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How To Grow And Care For Dogwood Bonsai

Dogwood bonsai is one of the most beautiful bonsai to grow outdoors. These trees grow large four-petaled blooms at the end of the spring, which makes them extremely showy.  After the buds die back, a large red berry follows.  The trunk of the tree has textured bark which gives the appearance of a mature tree. All these characteristics are ideal for bonsai. Growing and caring for a dogwood bonsai is not that hard cause they are naturally very hardy, but to bring out the characteristics you have to maintain their perfect growing conditions. 

Learn from the article how you can grow a dogwood bonsai, take care of it, and keep it healthy and showy for a long time. 

Types Of Dogwood Species Used For  Bonsai:

The dogwood species are from the Cornus genus, they have around 40 to 60 varieties of woody plants or trees in the family Cornaceae. The tree is relatively easy to differentiate by its flowers, fruits, and unique-looking bark. The majority of the varieties are deciduous, though there are a few which are evergreen shrubs. 

There are many types of dogwood trees, all with identical deep green leaves. The species will define the color of the flower, the berries, and the size as well. I will talk about the types that are famous for bonsai cultivation.

3 Cornus species are generally used for bonsai;

Cornus kousa/ Kousa Dogwood Bonsai:

Kousa dogwood bonsai is a broadly conical, deciduous bonsai species with textured bark and ovate, curved-margined, deep-green foliage. In autumn, leaves turn into a vibrant crimson-purple shade from green. At the beginning of the summer, deep-green flowers are grown in flowerheads. Buds are followed by fleshy red berries. This species is native to Japan and Korea. 

Cornus mas/ Cornelian Cherry Dogwood: 

Cornelian cherry dogwood is a strong, flaring, deciduous shrub or a naturally small species with ovate, deep-green leaves. The leaves will turn red-purple in autumn, deeper in color than kousa dogwood. Yellow flowers will grow from the flowerheads in the late winter. Oblong, juicy, bright red berries will grow in late Summer. This type is native to West Asia and Europe. 

Cornus Officinalis/ Japanese Cornel dogwood: 

Cornus officinalis is a hardy, flaring shrub with rugged, flaking brown bark and ovate deep-green leaves, It will produce yellow-colored flowers in the late winter and is followed by red cherry-like berries. The berries are edible when ripe. This species is native to Korea, Japan, and China. 

How To Grow Dogwood Bonsai?

Dogwood is not too challenging to grow and if you have cultivated a bonsai before it will be a piece of cake for you. There are a few methods to grow dogwood bonsai. First, you need to determine if you want to grow it from seeds or cuttings. Both work well and both have their disadvantages. If you successfully propagated a tree you will have to style it. Many beginners prefer buying a pre-styled bonsai so in that case all you have to do is prune the bonsai and it will be good to go. Let’s talk about all of them. 


As I have mentioned before many prefer to buy an already trained bonsai. But many enthusiasts propagate the bonsai to have a desired look and style on them. Off course it will take time, but there’s a different kind of excitement of growing bonsai on your own. There are two methods to propagate a bonsai- seeds and cutting. Let’s discuss how you can do it one by one. 

Seeds Propagation:

The drawbacks of seed propagation are that the success rate of germination is low and it will take the longest time. But you will have the upper hand from the beginning. So here’s how you can successfully grow dogwood bonsai from seeds. 

1. Collect the seeds. If you live in the native area of the plant you can collect the seeds from the wild. But make sure to collect them from a non-hybrid tree and hybrid ones do not produce viable seeds. You can also purchase it from your local garden store or online. Fall is the best time for seed propagation, especially mid to late fall. 

2. Take a shallow container and fill it will potting soil that has good drainage. Moisten the soil. Spread the seeds evenly over it. Use multiple seeds for more success rate. Now put a thin layer of soil over it and moisten it again, but carefully do this to not disturb the placements of the seeds. 

3. Keep the container in a humid and maintain the temperature at least 35 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit. You can keep them in warmer temperatures gradually. Some people prefer to cover the container with plastic wrap to increase the humidity. 

4. Keep them like this until the seedlings are 4 inches tall. After that, you can transplant them in separate pots, but make sure you don’t damage the roots in the process as this time the roots are extremely delicate.


Cutting propagation also has a low success rate, but one positive fact about cutting is that you will know exactly how your bonsai would look. On the other hand, cutting takes less time than seeds. For cutting propagation you have to;

1. Use a clean pair of shears and cut some young branches from the mother tree. Make sure they have one to two leaf nodes. Also, take multiple cuttings to increase the success rate. 

2. Use standard bonsai soil and fill them up in a shallow pot. Water the soil and make holes with pencil-like objects. This will not disturb the cuttings later and the process will be smooth. 

3. Take the cuttings and clean out the leaves from the lower part. Dip the lower part of the rooting hormone. This step is skipable but it will definitely give a boost. 

4. Now insert the cuttings in the holes and use your fingers to keep them in place, intact. 

5. Water the cuttings and keep them in a humid and well-lit area. Keep it like that for a month or two. Tug them gently to determine which ones had produced roots. Take them out and place them in separate pots to provide more space.


When your plant is a couple of years old, they are ready to get styled. To style the bonsai you need to prune, pinch, and train them. 

Fall is the best time to prune dogwood bonsai. They grow rapidly, so if you go overboard with pruning they will recover pretty quickly. You can do root pruning as well but do it with extreme care. 

