Kousa dogwood not thriving

mrblandings(z6 MA)May 24, 2009

I have a kousa dogwood that I planted eight years ago. It blooms every year but has not put out any new growth, and every year one or two more small branches die back. It gets full sun and I have been fertilizing with Holly Tone each spring. From the photo you can also see that the leaves are small (relative to other kousas I've seen) and have brown edges.

I thought it might be lack of water, as the tree is in a raised area that drains very quickly. Last summer I made an effort to give it a heavy watering at least monthly, even weekly in the hottest part of the summer, but this doesn't seem to have made much difference.

I showed this picture to someone at our local nursery and he thought it might be anthracnose, but it doesn't look like any of the anthracnose photos I've seen, which all show spots on the leaves. The leaves don't fall off or get any worse -- they just have the brown edges you see in the photo and stay like that all season.

Our soil tends towards heavy clay, though I did dig up the bed and mix in a fair amount of peat moss and compost when I planted the tree. A crabapple planted at the same time in the same soil nearby is growing very well.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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snasxs(7-8 VA)

It might be sun burn.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 1:13PM
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bob-tooley(6 Maine- 5)

Generally how a tree leafs out in the spring is a result of how it went into the previous fall season as well as wintering problems. It's not anthrachnose, and it's a common leaf discoloration in the northeast which never causes any alarm. I'm not a supporter of the standard watering procedures for newly planted trees where water is applied directly into the planting hole. I favor watering well beyond where you know the roots to be and 'make' them come to it...like a lazy dog, if you want him to move..move his water dish. This 'forces' the tree to grow roots outward into new soils with new nutrients, and the larger the root surface diameter, the closer the tree becomes to being self-supporting.. I also encourage a soil test being made before any generalized fertilizer or soil additives are used to insure the plants aren't overly high in one nutrient element causing a soil toxicity problem.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2009 at 8:22PM
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bob-tooley(6 Maine- 5)

A few things I overlooked until I re-read your post:

I assume you are from Massachusetts by your zone and the accompanying abbreviation. Holly Tone is a high acid fertilizer, and in Maine with our acid soils and acid rains you could make car batteries using the water. Your leaves are almost a dogwood 'standard' for coloration here, so I'm concerned about the pH values of your soil since I've long suspected acid being the primary cause in this region, combined with your not being that remote from us. High acid soils bond nutrients to soil particles, especially clay-types, so you might have sufficient nutrients, but the soil doesn't release them...the refrigerator may be full, but someone's put a lock on it.... This might account for your minimal growth problems as well as smaller leaves...

    Bookmark   May 29, 2009 at 9:21PM
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Kousa dogwoods thrive in the highly acidic soil of Cape Cod. These soils are also very sandy and well drained. If the tree in question is not putting out adequate new growth I suspect the problem is in the root system. It wouldn't be surprising if the root ball had not grown at all since planting. It could be the soil is too heavy or perhaps the burlap was left on the root ball at time of planting. The photo shows no signs of anthracnose. Kousa dogwoods advantage of Cornus florida is that it is highly resistant to anthracnose. I've never seen Kousa dogwoods thriving in maine, only surviving. Perhaps our soil remains cool for too long.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2009 at 5:55PM
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dave4242(z5 CT)

Mine looks similar. One side of the tree had practically no new growth. The other side had at least 8 inches of growth from last year. It also has one branch at the crown that is dead.
I had an arborist look at it, and he said it is most likely a root problem. He recommends root invigoration where they blast the compacted soil off the roots for a depth of 6" then place fertilizer, compost and mulch over it.
Her also said they would get rid of any girdling roots around the trunk.
It's not cheap, but I'm willing to give this a try, as the tree is about 10-12 feet tall.
The videos/photos I've seen of trees before and after this root invigoration were impressive. They are at www.bartlett.com.Has anyone heard of this and whether it is effective? Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 8:03AM
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I know this is an older post, but this might help someone doing a search for a similar problem. My Kousa (zone 5, northern Indiana) leaves are very similar to the picture by the OP. I saw a description with drawing in Garden Gate magazine referring to the condition as "Bacertial Leaf Scorch." The article said that there is really no cure, and that a branch or two will die every season, with the tree eventually succumbing. The cause was attributed to drought stress when the tree is younger, if I remember correctly. Our soil is quite sandy and well draining and my tree is growing in at least half shade. I've tried watering more often this season and applied extra mulch, but the leaves are beginning to turn brown on the edges just within the past week or two. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 4:27PM
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I would like to plant dogwood trees down the side of my property. They would be exposed to morning and evening sun. I live in Jacksonville Florida and did not know if dogwoods do well here and would appreciate input.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 12:20PM
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