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Why Do Dogwood Trees Smell Bad?

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If you are thinking of getting an ornamental tree for your backyard, there are a few that can rival the magnificent outlook of a Dogwood tree. Look at it, and you will fall in love with the gorgeous spring flowers. Despite their breathtaking appearance, there is one question that takes rounds in everyone’s minds – why do dogwood trees smell bad?

You expect it to smell heavenly like a fresh rose when you approach a beautiful plant. Then, why do dogwood trees smell bad even though they look so majestic?

Let me assure you that not all dogwood trees smell bad. The natural smell of this tree is a bit strong but sweet and not bad. But there could be a few reasons for the dogwood tree you smelled was giving off a bad odour.

Keep reading to come along as we explore your burning question – why do dogwood trees smell bad.

Why Do Dogwood Trees Smell Bad
Flowering Dogwood Tree – via Flickr

Why Do Dogwood Trees Smell Bad?

There are various different species in the dogwood genus and not each of them will smell the same. So, it could be that you took a whiff of one of the trees with a bad smell. But it is not just the difference in species.

Many people find that dogwood trees do not smell very good, contradicting their natural appearance. To some people, the dogwood trees smell like rotten fish or semen.

If you think of getting this beautiful tree, the bad smell could put you off your plant. But rest assured that the dogwood trees do not always smell bad. You can still get one of these trees for your garden. But before that, let’s find out why do dogwood tree smell bad.

Growth Conditions for the Dogwood Trees

The flowering dogwood type is the most common of the dogwood species. It starts flowering in the spring and goes on till the mid-summer season. The flowering dogwood tree blooms with white to pale yellow flowers with five petals.

This flowering dogwood tree is the state tree of Virginia. Other than flowers, the dogwood tree also grows small berry fruits which does not hold much nutritional value but can be safely eaten by humans.

There are many other dogwood tree species, about 50, like the Blackfruit Cornel, which is native to California. The dogwood trees do not grow well in arid or semi-arid areas. If you live in such an area, you will need a proper irrigation system to grow these trees well.

Due to soggy and drenched soil, they may also not grow in their best shape near water locations. The soil should have a proper system of drainage. Water banks and near rivers may be able to provide conditions suitable for their growth. You will need to be very careful with the water requirements for this tree, as its growth and smell depend on water.

Another requirement for the dogwood trees to grow well is lighting. These trees do not grow well in direct sunlight. You need to provide a well-shaded area such as near tall trees for the dogwood trees to survive and thrive. The pruning requirements for this tree are not extensive.

You might need to prune the dead branches sometime in the winter season to keep the tree in shape. Other than keeping the soil well-drained and a bit wet, you should note that dogwood trees do better in slightly acidic soil.

Why Do Dogwood Trees Smell Bad 2
Red Flowering Dogwood Tree – via Flickr

What Causes The Bad Smell Of Dogwood Trees?

You should know that a bad smell is not usual in dogwood trees. Not all these trees smell unbearable. In fact, most dogwood species have a sweet, strong smell. The strong, sweet smell is ingrained to attract insects to these trees.

This is because insects pollinate the dogwood tree, and it needs to have a strong and sweet smell to bring more insects towards it. Some people might find even this sweet smell unpleasant as it is not a typical flower smell and can be overwhelming for some people.

Then, some types of dogwood trees smell bad, such as Callery pear and Bradford pear. These dogwood species have a putrid smell and give the odour of rotten fish or semen. One more reason for the dogwood tree smelling like a rotten piece of meat is that it is not getting the right conditions to grow.

As mentioned before, the dogwood species are very peculiar in growing and getting all the conditions right, such as water. If you are not giving this tree the right amount of water, nutrition, shade, and soil, it might show discontent by giving off a bad smell.

Rest assured, the dogwood tree typically has a very tolerable and pleasant smell. You will be able to bear it. Just ensure not to plant the tree too close to the windows or near bedrooms, so the strong smell doesn’t spread everywhere inside.

How Far Away Should You Plant A Dogwood Tree?

The dogwood tree varies in its dimensions. It is best if you choose to plant a small and medium-sized tree near your house. The flowering dogwood tree is the best choice for a home. They usually have 30 to 40 feet in height and about 30 feet in width.

You must ensure not to plant too near the house, or the big trees can damage the structure of your home—plant medium-sized dogwood trees at least 6 feet from your house. Make sure to have a minimum of 15 to 25 feet distance between these trees if you are planting more than one dogwood tree.


I hope this article gives you some clarity on the question of why do dogwood trees smell bad. If you are planning on getting one of these trees, you may need to consider a few points, such as not planting it near the windows or rooms and carefully choosing the species of dogwood trees. These trees may not smell too strongly or bad based on which one you choose.

You must be mindful of the conditions required for the optimal growth of dogwood trees. They are very particular about the environments where they can thrive. You can be assured that the dogwood tree is a fascinating and gorgeous tree to add to your garden.

Have you ever grown a dogwood tree in your garden? If yes, share your experiences with us in the comment section.