Forcing a dogwood to flower

Discussion in 'Cornus (dogwoods)' started by Daniel Mosquin, Oct 28, 2003.

  1. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    The following was received via email:

    I have a white dogwood tree that has not flowered for three years - it has flourishing green leaves but no buds. Should I do something now to force it to bloom in the Spring or Summer - I just want to see the white flowers. I live on Cape Cod, MA & the white dogwoods are beautiful- Thanks, Shirley
  2. Elmore

    Elmore Active Member 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    North Alabama USA
    Forcing bloom on Dogwood

    I have heard that "Ringing" the bark would encourage bloom. "Ringing" means taking a knife and cutting into the tissue 360 degrees around a branch. How deep? I don't know, but probably into the cambium, at least.
  3. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    Metro Vancouver, BC, Canada.
    aka girdling. this is to help bloom ? if you cut into the cambium or the bark, you are causing a wound in your tree that is going to hopefully attempt to seal and close off the damaged area. I can't see where this is a good thing for the plant. I am not arguing its effectiveness, it may force a plant to bloom, but I don't think it is a very good idea for the tree in the long term. Look at the reasons it may not be blooming. are the buds freezing off? that is a common problem where late frosts occur. is the plant stressed for other reasons? excess soil moisture, lack of nutrients, disease? blight? improper pruning (timing may be an issue as buds generally set in fall for next years flowers)?
  4. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

    Likes Received:
    San Joaquin Valley, California
    I realize this is way late a response for this thread
    but it may help with some of the other posts in
    other threads.

    Girdling can indeed induce flower production but
    no one talks about what happens to the limb either
    the next year or the following year. I would not
    do it ever- just too risky to create an open wound
    that probably will not close fast enough and heal
    before the onset of one or more fungus diseases
    just waiting for the opportunity to infect the tree.
    Borers also might sense the golden opportunity as
    the tree has become weakened by us.

    Our Cornus florida Dogwoods here bloomed in late
    March and are now starting to produce buds for next
    years flowering. We've had a strange weather pattern
    the last three years, going on the fourth. We've had a
    few ups and downs in temps such as being 100 degrees
    for a few days and then in the 80's for the next few days.
    Oddly enough the dramatic temperature reductions is
    what Dogwoods like to set flower buds. When people
    on the East Coast are concerned about so few and in
    some cases no flower bud set it tells me that aside from
    there not being much of a temperature fluctuation there
    has not been a lot of sunlight either. Cooling of temps
    and lots of sun will help me with my Cornus florida,
    Cornus nuttallii and my Cornus kousa in the mountains.
    Another thing that people are not fully aware of is that
    even though we buy a Cornus florida from a nursery
    with lots of bud set, it may take up to 5 years or more
    for us to see the same flower bud set again once the
    plants are in the ground. Our nursery people do not
    know the plants well enough to tell their customers
    that relatively unknown fact.

    Cornus floridas like having their roots compacted in
    a container, either by being root bound or grown in a
    heavy clay root ball to bloom profusely while at a

    If people can ever buy Cornus floridas that are not balled
    and burlap plants they would see much healthier plants
    for them in the long run but as the roots are entering
    their new home soil the plant is putting out new growth
    and with lots of new growth there will not be a dramatic
    setting of flower buds when the plants are in the ground.
    Most Dogwoods have to settle into their new homes for
    a few years before they will adapt to the new growing
    conditions for that tree. Most all of us are not able to buy
    locally grown Dogwoods which means that our plants are
    coming in from somewhere else and that somewhere else
    is usually Oregon. It takes time for a Cornus florida that
    is grown in Oregon to adapt to New Jersey and California
    for example. What does not help is the weather and the
    climatic conditions not playing along with our plants to
    help aid the attempts to produce flower buds. In most
    cases it is not the trees fault why the flower buds have
    not set it is more due to environmental factors.

    As a rule here on the Valley floor I will fertilize my
    Cornus floridas with a Camellia-Rhododendron food,
    acid based fertilizer, right after they bloom. I can usually
    expect to see flower buds start to form about 2-3 months
    later. In colder climates I would use a 0-10-10 fertilizer
    in early to mid-Summer to help induce flower bud
    formation and it does work for many of us in the foothill
    and mountainous regions here. I cannot speak for the
    East Coast as I have not grown Dogwoods there. It is
    the timing, not how much, of knowing when to apply the
    fertilizer that is most important to me.

    Give your plants due time to grow and develop and once
    they have adapted to your area they will begin to set flower
    buds. I have a pink bordered, white flowered Cornus kousa
    that I have at my cabin that only produced 1-2 flowers for
    over 8 years in the ground. It was a 12 year old tree when
    I planted it and since then it has bloomed its head off ever
    since. Just be patient with your plants and hopefully you
    will get better weather for flower bud initiation.

  5. Dogwoods are too choice and delicate to girdle intentionally. I also think it's probably the weather.
  6. Root pruning can be used to force a dogwood to bloom. Look up Master Gardener Manual: Pruning techniques (online).

Share This Page