The following question was sent
to the P&PDL diagnosticians
here at Purdue University:
Question: I have 6-year-old flowering dogwood
trees that have never bloomed. The foliage looks healthy each
year. What do you suggest?
Answer: It does take a dogwood a few years to become
established, and we don't make the job any easier for them. Drive
through Southern Indiana and notice where the dogwoods are growing.
They're nestled into the edge of the woods where they receive shade
and protection from larger trees above. We often plant them out in
the middle of our yards, in full sun and clay soil, and expect to
replicate their performance in nature. Help the tree feel more at
home by removing turf from a circle around the trunk and adding a
layer of mulch, at the very least.
There are many possible reasons for a lack of flowering in plants,
including age, light, excess nitrogen, temperature and pruning.
Make sure your plant is receiving a half day of sunlight. Fertilizers
high in nitrogen, like most turf fertilizers, encourage foliar
growth at the expense of flowers, so keep these away from the
plant. Only prune just after flowering, or in your case, just
after other dogwoods in the area flower, so you don't remove
next year's buds. Finally, provide 1 inch of water per week,
supplementing rainfall if necessary.
There is one more possibility. Dogwoods are often shipped into the Midwest
from southern sources. These plants are not adequately hardy in northern areas.
Many flowering dogwoods in the Midwest have minimal flower production, which
is caused by this lack of flower bud hardiness. If possible, ask the nurseryperson
or garden center where the trees are grown to save yourself disappointment
three to five years down the road when the trees show limited flowering.
-- Beverly Shaw, Advanced Master Gardener, Purdue University
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