Dogwoods can’t handle hot sun
Sarah in Burke writes: “Last June, I planted a Kousa dogwood in a spot that gets a lot of afternoon sun. I thought Kousas could handle sun better than other dogwoods, but it has had wilted leaves since I planted it. What can I do to save the tree — other than moving it? Please don’t make me dig another giant hole to relocate it!”
We can’t make you do anything, Sarah, but the only way that tree will thrive is if you do move it this fall or next spring to a spot that gets afternoon shade. All dogwoods, whether native or your Asian import, do best with full morning sun and afternoon shade. Planting in the opposite direction is one of the biggest causes of the exact symptoms you describe.
Just don’t move it now! The summer heat stress moving in makes this the absolute worst time of year to try and move plants. Wait until early fall to make the move, which should not be difficult with such a young tree.
Dogwood care 101: feeding & watering
Sarah in Burke continues: “Can I correct the problem with fertilizer?”
No, Sarah, “fertilizer” is not the answer. Although, like all dogwoods, yours would love to have the surrounding soil covered by an inch of milled peat moss (to make the soil acidic), covered with an inch of premium yard-waste compost, such as Maryland’s “Leaf-Gro” (to provide gentle, natural food and disease protection). But that’s compost, not composted manure.
Do not ever use chemical fertilizers — or any kind of wood or bark mulch — near dogwoods.
Sarah concludes: “And how often should I water it? And at what time of day?”
Dogwoods like very moist soil, but not one that stays sopping wet. The best way to water them (and pretty much any other tree or shrub, especially new plantings) is to water deeply at the base of the plant by letting a hose drip there for several hours in the early morning. (Morning watering is always best.) Do this once a week in normal times, twice a week during heat waves — especially if rain is scarce.
And because yours is planted in a too-hot and stressful location, twice a week every week would not be a bad idea until it gets moved.
Dogwood planting & re-planting
Sorry Sarah, but your dogwood will have to be moved this fall or next spring to an area that gets morning sun and afternoon shade.
But don’t dig another “giant hole.” Make the new planting hole wide but not deep, as dogwoods suffer greatly if any part of their trunk is underground. Make sure that the root flare of the plant is visible above the soil line when you’re done planting. (The…