My pink dogwood tree is....white now?

miraje(7a)April 11, 2011

Any thoughts on what would make a pink dogwood tree's flowers go white? Mine seems to have changed its mind about what kind of tree it wants to be. I found one source online that suggested that the soil may not be acidic enough, but I'm hoping to get some confirmation on that before I make a sulfur run to Lowes.

I'm also wondering why my dogwood always fully leafs out first before it flowers. All the other pictures I've seen of dogwoods are the other way around where they flower on bare branches and then leaf out. Is that something that depends on the variety or is there another reason?

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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I think you're on the right track in thinking that if you can acidify the soil the plant is growing in a bit, the colors may go back to being pink for next year. I'm not sure that adding sulphur will help this year's bracts because I don't know if they can change colors once they've emerged. If your soil pH is close to neutral, pink dogwoods sometimes do have white blooms but sometimes revert back to pink blooms if you can get the soil pH below about 6.5.

The only other thing I can think of is that pink dogwoods are notoriously difficult to raise from seed, so it is likely yours was budded/grafted onto a rootstock of the more common white-flowering dogwood. If that were true, if the dogwood ever froze back to an area down below the graft, the pink dogwood portion would be dead and new growth would come from the white dogwood portion. This sometimes happens with various kinds of grafted trees, including fruit trees. However, I think you would have noticed if your tree froze back and regrew from the ground and since you didn't mention that occurring, I'm going to assume it didn't occur and that you're just dealing with a soil pH that is too high to guarantee pink blooms.

It also would help if you feed it regularly with a fertilizer geared towards plants that prefer acidic conditions. Espoma's Holly-Tone or any fertilizer labeled for camellias and azaleas would be fine for that.


    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 8:35AM
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Thanks Dawn! Yeah, the tree is about five feet tall, and in the three years I've had it I've never seen it die back that much (or at all). It has had some heat and drought stress and is a slow grower, but it never seems to mind the cold.

Some of the flower bracts are *trying* to be pink it seems, so I'm fairly confident that it's a soil problem. We already have the azalea fertilizer for our blueberry and hollies, so it wouldn't be any problem at all to spread it around the tree too. Next time I go shopping I'll pick up some sulfur, too. I put compost around it last fall, so it's possible that the compost itself neutralized the pH a bit. The flowers were pink last spring!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 10:57AM
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Miraje... most likely the pictures you have seen are of Cornus florida, the American dogwood. Maybe your tree is Cornus Kousa the Chinese dogwood. If it is thats good because it will be resistant to anthracnose which is destroying alot of the dogwoods in the east.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 1:22PM
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I don't know. It is in peak flowering now, and I didn't think kousa flowered until May or later. Unfortunately I bought the thing from Lowes in a container, and the tag only said "pink dogwood". That's helpful!

I haven't really seen any signs of borers or anthracnose on it yet. It's just super sensitive to going without water for more than a week or so, especially later in the summer.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 1:33PM
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Say, maybe you guys could help me ID what kind of dogwood it is? I took a few pictures of it this evening when I got home. My first guess is that it's a 'Stellar Pink' which is a cross of cornus florida and cornus kousa, but I'm not an expert.

Keep in mind that the flowers are supposed to be pink, haha.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 10:10PM
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