How to Grow Flowering
Dogwood Trees from Seed
by Michael J. McGroarty -
Flowering Dogwood trees can be easily grown from seed,
however 99.9999% of the seedlings that sprout will be Cornus
Florida, which is White Flowering Dogwood. It doesnít matter
if you collect the seeds from a White Dogwood or a Pink
Dogwood, the seedlings are likely to be white. The only
predictable way to grow a Pink Dogwood, Red Dogwood, or one
of the beautiful Dogwoods with variegated leaves, is to bud
or graft the desired variety onto a White Dogwood seedling.
See this page for details on "budding".
Dogwood trees begin producing seeds right after the petals
drop from the flowers. Itís a slow process that takes all
summer. By late summer the seeds begin to turn red, which
means they are just about mature. Donít pick them too early
or the embryo will not be fully developed and they will not
be viable. When the seeds are fully developed they will
begin to fall from the tree, and at that time you can begin
to pick them.
Ripe seeds can be removed easily. If they donít pop right
off when you grab them, they are not quite ready, give them
another week or two. Donít let them fall to the ground, the
chipmunks, birds and other critters love them, and usually
eat them as fast as they fall.
Once picked, let them sit for a week or so, until the pulp
begins to soften. At that time soak them in a pail of water
to further soften the pulp. While still in the pail of water
squeeze the seeds between your fingers to separate the seeds
from the pulp. Once they are separated slowly add water to
the pail until it over flows, allowing the water to flow
over the edge of the pail slowly. The viable seeds should
sink to the bottom of the pail, while the pulp should float
to the top. Allow the pulp to float out of the pail until
you have nothing but clean seeds laying on the bottom of the
Drain the water and spread the seeds out on a table to dry.
Once dry the seeds can be stored in a cool dry place. They
will keep this way for some time.
Because Dogwood seeds have a very hard outer coating on the
seed, they need to be pretreated or stratified before they
will germinate. This process softens the outer coating so
that water and oxygen can enter, initiating the germination
process. There are several ways to stratify Dogwood seeds,
from treating them with acid to storing them in the
refrigerator. I will share a couple of techniques that I
think will work the best for someone with little experience.
One technique requires that you decide what day next spring
you would like to plant the seeds and then counting
backwards on your calendar for 210 days to start the
stratification process. Here in the north May 15 is a good
target date for planting because by then we should be safe
from frost. You donít want Mother Nature to do them in
before they even have a chance.
210 days from May 15 would put you around Oct. 15 to start
the stratification process. To stratify the seeds using this
technique simply place them in a plastic bag with some moist
(not wet!) peat moss, or a mixture of moist peat and sand.
Poke some holes in the bag, you donít want it air tight.
Store them in this mixture at room temperature for a period
of 105 days.
After 105 days move them to your refrigerator for another
105 days. Donít put them way in the back where they might
freeze. You want them cool, but not frozen. After 105 days
of storage in the refrigerator they should be ready to plant
outside. Just time it so that you get them outside just
after the danger of frost has past.
While the seeds are being stored check them weekly, if you
have fungus growing in the bag sprinkle a little fungicide
in. Near the end of the storage period you should be
checking for germination, as soon as 10% of the seeds have
germinated they should be planted out. If itís too early,
plant them in a flat indoors, just make sure they get plenty
To plant them simply sprinkle the entire contents of the bag
on top of the soil and spread it out. Sprinkle some light
soil over top. Do not plant the seeds too deep. ľĒ of soil
over top is all you want. Water them thoroughly after
planting, then allow the soil to dry out before watering
again. Make sure you plant them in an area that drains well,
you donít want them in soggy soil or they will rot.
Thatís one technique. Another technique is to nick each seed
in a couple of different places with a knife right after the
seeds are cleaned, and plant them out immediately in the
fall. Cover the seed bed with a piece of screen so the
critters donít dig them up and eat them.
Which technique works better?
I donít know. There are so many variables that can change
the out come that I have not seen where one works better
than the other. I suggest you do some each way and see what
works best for you. I like getting them planted right away
in the fall and putting Mother Nature in charge, but itís
disappointing if something happens and you have a poor
stand, thatís why itís always nice to try some both ways.
You can also grow Chinese Dogwood (Cornus Kousa) from seed.
Chinese Dogwood is very popular because it flowers much
later than most other ornamentals. Late June is usually when
they are in bloom, and the flowers are cream colored against
dark green foliage. It makes the flowers look mint green in
color. Just use the same techniques as above.