The distinct beauty of the dogwood tree is famous all over the world. Known for its beautiful flowers, which bloom in a splendid variety of cheerful colors, a dogwood tree will bring a touch of real joy anywhere it grows. However, planting a dogwood tree is not without its difficulties; just like many other trees, you’ll need to find the particular variety that suits the climate and soil in your area. Many of these trees are also vulnerable to disease, which can mean a great deal of stress and headache—not to mention money—for their owners.
In the Northwest in particular, it’s all too easy to place your trees at risk of disease, due to the unique weather and climate. One of the most common tree diseases, for example, is known as dogwood anthracnose, and it’s caused by a fungal infection. The rainy season the Northwest is famous for can render your trees particularly vulnerable. Anthracnose starts with brown splotches on the leaves; as the fungus spreads, it will move into the stems. Soon after, the infected leaves will begin to fall off, ruining the beauty of your dogwood tree. The infection also weakens your tree, making it an easy target for other diseases, as well as infestations by pests.
The eastern flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is particularly threatened by anthracnose, powdery mildew, and other diseases. While it’s a popular and beautiful tree, populations have been devastated by fungal infections.
Proper tree care can go a long way toward keeping your dogwood tree safe from disease; however, in the Northwest, you will certainly start at a disadvantage. That’s why you’ll need to take great care during the tree selection process. Fortunately, there are certain types of dogwood that resist disease better than others. Here are three of our favorite disease-resistant dogwood trees:
A particular variety of Cornus florida that has been bred for, among other qualities, its resistance to dogwood anthracnose and powdery mildew, the Appalachian spring dogwood blooms every spring with gorgeous white bracts surrounding yellow flowers. The big advantage of this particular tree over other disease-resistant dogwoods is that it’s already a native of the United States. There’s no need to work too hard for it to survive in your area. Its disease resistance is the result of a natural mutation; it was bred from a tree that was found to have survived an outbreak of anthracnose that had killed all the other surrounding dogwood trees.
The Appalachian spring dogwood usually reaches about 15 to 20 feet in height, with its branches reaching a similar width. It grows relatively slowly, taking about 10 years to reach its full height if conditions are good. It is relatively easy to care for; it can tolerate many different soil conditions and survive in partial shade, although it prefers full sunlight. During the fall, the leaves will change from green to brilliant red and purple colors, ensuring the tree boosts the curb appeal of your property year-round.
As it is a native plant, it’s perfect for attracting local birds, wildlife, and beneficial insects. During the spring and summer, caterpillars use the tree as shelter, meaning that eventually, butterflies will emerge.
Another small tree that is sure to dazzle visitors year-round is the kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa), a native of Japan. Like the other dogwood trees featured in this article, the kousa dogwood is known for its toughness. It is resistant to anthracnose, powdery mildew, and other diseases, as well as having some drought resistance. Its appearance is similar to the Appalachian spring dogwood; the tree reaches a height of about 25 feet and a similar width, giving it a distinctive round appearance. The kousa dogwood blooms in the months of May and June, with white bracts that surround small yellow flowers. In the fall, the green leaves will transform into shades of red and purple.
The kousa dogwood grows relatively slowly, gaining approximately 12 to 24 inches in any given year until it reaches its maximum height. To maximize its growth, it prefers full sunlight, although it will also tolerate partial shade.
The kousa dogwood is not as perfect for attracting local wildlife as its native cousin; it will, however, provide a great home and food source for songbirds.
Another option that you have when searching for a dogwood for your property are hybrids. These are trees specially bred for desired traits, including disease resistance. With a hybrid, you can also consider other traits that interest you, such as your preferred flower shape, size, and color, and the speed of growth and size of the tree.
One popular line of hybrids is the “stellar series,” which began to appear outside of American homes in the 1990s. The first trees in this series were created by crossbreeding kousa dogwood with native eastern flowering dogwood trees. One of the most popular of these crossbreeds is the stellar pink (Cornus florida x Cornus kousa), which has become famous for the large, pink bracts that surround its flowers.
The stellar pink dogwood reaches a height of about 25 feet and prefers full sun but can tolerate partial shade. As with the trees it’s bred from, it will turn lovely red and purple colors during the fall. This tree is also partially resistant to drought, although too much heat and wind and not enough water can lead to leaf scorch.
Stellar pink dogwood is great for attracting butterflies and other beneficial insects.
Whichever variety of dogwood tree you choose, be aware that no tree is completely immune to disease. Proper tree care is a must from the moment the saplings are planted in the soil. While dogwood trees are generally very low maintenance and drought resistant, saplings will usually need to be watered and the soil surrounding trees may need to be mulched regularly.
Your dogwood tree will also require periodic pruning; note that over-pruning a tree puts it at great risk of disease, as bacteria and fungi can enter through improperly cut branches. Your best bet for tree care is to find a reputable local tree service, such as Mr. Tree. We can periodically inspect your tree for signs of disease. We are also properly trained to trim and prune your tree at the opportune time. If you are looking to plant saplings, we can help you care for those as well. With our help, you’ll have healthy, beautiful dogwood trees brightening up your property for many years to come.