Each kousa dogwood bloom sports four pointed white petals, called bracts.

How to Plant a Kousa Dogwood

by Jessica Westover

The kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) grows as a small tree or large shrub and can provide ornamental beauty in your landscape with its white spring flowers if you live in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8. Also known as the Japanese dogwood, this deciduous plant reaches a height of 15 to 30 feet with an equal spread and works well when planted as a focal point, screen, border or container tree. Your dogwood will thrive in full to partial sunlight and fast-draining, acidic soils. Kousa dogwood can be successfully established when it's planted during the late fall or winter while still dormant.

Put on gloves to protect your hands from scratches, cuts or soil-borne diseases during the planting process. Remove weeds and debris from a planting site in full to partial sunlight that has fast-draining, fertile soil and at least 30 feet of vertical space.

Dig a hole in the planting site with a shovel, making it twice as wide and equal in depth to the kousa dogwood's root ball. Space the hole 15 to 30 feet away from other trees, buildings and stationary objects. Insert the shovel's blade randomly into the hole's sides to create slits that will encourage outward root growth.

Slide the kousa dogwood from its container carefully and remove any wrappings from around the root ball. Cut off any discolored, mushy, dead, broken or shriveled roots with clean pruning shears. Make four evenly spaced 1-inch-deep vertical cuts around the root ball with a knife to slice through circling roots.

Place the tree in the center of the hole. Add or remove soil from the hole's bottom, if needed, to position the root ball's top even with the surrounding ground. Ensure that the tree stands straight.

Fill half of the hole with the soil you dug up. Crush any soil clods before they enter the hole. Tamp the soil down around the roots with your hands or the end of the shovel's handle. Fill the hole with water from a garden hose. Wait for the water to soak completely into the soil.

Fill the hole's remaining space with soil, tamping it down as before. Do not overfill the hole with soil or bury the root ball deeper than it was previously growing. Keep the hole's soil level even with the surrounding ground.

Pile the remaining displaced soil into a 3-inch-high ring around the edge of the buried root ball. Tamp the soil in the ring to firm it in place. Fill the ring's interior with water. Wait for the water to drain into the soil.

Spread a 2- to 4-inch-deep layer of mulch over the planting site around the tree with a rake. Keep the mulch 3 inches away from the kousa dogwood's trunk to prevent its bark from rotting. Cover the ground under the tree's canopy and at least 12 to 24 inches past its perimeter.

Water the kousa dogwood daily as needed for the first one to two weeks after planting to keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy.

Items you will need

  • Gloves
  • Shovel
  • Pruning shears
  • Knife
  • Garden hose
  • Mulch
  • Rake


  • Reduce watering to once per week for loamy soils and twice per week for sandy soils, applying 1 inch of water at each application, until the tree becomes established and begins to produces new growth. Never overwater to the point that the soil becomes soggy or develops standing water. Skip the weekly watering if the tree receives 1 inch or more water from rainfall.

Photo Credits

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