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How To Grow Flowering Dogwood Trees From Seed

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Flowering Dogwood Trees
Photo by Tokyo Kohaku on Unsplash

A detailed guide to Growing Cornus Florida

When it comes to growing a particular variety of Dogwood, such as Red or Pink Dogwood, the only guaranteed way to go about it is grafting – the chosen variety gets grafted onto a White Dogwood seedling. That is because the majority of Flowering Dogwood seeds grow into White Dogwoods, even if collected from the Pink variety. If you aren’t too picky about the particular variety and don’t mind a White Dogwood tree, the easiest way to propagate this tree is by seeds.

How To Get Seeds From A Dogwood?

Dogwood trees produce seeds over the whole summertime, starting the process immediately after the petals fall from the flowers. The seeds will be almost mature in late summer – you can tell by their red shade. However, wait until they are ripe because picking the seeds too early when not completely developed won’t give a successful result. A good rule of thumb is to wait until the seeds fall from the trees before collecting them. Once they’re on the ground, pick them up before small animals get to them.

how to get seed from dogwood tree

How can you check if the seeds are ripe?

You can tell whether the seeds are ripe by how easy it is to remove them from the pulp around them – mature seeds are easily removed from the pulp and should pop right out. If the seeds aren’t ripe, give them additional time to ripen.

Letting the seeds sit out for one to two weeks helps the pulp soften. To remove the pulp from the seeds, soak it in a container of water and manually pull the pulp from the seeds to separate the two. Once you’ve finished separating the two, add more water to your bucket until it starts to overflow. The pulp will float to the top, while the viable seeds will sink to the bottom of your container.

Once you’ve taken your seeds out of the water, lay them on a flat surface and let them dry. Dried seeds can be stored in a cool and dry place for long periods.

How do stratify dogwood seeds?

So, now that you have your dogwood seeds, it’s time to use them to grow a new tree. However, before you go ahead and plant the seeds, they need to go through the stratification process. That is because dogwood seeds have a very hard outer shell that needs to be treated before the seeds can germinate. And germination is a necessary step for a new tree to grow. There are several ways to stratify Dogwood seeds – treating them with acid or just storing them in your fridge are a couple of options. Let’s talk about two simple ways to grow a Dogwood tree that are easy to follow, even for beginner gardeners.

growing white dogwood tree from seed

Growing Flowering Dogwood trees method number one

Before you start propagating your Dogwood trees, you have to decide when exactly you would like to plant your seeds. You can do that at any time during the summer. Once you have decided on the date, count backward 210 days – that leaves you with a date when you will begin your stratifying process. We advise shooting for May 15th, North of the Mason-Dixon line, for planting – the dangers of frost are over by that time. So, if you pick the 15th of May for planting your Dogwood tree seeds, you should begin stratifying them around the 15th of October. Who knew even gardening requires some mathematics?

How to stratify?

What exactly does the stratifying process look like? To get started, you will need your seeds, a zipper-lock plastic bag, and some moist (not wet) peat moss or a mixture of moist peat and sand. Fill your plastic bag with your chosen filling and put the seeds in it. Poke a few tiny holes in the bag – this helps the air circulate. Once that’s done, leave the bag in a safe space at room temperature for 105 days.

So if you started stratifying your seeds on the 15th of October, they should be stored at room temperature until the end of January. After 105 days at room temperature, Dogwood seeds require 105 more days in a refrigerator – don’t put them in the freezer or the very far back of the fridge, as freezing these seeds would require you to start your propagation project all over. The seeds are ready to be planted outside once they’ve been in the fridge for the mentioned time.

How long does it take?

The stratifying process is quite long, lasting around 210 days. That does not mean you can forget about the seeds while they’re stored away. It is important to check on them weekly. Don’t freak out if you notice fungus growing in the bag during your weekly check-in. That can happen but should get treated immediately – sprinkle a bit of fungicide in the bag.

During the end of the storing period, keep an eye out for germination. You can plant the seeds outside when around 10% of them have started to germinate. Plant the seeds indoors if it’s still too early and the frost is not completely gone. Use a nursery flat and place it under a south-facing window to allow the seeds to get sunlight.

Planting the germinated seeds

The planting itself is as simple as it can get – any child could do it. Pour your seeds into your planting bed and spread them out. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. Don’t get too carried away – ¼ inch of soil is all you need. Give the seeds a good thorough watering once you’re done with planting. Regular watering is necessary but avoid doing it too frequently. Let the soil almost completely dry out before watering it again. To prevent your seeds from rotting, ensure the water drainage is good.

Growing Cornus Florida method number two

There is another way to grow Dogwood trees from seeds, a much less time-consuming way at that. After collecting your seeds and cleaning them, use the help of a sharp knife to nick them in a couple of different places. Some gardening enthusiasts even throw the seeds in a kitchen blender for a minute instead of using a knife – this is another option, but don’t get too carried away.

You can plant the seeds immediately in the fall – no need to store them away for months at first. And we don’t get tired of saying this – cover the seed bed with a screen layer. That helps to avoid critters digging the seeds up and eating them.

growing pink dogwood tree from seed

What is the best method for growing Flowering Dogwood trees?

If you’re excited to try growing a Dogwood tree from seed for the first time, you might wonder which technique works best. However, it’s hard to say which method has a higher success rate as the outcome depends on many small details.

Like when to plant dogwood seeds? While some growers prefer to plant the seeds in the fall, some like to go through the stratifying process and plant the seeds in late spring. The only way to find out which method you prefer is to try them both.

How to take care of the dogwood saplings?

The growing method does not end with seed planting. It would be best to take care of the youngling until it gets strong enough to transfer outside. The tree itself starts to grow pretty fast, if you plant the seed in the middle of the fall, it can grow about 12 inches tall until the end of the year.

dogwood sapling from seed growing

When should you move out of the sapling to its new home?

While flowering dogwoods aren’t considered sensitive species, you should plant them outside carefully. First, you have to start hardening off the sapling at the end of the winter. It would be best to wait with the planting until the weather is safe and there is no chance of frost.

Flowering Dogwood’s common diseases and pests

Cornus florida is a native tree in the eastern United States, however, there are still many pests and diseases that could affect it:

  • Powdery Mildew: A type of fungus that attacks its leaf and left a white powdering coat.
  • Spot Anthracnose: Another fungus which is often cause diseases to the tree. Usually, it can be recognized by bright, tiny tan spots.
  • Dogwood Anthracnose: A quite new fungus that mostly attacks Dogwood trees above 2000 feet. Unfortunetaly, the fungus can cause very serious damage to the tree.
  • Dogwood Borer: Clearwing moth’s larva can cause decent damage to the tree, however, it only can infect it, if the bark is damaged.

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How To Grow Flowering Dogwood Trees From Seed