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Past Articles Library | Trees | How to Grow a Religious Symbol-The Dogwood

Did you know that a dogwood tree has a religious symbol to it?  Well, the next time you observe a dogwood blooming, take a look at the blooms.  These blooms are created by four flat like petals that can be either white or pink.  At the end of each petal is a black spot that some say resembles the crucifixion.  Beyond the religious symbolism, the dogwood provides year round beauty in the landscape.  In the spring, the tree begins show that starts out with a shower of flowers.  While the flowers themselves are green, the true star of these is the bracts or modified leaves that appear to be petals.  The true flowers are located in the center of the four bracts, which make up what appears to be one flower. 

In the summer, the vibrant green foliage and dark bark adds a contrast to the never ending sea of green grass.   As the season progresses, the green foliage changes to several different shades of yellow, red, and maroon while the tree’s fruits are moving from green to red. 

Dogwoods can be found in many different environments, which includes partial shade to direct sunlight.  But while they are very diverse, they do not do well if they are relocated and placed in a sunnier or shadier location.   This is the reason way many wild specimens die when they are transplanted in to landscape.    If you are looking for a more successful way of adding a dogwood to your landscape, look into purchasing a nursery grown variety.  These are more apt to survive if planted in a similar environment.

When it comes to planting a dogwood many people make a major mistake and that is they do not did the hole correctly.  Dogwood’s have shallow roots and require a hole that is three times the width of the container they came in.  The depth needs to be the same as the container. 

Once the hole has been dug, take a good look at the soil.  Does it have a lot of clay?  Or does water run through it like a sieve.  If your soil has a lot of clay, add drainage material, sand or plant the dogwood slightly higher than usual.  This will prevent the tree from having “wet feet” and rotting.  On the other hand, if the water just runs through remediate it with peat moss.  This simple substance will help hold the water so that the plant does not dry out and has a chance to absorb the water before it is whisked away.

After the tree has been planted, measure out 6 inches and place a metal stake.  Do this in 2 additional locations.  The reason for this is to map out an area by which you can lay 3 to 4 inches of mulch.  This will help control weeds while protecting the trunk from damage.  A damaged trunk is a welcome mat for the dogwood bore.  The bore’s larvae live under the bark and feed.  This feeding can eventually kill the tree.

Water the tree twice a week during the growing season for the first two years.  Also, fertilize your young tree with 1 tablespoon of 16-4-8 fertilizer in March and July.  If your tree is a newly established one that is 6 feet in height, feed up to 4 tablespoons.  An established tree will require 1 cup per inch in diameter while a mature tree will require half of the noted amount since rapid growth is not desired. 

If you are looking for another way of getting a dogwood, consider growing one from seed.  This process begins by harvesting the “fruits” in October to November.  As you collected the “fruits” you may have noticed a waxy hard coating on the fruit.  This coating in nature is removed by rodents whose teeth break this shell but to artificially mimic this process, one needs to first soak the “fruit” for 1 to 2 days.  After that time period has passed, scoop off those that are floating and save the rest.  Those that float are not viable or in other words will not germinate.  The remaining seeds will need to be rubbed between ones hands or rubbed up against a screen to remove the pulp.

If you are not ready to plant the seeds, place them in a container of that contains peat moss.  Place in the refrigerator that is kept at 35 to 40 degrees until you are ready to plant.

On the other hand, if you are ready to plant now, fill a cleaned flat or container with a mixture of one part peat moss and one part of sand.  Plant the seed ½ deep and 1 inch apart in rows that are 6 inches apart.  Add a layer of compost, pine straw or bark as mulch to conserve moisture.  Place a screen on top to keep rodents away from the seeds.

Place outside and water as needed to keep the soil evenly moist.  Once the seeds germinate, water gently.  Dogwood seedlings are very weak and can easily be broken off with a strong pulse of water.  Continue to monitor soil moisture and water as needed throughout the growing season.

Feeding your seedlings is very important for healthy growth.  A good, general fertilizer (16-4-8) is all that is needed and should be applied at a rate of 1 teaspoon per square foot of bed area.  To apply, broadcast the fertilizer over the bed area and water in.  Repeat this process every 6 weeks until September.

Moving your seedling to its permanent location should only occur during your seedlings first or second winter.  To do this requires one to dig up as many roots as possible and moving to its new location as soon as you can.  This will prevent the roots, especially the feeder roots from becoming too dry and dying.

Planting underneath a dogwood tree is neither unheard of nor harmful if you plant plants that have shallow roots and are perennials.  Planting perennials reduces the chances of damaging the roots from repeated plantings.  To help guide you in this planting technique, consider using sedums, periwinkle, creeping myrtle, lilyturf, and even mondo grass in the mulched area.

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Purple Knight Alternanthera

This ground cover likes partial sun to full sun.

It grows 16 to 20 inches (40-50 cm) tall, and 2 to 3 feet (60-90 cm) wide. It is very heat tolerant.

Its beautiful purple leaves make an excellent accent plant in the garden.

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