Garden Detective

His dogwood refuses to follow the pack

Cornus kousa is a dogwood species common in Sacramento that blooms in late spring.
Cornus kousa is a dogwood species common in Sacramento that blooms in late spring. Bigstock

Experts tackle readers’ garden questions.

Q: I reside in the East Sacramento area and am surrounded with neighbors who have beautiful dogwood trees that develop flowers first followed by a crop of leaves. Conversely, I have a 12-year-old dogwood, approximately 10 feet high, located on the north side of the residence. It gets no morning sun but does get lots of afternoon sun. My question is: Why does it develop beautiful leaves in the spring but no flowers? Unlike all other dogwoods in our area, mine will develop approximately two dozen flowers on the entire tree, later on in the growing season.

Sam Azevedo,

East Sacramento

Master gardener Annie Kempees: Two species of dogwood are most common to Sacramento: Cornus florida and Cornus kousa. Florida blooms in early spring, whereas kousa flowers emerge in late spring or early summer. It may be that you have a kousa.

Dogwoods (Cornus species) have specific sun and shade preferences and watering needs depending on the variety. Because the summers in the Central Valley are hot and dry, a good area to plant most dogwoods is on the east side of your garden. This way it will have morning sun and shade in the hot afternoons. Some varieties do very well as understory trees receiving dappled light all day long.

The information you provided indicates your tree may not be receiving enough sun for it to bloom in the early spring, since it’s on the north side of your house. This location may not lend itself to optimum conditions for your tree. You may want to consider moving it, if that is possible, or planting another dogwood in a more appropriate location.

Other cultural factors also have an effect on bloom production. Verify during irrigation that the water reaches the entire root zone and drainage is adequate to eliminate standing water.

Annie Kempees is a UC Cooperative Extension master gardener in Sacramento County.

More on ‘monster fruit’

Alert reader Peter Welch spotted an issue with the Garden Detective’s identification (Feb. 13, Home & Garden). Julie Sweeny’s mystery plant in Roseville is a lacy tree philodendron, not a split-leaf philodendron or Monstera deliciosa, he said.

“While Monstera deliciosa does indeed have a delicious fruit, the plant pictured for your story Philodendron bipinnatifidum does not,” Welch said. “Its fruit should not be eaten.”

So, Sweeny’s plant was displaying typical behavior for a lacy tree philodendron by dropping its spent flowers before gigantic tropical fruit formed. These two plants look very similar, with deeply cut leaves.

“The two plants are easy to confuse as both are commonly called philodendrons by laymen even though the houseplant Monstera is not technically in that genus,” Welch added.

Debbie Arrington

Garden questions?

Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties. Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to h& Please put “Garden Detective” in the subject field and include your postal address. To contact UC Extension directly, call:

  • Sacramento: 916-875-6913; 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday
  • Amador: 209-223-6838; 10 a.m.-noon Monday-Thursday; website:
  • Butte: 530-538-7201; 8 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. weekdays
  • Colusa: 530-458-0570; 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Tuesdays; website:
  • El Dorado: 530-621-5512; 9 a.m.-noon Tuesday-Friday
  • Placer: 530-889-7388; 9 a.m.-noon Tuesday-Thursday or leave a message and calls will be returned; website:
  • Nevada: 530-273-0919; 9 a.m.-noon Tuesday-Thursday or leave a message
  • Shasta, Tehama, Trinity: 530-225-4605
  • Solano: 707-784-1322; leave a message and calls will be returned
  • Sutter, Yuba: 530-822-7515; 9 a.m.-noon Monday-Tuesday and 1-4 p.m. Thursdays
  • Yolo: 530-666-8737; 9-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays or leave a message and calls will be returned

To Our Readers:

The Garden Detective column is a collaboration between The Bee and the UC Cooperative Extension. The Bee forwards reader questions to UC and publishes answers from the master gardeners. On occasion, Bee reporter Debbie Arrington, a certified consulting rosarian, will answer a question or add information to the UC response. Mostly, however, she edits the column.

Our recent presentation of this longtime column has confused the sourcing. Beginning today it will more clearly identify the person writing the answer to the question. UC master gardeners typically will compile answers from a variety of UC publications and experts without citing an author unless that author has requested acknowledgment. Last week’s column, for instance, should have credited Mary Lou Flint, Extension entomologist emeritus, UCD, and author of “Pests of the Garden and Small Farms.”