Unraveling the Mystery of Curling Leaves: A Guide to Keeping Your Dogwood Trees Healthy

September 1, 2021 in animal welfare, environment

Article summary and Key takeaways: Dogwood trees can develop curling leaves due to various factors such as lack of water, overwatering, diseases like dogwood anthracnose, and pest infestations. Lack of water can lead to weakened and stressed trees, while overwatering can cause root rot and fungal diseases. Dogwood anthracnose is a fungal disease that causes severe leaf curling. Other diseases and pests can also contribute to leaf curling. To treat the issue, it is important to diagnose the specific cause and adjust watering practices accordingly. Treating diseases may require the use of fungicides or integrated pest management strategies. Preventive measures include proper tree care, regular monitoring, and early intervention. Seeking professional help is recommended if unsure about the cause or need assistance.

Curling Leaves in Dogwood Tree

Dogwood trees are a beloved addition to many landscapes, with their delicate blossoms and vibrant colors. These trees not only provide aesthetic beauty but also serve as a habitat for various birds and insects. However, dogwood trees can sometimes develop issues, one of which is curling leaves. In this article, we will explore the causes of curling leaves in dogwood trees, how to diagnose and treat the problem, and preventive measures for the future.

Causes of Curling Leaves in Dogwood Trees

Lack of Water

One of the primary causes of curling leaves in dogwood trees is a lack of water. Dogwoods are relatively thirsty trees and require consistent moisture to thrive. When they experience a drought or are not receiving enough water, their leaves may curl as a result.

Effects of Drought on Dogwood Trees

Drought conditions can have severe consequences for dogwood trees. Lack of water inhibits their ability to photosynthesize and produce energy, resulting in weakened and stressed trees. In addition to curling leaves, other signs of water stress in dogwood trees include wilting, leaf browning, and premature leaf drop.

Symptoms of Water Stress in Dogwood Leaves

When dogwood trees lack water, their leaves may curl inward or droop. The leaves may also become dry and brittle to touch. In severe cases, the edges of the leaves may turn brown or show signs of scorching. These symptoms indicate that the tree is in need of water and immediate attention.


While dogwoods require adequate watering, overwatering can also lead to curling leaves. When the soil is consistently saturated, the roots struggle to access oxygen, leading to stress and eventually root rot.

Signs of Overwatering in Dogwood Trees

An overwatered dogwood tree may display signs such as yellowing leaves, leaf drop, and stunted growth. The leaves may curl outward or appear “wilted,” despite the excessive moisture. The soil around the tree may also be waterlogged or have a foul odor.

Consequences of Excessive Moisture on Leaves

Excessive moisture can lead to a variety of issues in dogwood leaves. The continuous presence of moisture creates an ideal environment for fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew and leaf spot, which can cause the leaves to curl. Additionally, overwatering can weaken the root system, making the tree more susceptible to pests and diseases.

Dogwood Anthracnose

Dogwood anthracnose is a fungal disease that affects dogwood trees, particularly in humid regions. This disease can cause severe leaf curling and other detrimental effects on the tree’s overall health.

Description of the Disease and Its Impact on Leaves

Dogwood anthracnose is caused by the fungus Discula destructiva. The disease typically manifests as dark, sunken lesions on the leaves, with curled or distorted edges. As the infection progresses, the leaves may turn brown or black and fall prematurely.

Visual Cues to Identify Dogwood Anthracnose

In addition to leaf curling, other signs of dogwood anthracnose include cankers on branches, dieback, and the appearance of black fruiting bodies on infected tissues. If you suspect your dogwood tree has anthracnose, it is essential to take prompt action to prevent further spread.

Other Diseases and Pests

Aside from dogwood anthracnose, dogwood trees can also be affected by various other diseases and pests that can cause leaf curling.

Common Diseases Affecting Dogwood Trees and Their Leaf Symptoms

Common diseases affecting dogwood trees include powdery mildew, leaf spot, and crown canker. Powdery mildew causes a white, powdery coating on the leaves and can lead to leaf curling. Leaf spot, caused by different fungal pathogens, manifests as small, dark spots on the leaves, often accompanied by leaf curling. Crown canker, caused by various fungi, results in sunken lesions on the trunk or branches and can eventually cause leaf curling and dieback.

Identification of Pests that Cause Leaf Curling

Pests such as aphids, spider mites, and scales can also cause leaf curling in dogwood trees. These insects feed on the sap of the leaves, leading to distorted growth and curling. The presence of these pests can often be observed by closely inspecting the leaves and stems.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Assessing the Specific Cause of Leaf Curling

Diagnosing the exact cause of leaf curling in a dogwood tree is crucial for effective treatment. Start by examining the overall health of the tree, assessing its foliage, branches, and root system. Look for any additional symptoms or signs of stress, such as wilting, discoloration, or pest infestations.

Examining the Overall Health of the Tree

An overall healthy dogwood tree will have vibrant green leaves, sturdy branches, and a well-established root system. If the tree appears weak, with sparse foliage or signs of decay, it may indicate an underlying problem contributing to leaf curling.

