Desirable for their spring show of white, pink or red blooms, dogwoods (Cornus spp.) are usually small trees. Numerous species and cultivars exist, with many native to the United States. Choose a kind of dogwood that is adapted to your climate and suitable for your landscaping use. If dogwood diseases occur in your area, then consider using disease-resistant dogwoods. The best time to plant dogwoods depends primarily on their kind and root condition.
Easier and less expensive to ship than their counterparts, bare-root dogwoods grow in nursery beds and are dug up for marketing when they're dormant. Plant them while they are still dormant. The planting season for bare-root dogwoods in Georgia is November through March. In California, bare-root plants are usually available from December through February and March. In colder areas, plant when the soil isn't frozen. In Indiana, for example, the best bare-root planting time is from March through mid-May, but planting is possible from February to June. In Washington state, January and February are the bare-root planting months if the soil isn't frozen. Buy bare-root dogwoods just before you plant them, and keep them moist and cool until planting time.
Dogwoods also may be available with their bare roots wrapped in a moisture-retaining medium such as sawdust or peat and enclosed in plastic to keep the roots from drying out. Called machine-balled plants, they are a little less vulnerable to drying out than bare-root dogwoods. Once unpacked, the roots should never be allowed to dry. Plant machine-balled dogwoods during the same times applicable to bare-root dogwoods.
Balled and Burlapped Plants
A bigger window of time exists for planting balled and burlapped, or B and B, dogwoods. The trees grow in nursery beds until carefully dug up. Each tree's root ball is wrapped in burlap. The best planting time for B and B plants in Indiana is from March to mid-June and from mid-August through October, according to Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service. It's possible to plant them with care during February, mid-June to July and in November. This amounts to almost any time the ground isn't frozen. In Georgia, the best planting time for B and B trees is November through March. In Texas, fall is considered best for planting B and B trees. Choose nursery-grown B and B dogwoods that have been heeled in with sawdust to prevent desiccation, or order your trees right before you plant them and keep their root balls moist.
Dogwoods grown in nursery containers have the most flexible planting options. You can maintain the trees in their containers until you're ready to put the trees in place. Take care not to allow the dogwoods to become root bound, however. In temperate climates such as Indiana, the best planting time for container dogwoods is from mid-March through October, with planting also possible in February, early March and November. In areas with warm winters, the best tree planting time is fall; that timing allows the tree roots to grow during winter and spring months. Although container trees can be planted safely almost anytime in the Southeast, fall is best time. In Texas, optimal the planting time is from September through December.
Flowering Dogwood Species Considerations
The species called flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is native to the eastern United States and has slow-growing roots. Planting that dogwood species in only spring is the best practice so its roots have the entire growing season to become established before winter, according to Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service. That planting time applies to bare-root, B and B, and container-grown trees. Flowering dogwood is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9a.
- The Oregonian: Five Dogwoods That Deliver Stunning Blooms
- Chico ER: The Real Dirt -- Winter Is Time to Plant Bare-Root Fruit Trees
- Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service: Planting and Transplanting Landscape Trees and Shrubs
- University of Georgia Extension: Growing Dogwoods
- Molbak's Garden Plus Home and Woodinville Weekly: The Beauty of Bare Root
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Cornus Florida, Flowering Dogwood
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Planting Trees Correctly
- Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service: Fall Ideal for Planting Trees and Shrubs
Carolyn Csanyi began writing in 1973, specializing in topics related to plants, insects and southwestern ecology. Her work has appeared in the "American Midland Naturalist" and Greenwood Press. Csanyi holds a Doctor of Philosophy in biology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.