Morris Plains the Community of Caring
531 Speedwell Ave, Morris Plains, NJ 07950     973-538-2224

Arbor Day Flyer (PDF)

Learn about the Silky Dogwood that residents were able to take home from the Arbor Day Celebration below! 

Silky dogwood seedlings provided to Morris Plains Residents

Silky dogwood is a large shrub, often 6-10 feet in height. The growth habit is upright rounded, but where stems are in contact with the ground, roots are formed. This behavior creates thickets. Young dogwoods have bright red stems in the fall, winter and early spring, which turn reddish-brown in the summer. You could effectively use these for hedgerows and windbreaks, or even as a specimen plant. One would look terrific at the back border of your garden, and they even work well for erosion control.

Your Silky Dogwood has attractive greenish-white flower clusters that appear in flat-topped, 2.5-inch clusters in the spring. The flowers mature to berry-like drupes that begin white but slowly transform to a lovely blue for the fall. The fruit is eaten by game birds, and is especially important as a source of food for migrating songbirds. The glossy, medium-green leaves are up to 5-inches long with noticeable veins and silky hairs on their undersides (thus this Dogwood’s name).

The Silky Dogwood grows to be 6′ – 10′ feet in height. It will mature to 6-8 feet tall with an equal spread, but can be trimmed to any size. It has no serious insect or disease issues and is relatively fastgrowing.

The stems and leaves of the silky dogwood tree remain a favorite food for deer, especially in the winter. Some gardeners use the trees to provide food for deer so they stay away from other areas of their garden. Others use the tree to welcome deer to their wildlife-friendly yards.

Planting of Bareroot Seedlings

Store seedlings in a cool, humid location in their unopened bundles until they are planted. Root cellars, crawl spaces, basements, and unheated barns work well for short time periods. Never allow seedlings to freeze or expose seedlings to temperatures above 60 degrees. During storage, check bare-root seedlings every two to four days to insure the roots and sphagnum moss packing material remain moist.
Prepare site for planting. Favorable seedling sites have high soil moisture levels; little competing vegetation; and soil with high organic matter, proper Ph, good aeration or texture, and good moisture retention. On most planting sites, water is the greatest limiting factor to survival.

Do not expose seedlings to direct sun and air during handling and preparation for planting. Only take the seedlings that can be planted in one day to the site. Use a hydroscopic root dip on seedlings – do not let seedling sit in dip, and do not shake the dip off roots. Then wrap roots in wet burlap. This will help protect roots from heat and drying.

Plant in early spring for high soil moisture levels and cool temperatures. The ideal temperature range to plant is 33 to 50 degrees. If it is warmer than 60 degrees or becomes windy, it is best to stop planting and wait for conditions to improve. A planting bar works well for digging narrow, deep holes. Each planting hole must be large enough to accommodate the root system in a natural form. Place the seedling in the hole spreading the roots downward and horizontally. Do not bunch roots at the bottom of the hole or fold them so that the roots ends are directed toward the surface. Incorrect planting depth is another cause of poor seedling survival. The root collar (soil surface line when the seedling was in the nursery beds) must be located at the soil surface when finished. After backfilling the hole with planting bar, check for correct root collar depth.

Fertilizer use on first-year seedlings is generally not recommended. After the first year, small applications of slow-release fertilizers with equal parts nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus will aid plant growth. Follow recommended rates carefully.
Give each seedling one to two gallons of water immediately after planting. Regular irrigation for the first two to three years can increase survival and greatly increase growth rates. Periodic deep watering is better than frequent light watering. Irrigate each plant with one to two gallons of water every one to two weeks during the summer. Gradually reduce irrigation in late summer to allow the seedlings to harden off for winter. Do not water if the ground is frozen.
Woven weed fabric is the best mulch for seedlings. It controls all weeds, reduces evaporation from the soil around the roots, and allows water and air to pass through. Other good mulch materials are wood chips; bark chips, straw, and composted sawdust. Mulch should be no deeper than three inches. Grass clippings seem to attract rodents and are not recommended.

  • Restrict access to seedlings or apply repellents to control deer browse. Rigid net-like tubes are available from many reforestation suppliers. These are effective at discouraging browse of the terminal bud, but require annual maintenance.
  • Repellants have given variable and on consistent results but there are several that appear to be effective with several applications per year. Rodent damage to stems will increase if weeds are not controlled around the base of seedlings.
  • Shallow, clean cultivation around the seedlings will discourage rodents.

Other general planting tips:

  • Select good microsites for the seedlings.
  • Plant on the north and east side of downed logs or stumps to shade the seedling, especially on south-facing slopes.
  • Avoid areas of dense sod.
  • Dig holes the same day you plant so the holes do not dry out.
  • Don’t put water in the planting holes immediately prior to planting to avoid excessive compaction.
  • Remove all weeds and grass from an 18-inch area around each planting hole.
  • If using a mechanical tree planter, have someone follow behind to adjust root-collar depth and tamp out air pockets.
  • Woven weed fabric is recommended to conserving water around the plant roots and controlling weeds. Studies have shown that weed fabric greatly increases survival and growth rates even over supplemental irrigation.

Common causes of seedling mortality during handling and planting:

  • Improper storage of seedlings, especially exposure to high temperatures or drying.
  • Planting when weather conditions are too hot or windy.
  • Roots drying during planting.
  • Roots j-rooted in the planting hole.
  • Seedlings planted to the wrong depth.
  • Air pockets left in planting hole or soil over-compacted.
  • Planting too late in the spring.


Information provided by NJ Tree Nursery 370 East Veterans Hwy Jackson, NJ 08527 (732) 928-0029 New Jersey Tree Nursery NJ Forest Service Division of Parks and Forestry Department of Environmental Protection