When to Plant Dogwood Trees – Planting Guide 2024

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Just when you think winter will never end, signs of spring start to emerge. And when the flowers on a dogwood finally bloom, you know it’s time to rejoice. Learn more about when to plant your dogwood tree and how to care for it.

When to plant dogwood trees: Dogwood trees can be planted as saplings, when they are still manageable. It is best to plant them in the early fall which will give their roots a chance to settle into the soil before winter. You can also plant dogwood trees in the early spring. Make sure the soil can drain well and don’t plant the root ball too deep. Give your new tree plenty of water and if it looks a bit weak, you can always stake it to prop it up.  

Planting Dogwood Tree in Different Climates  

Tropical Climate  

Dogwood trees do not do well in tropical climates. They need a colder dormant period during the winter, which this climate does not allow for.  

Dry Climate  

Even though dogwood trees don’t do well with very wet soil, they still need steady watering and a dry climate is usually not conducive to this.  

Temperate Climate  

Dogwood trees thrive in a temperate climate. These areas will have plenty of rainfall, mountainous regions, and the right soil conditions.  

Continental Climate  

A continental climate will do well for dogwood trees but they will need a bit more help when they are young. If the summers are too hot, you will need to water your dogwood trees although once they are mature, they are more resistant to drought.  

Polar Climate  

Like most trees, dogwoods will not do well in a polar climate.  

Choosing Dogwood Tree Seeds  

While you can technically grow trees from seeds, this is a laborious journey and most gardeners prefer to plant saplings instead. Saplings are in essence baby trees and you can choose dogwood saplings that are as young as one year old or as old as five years.

The younger the sapling, the more care it will need as it will be very weak and more susceptible to the elements. However, it will also be smaller in size and cheaper in price.

If you are worried about caring for a young tree, you can instead purchase a tree that is a few years old. It will still need care but will be stronger and have a much better head start.  

Once you know your level of comfort with your tree, you can then decide on the type of dogwood you want. Here are some common varieties to choose from.  

Flowering Dogwood  

These are the classical dogwood trees that produce delicate flowers in the early spring. You may even get lucky and have a few blooms in late winter if you have a mild climate. Expect pink flowers and green foliage for an eye-catching display.

Flowering Dogwoods will grow to be about 20 feet tall.  

Pacific Dogwood  

Native to the Pacific region of North America, Pacific Dogwoods have white flowers and are a pretty sight to see. They are even the provincial emblem of British Columbia.

Pacific Dogwoods do really well in temperate climates and can tower up to 25 feet in height. They do well in a lot of conditions but really thrive in mountainous regions.  

Canadian Bunchberry  

If you only know of dogwood trees, you may be surprised to learn there are various shrubs within the family. One common variation is the Canadian Bunchberry, which is a lowland shrub that has white flowers that turn into red berries.

You can actually eat the berries from the Canadian Bunchberry plant, which is a nice bonus. They require a lot of water and some shade to thrive but despite their needs, they can spread out at an alarming rate so if you plant this variety, make sure there is lots of room for it.  

How to Plant Dogwood Tree

All about the timing  

The best time to plant dogwood trees is in the early fall. This will give the tree a head start and it will be able to establish itself before winter comes.

If you miss the fall planting time, the next best time is in early spring. Once the ground warms up and is no longer frozen, you can plant your dogwood tree.  

Find the right area  

Despite their popularity, dogwood trees can be pretty high-maintenance so you want to start out with the right environment for them. While they thrive in nature, it can be hard to replicate the right conditions.

Dogwood trees need soil that is quite fertile and rich in nutrients. It needs to be moist but also well-draining.

If there is any pooling water, your dogwood trees can quickly have rotten roots and this can kill your sapling. The good news, however, is that once your dogwood tree matures, it is actually drought tolerant.

Another important aspect of planting dogwood trees is to have the right lighting conditions. While they are able to grow in both full sun and some shade, their preferred area is in partial shade. In the wild, dogwood trees would naturally grow with dappled light, under taller trees, so recreating this atmosphere is the best bet.  

Dig your hole  

Now that you have the ideal location, it’s time to start digging. Start by marking your area and digging a large hole. You want it to be about three times the width of the root ball, so depending on the age of your tree, this can be quite large.

You don’t need the hole to be too deep, as you don’t want the roots to become waterlogged.  

Add your tree and more soil  

Once the hole is complete, you can gently lower your dogwood tree into place. Now it’s time to fill in the hole. While you should use most of the native soil that you dug, now is the opportunity to add more beneficial nutrients.

You can mix in peat moss or other organic matter to make the soil more amenable for your dogwood. The goal is for the soil to be loose enough to drain but still have plenty of nutrients for your young tree.

Create the best soil mix and then fill the rest of the hole with it. Try to angle your tree so that the root ball is level too, or just above the surface of the ground. You can then add more soil on top of the roots to cover and protect them.  


Dogwood trees need a careful schedule of watering later on but when you first plant them, be sure to give the area a thorough watering. Let the water really soak through the soil so that the root ball can settle into place.    

How to Water Dogwood Trees  

After the initial, first watering of your dogwood tree, you should set up a schedule to help it along. Remember that while dogwood trees like moist soil, they do not do well with continuous water saturation.

Aim to give your young dogwood tree regular amounts of water but in small doses. This way it gets enough water but the roots won’t be sitting in a pool of water.

After a few years, as your dogwood matures, it will actually become drought tolerant. Then, you can let nature’s rainwater it, and only supplement if you have a hot, dry summer.      

How to Grow Dogwood Trees  


There’s a good chance that your dogwood tree does not need any fertilizer, especially if you plant it in nutrient-dense soil. However, if your tree doesn’t look as vibrant as it could be, you can add a bit of fertilizer.

Choose a slow-release fertilizer such as a spike or a powder. This will allow the tree to slowly absorb the nutrients and it will be all the stronger.  


One advantage of owning dogwood trees is that they don’t often need pruning. Instead, you can allow the tree to grow and it will keep a nice and tidy canopy.

You should still perform a yearly inspection to identify any broken branches or any sucker growth that needs cleaning up. If you decide to prune your tree, do so in the summer, once they have finished flowering.

Unlike other trees that do well with pruning in the fall, dogwood trees can bleed sap in the winter, which can weaken them.    

How long do dogwood trees take to grow?    

It can take quite a while for a dogwood to reach its full height. While the trees usually max out at 20 feet, this can take up to 25 years of growing.

Given the right conditions, dogwood trees can actually grow to 30 or 40 feet, so be aware of this when planting. However, most gardens don’t have such towering trees.

As for their flowers, dogwood trees will start blooming when they are five to seven years old. Once the first bloom appears, your dogwood will continue to bloom once a year, as long as it is happy and healthy.        


Dogwood trees are full of life. You can find common varieties that sprout pink or white flowers and their emergence is a sure sign that spring is in the air.

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