During their rapid growing season, you might see them growing vigorously. You need to pinch them from time to time to keep them in the particular shape that you want. 

Wiring is challenging for new owners. Dogwood bonsai would take wiring well so you can go with this bonsai as a beginner. Late fall is the best time for wiring when the tree has slowed down its growth. Check the tree from time to time to make sure the wire isn’t biting the bark. 

Dogwood Bonsai Care:


Dogwood bonsai does best in filtered light to full sun, depending on the type of your bonsai. In most circumstances, expect that they will enjoy partial shade. If you see that the bonsai isn’t growing a lot of flowers, reposition the pot to a brighter area. They do require protection against extremely hot sunny days. A shade cloth is an ideal option for this issue.


Dogwood bonsai trees handle a relatively wide range of temperatures. They tolerate warm-to-hot conditions as well as cool-to-cold. They need to be sheltered under shade in extremely hot areas and wind and frost protection in extremely cold weather. For healthy growth, they must go through a dormant period in winter, so it’s better to keep them outdoors and only consider taking them inside on the worst day. 


As we mentioned the dogwood bonsai will do best in full sun or partial shade with good air circulation. If the bonsai are not exposed to sufficient natural light, they will deliver fewer flowers. During the hottest weeks in mid-summer, it is best to provide some shadow over noon and early afternoon. A place beside the wall is better if it has sunlight reach as it will protect the tree from harsh winds in winter. 


Dogwood bonsai thrives in high-quality potting soil that depletes the excess water quickly. It loves the soil when it’s slightly acidic, with a pH between 5.5 and 6. Many retail potting soils that are available in the local market are closer to neutral, so check the level to see what the pH level is for each brand and also look for soil created for acid-loving plants.


Dogwood bonsai have a few special requirements when it comes to watering. Let the soil dry out entirely briefly between each session of watering. The bonsai need humidity and a moist environment in the summer, so consider misting the leaves. Make sure the soil is not left dry for more than two days. They love water but don’t appreciate getting soggy, so the pot should have a proper drainage system. You can decrease the amount of watering in winter but keep the soil lightly moist. 


The dogwood bonsai tree will do nicely with either a weekly application of diluted liquid bonsai fertilizer or a monthly usage of solid organic fertilizer. A balanced fertilizer is ideal for the bonsai. Liquid fertilizer in diluted form is easier to apply and keep a routine of it. Always start with a small amount (half of what was mentioned in the package) then you can increase it gradually if needed. 

Potting and Repotting:

Younger dogwood bonsai can be re-potted at the beginning of the spring every 2 or 4 years. You can prune the roots normally during the time of re-potting, after taking out the soil of the old pot with a root raker. Older dogwoods don’t need re-potting that often. If the roots are peaking out of the drainage holes and trying to escape out of them, it indicates they need more space to grow. Here’s how to re-pot;

  • Always disinfect the new pot before re-potting the dogwood into the pot.
  • Provide a new soil medium when re-potting to control fungus development or disease from blooming.
  • Put a mesh screen at the base of the pot, above the drainage holes then a layer of pebble for drainage. Then fill it with the soil and place the tree, add more soil around the roots and at the base of the trunk to keep it in place.
  • Water the tree instantly after you are done with re-potting.
  • Wait at least 4 weeks before fertilizing the bonsai after re-potting and giving them direct sunlight.

Common Pests and Diseases:

Even though they are hardy in nature, unfortunately, they are susceptible to various common pests and diseases;

Powdery mildew:

Emerging as a white powdery coating that covers the tree, powdery mildew may force the leaves of your tree to turn yellow or brown. Get rid of this fungus with the help of neem oil. Usually, this problem arises because the plant doesn’t have sufficient air circulation.


Small pests appear underneath the leaves or at the bottom of the leaves. These pests can destroy the entire plant if you ignore them for longer. They hide under the leaves and suck the juice from it to survive. You can manually remove them if the amount is less or you can use your soapy water, rubbing alcohol, or neem oil as well. 


Aphids leave dewy substances on the leaves and can attract ants. Once you get rid of the aphids you will get rid of the ants as well. 

Spider mites:

Their effect is like aphids. These tiny intruders also suck on the sap of the leaves and stems. They are tiny so it’s hard to notice them, but you can identify them with small waves like spiders do. Use the same method as aphids to get rid of them. 


Dogwood bonsai indoor or outdoor bonsai?

Dogwood bonsai is ideal as an outdoor bonsai. The tree requires plenty of light during the whole year, so it needs to stay outdoors as much as possible, especially during the growing season. For visible growth, it needs to go dormant as well so you need to keep them outdoors the whole time with protection during the worst days. 

Can dogwood trees be cultivated as bonsai?

It’s very doable to bonsai a dogwood tree; of course, some types of dogwood are easier to style and wire than other types. All bonsai trees need some level of care, and dogwood bonsai falls someplace in the centre in regards to hardship in terms of care.

Why is dogwood good for bonsai?

The tree grows edible fruit, and beautiful flowers, and makes overall beautiful bonsai specimens. They’re frost-hardy, as well.

How long does dogwood bonsai take to grow? 

Even though it depends on the species you are growing, generally dogwood bonsai will take around 2 years to grow and be ready to be styled and trained. 

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