and Eurasian dwarf cornels (or bunchberries), C. canadensis and C. suecica respectively. This article focuses on two species that do particularly well in our area: Pacific dogwood and flowering dogwood.

Flowering dogwood bracts by UC ANR General Characteristics: Dogwood trees are on the small side, ranging between 15 to 40 or so feet high. Typically, trunks are one foot or less in diameter, and often sport multiple stems. They provide four full seasons of delight: spring flowers, summer leaves, fall color and berries, and once all of those have dropped off in winter, the trunk displays a distinctive patterned bark and a pleasing rounded form with horizontal branching.

What we see as “flower petals” on the dogwood are technically bracts (modified or specialized leaves) surrounding a bunch of very small, tightly clustered umbel shaped flowers. The leaf itself is a simple, untoothed bit of beauty, distinctive for its visible veins curving as they extend to the margins of the leaf. In fall, the leaves change to an attractive reddish-purple or reddish-brown before dropping. Its bright colored berries are actually drupes, a fleshy fruit with thin skin and a central stone containing multiple seeds. These “berries” provide food to many bird species, and are also utilized by some butterflies and moths. Depending on the species, berries range from very tart and mildly toxic to humans, to tasteless, to slightly sweet and somewhat palatable.

Cornus florida or Eastern dogwood by Brent McGhie Cornus florida: The flowering dogwood is a popular landscape tree throughout the United States, and is commonly seen here in Chico and our surrounding area. The species name florida or florido is Spanish for “full of flowers” or “flowery”. Native to the Eastern US and northern Mexico, flowering dogwood attains its greatest size, up to 40 feet tall, in the Upper South where hot, humid summers contribute to new, lush growth. In other climates, such as ours, heights of 30–33 feet are more typical. This dogwood species’ life span tops out at about 80 years. While its berries, ranging from bright red to yellow with a rosy blush, taste awful to humans, they are not toxic, and are an important source of food for many birds.

When in the wild, flowering dogwood can typically be found decorating the understory of forest edges, and can also occur on dry ridges. Most of the wild trees have white bracts, but some range from pink to rosy to an almost true red.

Cornus nuttallii-closeup of flower by Walter Siegmund Cornus nuttallii: The species name of the Pacific dogwood honors Thomas Nuttall, an English botanist and zoologist who lived and worked in America from 1808 to 1841. Nuttall travelled widely and published a number of books on North American plants and birds. Almost 100 plant and animal species bear his name.

Nuttall’s namesake dogwood species is commonly known as western dogwood, mountain dogwood, and Pacific mountain dogwood, as well as Pacific dogwood. This species is native to a large swath of western North America, sweeping down the continent from southern British Columbia to southern California, with an isolated population cropping up in central Idaho. On a California map, its distribution pattern looks like a large cane. The short, hooked end starts in the coast range north of the San Francisco Bay, thickening as it bends east through the Klamath and Siskiyou mountains, with the straight side of the cane extending south through the western slopes of the Cascades and Sierra Nevada mountains to the southern end of the great Central Valley. A small distribution also occurs in the southwestern corner of the state.

Cornus nuttallii in bloom by Stan Shebs Pacific dogwood thrives under the canopy of California’s mountain forests. When in bloom, flowers hover like lace in the shadows of taller conifers and hardwoods, reaching out for sunlight. While the bracts appear white from a distance, they are actually white tinged with a lovely pale green, and the densely packed, tiny flowers they encircle are also greenish-white. The pink-red drupe can contain up to 100 seeds. The fruit provides sustenance in autumn and sometimes early winter, to small mammals and birds such as grosbeaks, cedar waxwings, and woodpeckers.

Besides its timeless aesthetic appeal, the Pacific dogwood has various utilitarian functions. It was an important plant for the Native tribes of the continent’s west coast. Medicinally, the bark was used as a laxative, a tonic, an antiseptic, and for relief of stomach pain. Peeled twigs provided natural toothbrushes, and smaller branches were sometimes used in baskets. Today the wood of the Pacific dogwood is often used for fashioning items such as tool handles and cutting boards because of its hard, strong wood and beautiful tight grain. It has also been used to make thread spindles, golf club heads, and piano keys.

Stellar Pink, a cross between a florida and kousa by J. Alosi Dogwood is a curious name for a tree. But “dogwood” is actually this tree’s third-generation common name. In the 14th century it was called the “whipple-tree” – a whipple being a straight piece of wood linking the drawpole of a horse cart to the harnesses of the horses. By the early 15th century the name had shifted to “dagwood,” because its slender and very hard wood stems were used to create “dags” (daggers, skewers, and arrows). Over time, the “a” in “dagwood” became pronounced and written as an “o,” giving us “dogwood” as the final common name for all species of Cornus.

I love the ethereal beauty of the dogwood. Since a large number of cultivated dogwood trees grace our area, evidently so do many others. In fact, dogwood was among the top choices for America’s National Tree in a nationwide survey hosted by the Arbor Day Foundation, coming in third behind the oak and redwood: a very respectable ranking!

