Faithful readers, it is time once again for Grumpy to provide a 100% guaranteed correct answer to one of your most pressing gardening questions. This week's question deals with a beloved, iconic tree native to the South -- flowering dogwood (Cornus florida).
Diane writes: "I have a white dogwood that has NEVER bloomed. It is in an area with light shade. I water it, talk to it, sing to it, feed it once every season, and yet...nothing. Nothing but green leaves. Why?"
Grumpy's Most Excellent Answer: Several factors may be involved here. Let me enumerate.
1. Not enough sun. Dogwood will grow just fine in shade, but it won't bloom there. The more sun it gets, the more flowers you get. While light, afternoon shade is recommended in the Lower and Coastal South (USDA Zones 8-9), flowering dogwood does perfectly fine in full sun elsewhere -- provided it's growing in moist, acid, well-drained soil and you remember to water during summer droughts.
2. You may have a seed-grown tree, as opposed to one grown from a graft or cutting. Seedlings trees (like the ones you dig from the woods) vary greatly in how they bloom. The ones in Grumpy's back yard, for example, bear small numbers of puny, white flowers. Nothing I can do will change that. Many trees sold as just "dogwood" at nurseries are grown from seed.
3. That's why it's always a good idea to buy a named dogwood selection grown from a graft or cutting. These selections are chosen for reliable, heavy displays of showy flowers that appear even on young trees. Good choices include 'Appalachian Spring' (white), 'Cloud 9' (white), 'Cherokee Chief' (red), and 'Sweetwater Red' (red). These trees are tend to be more disease-resistant than wild ones.