Identifying any Additional Symptoms or Signs of Stress

Pay close attention to any additional symptoms or signs of stress that may be present. For example, if the leaves have visible lesions or spots, it may indicate a fungal infection. If the soil around the tree is excessively wet or the roots appear rotted, overwatering may be the cause of leaf curling.

Addressing Water-Related Issues

Depending on the specific cause of leaf curling, adjusting watering practices may be necessary to restore the health of the dogwood tree.

Adjusting Watering Practices for Dogwood Trees

Regular and consistent watering is crucial for dogwood trees, especially during periods of drought. Ensure that the tree receives sufficient water, but avoid overwatering. Water deeply and infrequently, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Mulching around the base of the tree can help retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.

Proper Drainage and Soil Moisture Management

If overwatering is the culprit, improving drainage and soil moisture management is essential. Consider amending the soil with organic matter to improve its structure and drainage. If the tree is planted in an area prone to waterlogging, it may be necessary to create a raised bed or install a drainage system.

Treating Dogwood Anthracnose and Other Diseases

If dogwood anthracnose or other diseases are causing leaf curling, prompt treatment is crucial to prevent further damage to the tree.

Fungicides and Other Treatments for Dogwood Anthracnose

Fungicides containing active ingredients such as chlorothalonil or mancozeb can be used to control dogwood anthracnose. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying fungicides, and be sure to start treatment at the first sign of infection. Pruning and removing infected branches can also help manage the disease.

Integrated Pest Management Strategies for Other Diseases and Pests

For other diseases and pests, integrated pest management (IPM) strategies can be effective. This involves a combination of cultural, biological, and chemical control methods. Cultural practices, such as pruning infected branches, improving air circulation, and practicing good sanitation, can help reduce the prevalence of diseases and pests. Biological control agents, such as predatory insects or fungi, can be introduced to control pest populations. If necessary, targeted pesticide applications can be used as a last resort.

Preventive Measures for Future Leaf Curling

Preventing leaf curling in dogwood trees requires proper care and maintenance throughout the year.

Proper Tree Care and Maintenance

Regularly inspect your dogwood tree for signs of stress, diseases, and pests. Prune dead or diseased branches, ensure adequate nutrition by applying a balanced fertilizer, and monitor the soil moisture levels. Maintaining overall tree health will make it more resilient to leaf curling and other issues.

Regular Monitoring and Early Intervention

Keep a close eye on your dogwood tree, especially during periods of stress, such as hot summer months or prolonged dry spells. Early intervention is key to preventing the spread of diseases and pests. If you notice any signs of leaf curling or other abnormalities, take action promptly by implementing the appropriate treatments.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are the leaves on my dogwood tree curling?

Leaf curling in dogwood trees can be caused by various factors, including lack of water, overwatering, diseases such as dogwood anthracnose, or infestations by pests. Assessing the specific cause of leaf curling is important for effective treatment.

What does an overwatered dogwood tree look like?

An overwatered dogwood tree may display symptoms such as yellowing leaves, leaf drop, stunted growth, and outward curling or “wilted” appearance, despite excessive moisture. The soil around the tree may also be waterlogged or have a foul odor.

How do you treat curling leaves?

The treatment for curling leaves depends on the underlying cause. Adjusting watering practices, improving drainage, and addressing specific diseases or pests are common approaches. Proper diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment.

What does dogwood anthracnose look like?

Dogwood anthracnose appears as dark, sunken lesions on the leaves, causing curling or distorted edges. The leaves may also turn brown or black and fall prematurely. Cankers on branches, dieback, and black fruiting bodies on infected tissues are additional signs of dogwood anthracnose.


Curling leaves in dogwood trees can be caused by various factors, including water-related issues, diseases, and pests. Proper diagnosis and treatment are essential to restore the health of the tree and prevent further damage. Regular care and maintenance, along with early intervention, will help keep dogwood trees thriving. If you are unsure about the cause of leaf curling or need assistance, it is always beneficial to seek professional help. With proper care, your dogwood tree will continue to grace your landscape with its beauty for years to come.

Question 1:
Answer: The leaves on your dogwood tree may be curling due to a fungal infection, lack of water, or insect infestation.

Question 2:
Answer: An overwatered dogwood tree may have yellowing leaves, root rot, and wilting branches.

Question 3:
Answer: Treatment for curling leaves depends on the underlying cause. It may involve adjusting watering practices, applying fungicides, or addressing insect infestations.

Question 4:
Answer: Dogwood anthracnose appears as dark brown or purple spots on the leaves, which eventually lead to leaf curling, wilting, and dieback of branches.


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About the author 

Sam Martinez

Hello, I'm Sam. With a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Yale, I've dedicated my life to understanding and advocating for our natural world. My work has taken me from the halls of academia to the front lines of environmental activism. I'm thrilled to share stories from my journey, insights from my research, and ways we can all contribute to a healthier planet.