For more information on gardening in our area, visit the Butte County Master Gardener web page at: If you have a gardening question or problem, call our Hotline at (530) 538-7201 or email [email protected]

Photo Credits:
Cornus nuttallii in bloom by Stan Shebs:

Cornus nuttallii closeup of flower by Walter Siegmund – The small flowers are in a dense cluster surrounded by large white bracts. Own work, CC BY 2.5,

Flowering dogwood bracts by UC ANR

Cornus florida or Eastern dogwood by Brent McGhie

Stellar Pink, a cross between a florida and kousa dogwood by J. Alosi

Pink Dogwood not Blooming

Hi there- A couple of years ago, I planted a pink dogwood in my front yard. We have lived in this house 3 years and the house is about 25 years old. The new dogwood has been there now for two consecutive springs and looks healthy, but has never bloomed (it was in bloom when we purchased it, though). It’s a young tree; the trunk is just a couple of inches (ish). It is planted at the edge of a grove of larger trees and gets sun in the afternoon, but not the entire afternoon. I would think the sun/shade location is perfect for a dogwood. All of my soil is terrific. There is an older (white) dogwood tree on the property that bloomed beautifully our first spring here, fairly well the 2nd, and is barely blooming at all this year. I suspect the culprit is lawn fertilizer/treatment (too much nitrogen?) because the former owners of the house didn’t put anything on the lawn (it was full of weeds), whereas we have a service that applies weed killer/fertilizer 3-4 times a year. If this is the problem, I can ask the lawn service to refrain from spraying around the base of the dogwoods (and any other flowering trees? although they don’t seem affected), but is there something I can do in conjunction with that to hedge my bets? For example, is there anything I can add to their soil to counteract excess nitrogen? Thanks! I appreciate your advice.

Why Won’t My Dogwood Bloom?

I wish my dogwood bloomed like this. Photo by Steve Bender.

Faithful readers, it is time once again for Grumpy to provide a 100% guaranteed correct answer to one of your most pressing gardening questions. This week’s question deals with a beloved, iconic tree native to the South — flowering dogwood (Cornus florida).

Diane writes: “I have a white dogwood that has NEVER bloomed. It is in an area with light shade. I water it, talk to it, sing to it, feed it once every season, and yet…nothing. Nothing but green leaves. Why?”

Grumpy’s Most Excellent Answer: Several factors may be involved here. Let me enumerate.

1. Not enough sun. Dogwood will grow just fine in shade, but it won’t bloom there. The more sun it gets, the more flowers you get. While light, afternoon shade is recommended in the Lower and Coastal South (USDA Zones 8-9), flowering dogwood does perfectly fine in full sun elsewhere — provided it’s growing in moist, acid, well-drained soil and you remember to water during summer droughts.

2. You may have a seed-grown tree, as opposed to one grown from a graft or cutting. Seedlings trees (like the ones you dig from the woods) vary greatly in how they bloom. The ones in Grumpy’s back yard, for example, bear small numbers of puny, white flowers. Nothing I can do will change that. Many trees sold as just “dogwood” at nurseries are grown from seed.

3. That’s why it’s always a good idea to buy a named dogwood selection grown from a graft or cutting. These selections are chosen for reliable, heavy displays of showy flowers that appear even on young trees. Good choices include ‘Appalachian Spring’ (white), ‘Cloud 9’ (white), ‘Cherokee Chief’ (red), and ‘Sweetwater Red’ (red). These trees are tend to be more disease-resistant than wild ones.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Don’t be alarmed if your dogwood trees bloom in September. Just enjoy it, a forester with the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service said Monday.

Larry Tankersley said fall blooms sometimes occur when the length of late summer days confuses young dogwoods. But fall blooms are no threat to the trees.

“I get a few calls every year from people wondering why their dogwoods are blooming. Basically, its a hormone problem in the immature trees,” Tankersley said. “The length of days now is almost identical to that of the spring.

“The hormones read the daylight as a signal to flower, and hormones that control that response are not yet full grown.”

Within a few years, the trees’ hormones are balanced and late blooming stops, Tankersley said.

Blooming in the fall does not harm the young dogwoods, but it could mean fewer blooms in the spring, he said.

“It’s just one of those neat things that nature does every now and then. It may happen to other plants but the dogwoods are more showy, so we notice it more in them.”

Contact: Larry Tankersley(423-974-7977)

A Chinese Dogwood tree, botanical name Cornus kousa, that fails to bloom or make flowers of any kind is a very common problem. People ask me all the time; “Why doesn’t it bloom, and what can I do to make it bloom?”

By the way, I’m Looking for a Few People that would Like to Grow and Sell Small Plants from Home. Take a Peek.

If you have a Chinese dogwood that has yet to bloom, even after several years in your yard, there’s really not much you can do to make it bloom other than wait it out.

The short answer is; “It’s the nature of the beast.” They often take anywhere from five to seven years to make flowers. Sometimes as long as ten years!

There are varieties that bloom much sooner, but if you don’t happen to have one of those varieties, I can assure you your tree will bloom and more than likely it will bloom beautifully. But only when it’s ready.

Here’s the problem, this is where the plan went wrong.

Chinese Dogwood, Cornus kousa, are fairly easy to grow from seed and hundreds of thousands of them are grown from seed annually.

A Chinese Dogwood grown from seed is the most generic form of Cornus Kousa in the plant kingdom, and they are the ones that take many years before they make flowers.

‘Milky Way’ is a Chinese Dogwood variety that is an early bloomer.

Milky Way Chinese Dogwood is famous for its ability to bloom when very young.

But most seedlings are not Milky Way, or worse yet they might have been grown from seed collected from a Milky Way Chinese Dogwood, but only some of those seedlings carry that true Milky Way gene that makes them bloom early and bloom prolifically.

As the seedlings grow out they are observed and the really good ones are sold as Milky Way Seedlings. The others are just grown out and sold as regular Cornus Kousa.

So if your Chinese Dogwood doesn’t want to bloom, it’s safe to assume that your tree is not a Milky Way. Like I said, yours will still bloom, but you have to be patient and let it do its thing.

To Learn More about Milky Way Chinese Dogwood and See Beautiful Photos, check out this post.

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