• Shrubs
  • Trees
  • Deciduous
  • Full Sun
  • Partial Shade
  • Regular Water

Plant Details

For many Southerners, there's only one dogwood: flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), widely considered the region's finest ornamental tree. But many types of dogwood exist, from good-sized, single-trunked trees to small, multistemmed, stoloniferous shrubs; there's even a ground-covering perennial dogwood. Some are spectacular in bloom, others barely noticeable. Some sport dazzling fall foliage; others don't. And even dogwoods lacking showy flowers or foliage have their strong points. Some flaunt colorful bark; others produce attractive fruits that feed birds and other wildlife.

What appear to be flower petals in many dogwoods are in fact bractspetal-like modified leaves. These surround the inconspicuous true flowers.

C. alba. TATARIAN DOGWOOD. Shrub. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Native to Siberia, northern China, Korea. In cold-winter areas, the bare, blood-red twigs are colorful against the snow. Upright to about 10 ft. high; wide spreading, eventually producing a thicket of many stems. Branches densely clothed with leaves 25 in. long, to 2 in. wide, deep rich green above, lighter beneath; turn reddish purple in fall. For best color, cut 13 of oldest stems to ground each spring. Small, fragrant, creamy white owers in 1- to 2-in.-wide, attish clusters in spring. Small whitish fruits.

Selections include the following. In all, new wood is brightest; cut back in spring to force new growth.

'Bud's Yellow'. Bright yellow stems. Disease resistance makes it a good substitute for C. sericea 'Flaviramea'.

'Elegantissima' ('Argenteomarginata'). Showy green-and-white leaves on red stems.

'Gouchaltii'. Leaves have yellow borders suffused with pink.

'Ivory Halo'. Compact, to 36 ft. tall and wide; red stems hold white-edged green leaves.

'Sibirica'. SIBERIAN DOGWOOD. Smaller and not as wide spreading as species; grows to about 7 ft. high and 5 ft. wide. Gleaming coral-red branches. There is also a variegated form.

'Spaethii'. Leaves edged with gold.

C. alternifolia. PAGODA DOGWOOD. Shrub or small tree. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. From eastern North America. Multitrunked, to 20 ft. high and wide. Strong horizontal branching pattern makes attractive winter silhouette. Light green leaves to 5 in. long turn reddish purple in fall. Small clusters of creamy spring owers are not showy. Small but handsome blue-black fruits follow the flowers. Foliage of 'Argentea' has white markings.

C. angustata 'Elsbry'. EMPRESS OF CHINA DOGWOOD. Evergreen tree. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Species is native to Japan, Korea, and China. Reaches 15-18 ft. high and up to 15 ft. wide. Masses of large, creamy white flowers late spring into summer followed by translucent red, strawberrylike fruit. Best with protection from afternoon sun.

C. canadensis. BUNCHBERRY. Perennial. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Native from southern Greenland to northern areas of North America. Ground cover 69 in. high, found in the wild under trees by lakes and streams. Creeping rootstocks send up stems topped by whorls of oval or roundish, 1- to 2-in.-long, deep green leaves that turn yellow in fall, die down in winter. In late spring or early summer, plants bear small, compact clusters of tiny flowers surrounded by (usually) four oval, - to -in., pure white bracts. Clusters of small, shiny red fruits follow in late summer.

Best performance in full shade in cool mountain climates, in acid soil with generous amounts of organic matter. Set out small plants from pots about 1 ft. apart. Small rooted pieces gathered from the woods may not establish easily. Excellent with rhododendrons, ferns, trilliums, lilies.

C. drummondii. ROUGH-LEAF DOGWOOD. Shrub or small tree. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native from Texas to Virginia and north to Ontario. To 1520 ft. tall, spreading to 12 ft. Shrubby and rugged, quite unlike elegant C. florida; likely to form a thicket, though it can be trained to make a small tree. Grows quickly. Soft, furry olive-green leaves 13 in. long hang a little limply from branches. Blooms briefly in early spring, bearing white blossoms (true flowers, not bracts) in clusters to 3 in. across, followed by hard white fruit loved by birds. Planted mostly for its striking orange, red, and purple fall foliage and its adaptabilitytakes rocky limestone soils, clay, wetlands, drought, full sun or full shade. A beautiful addition to a natural garden; good understory plant in the deep shade of tall trees. 'Lemon Drops' has light yellow flowers.

C. orida. FLOWERING DOGWOOD. Tree. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to eastern U.S., from New England to central Florida. Has been called the most beautiful native tree of North America. Blossom is the state flower of North Carolina and Virginia. May reach 40 ft. high and wide, but 2030 ft. more common. Low branching, with a fairly horizontal branch pattern, upturned branch tips; makes beautiful winter silhouette. Old trees are broadly pyramidal but rather at topped. Blooms profusely in midspring before leaves expand, almost covering itself with small flower clusters surrounded by four roundish, inch-wide bracts with notched tips. White is the usual color in the wild, but named selections (see below) also offer bracts in pink shades to nearly red. Only the white-bracted sorts seem to succeed in Florida, however. Oval leaves, 26 in. long, 2 in. wide, are bright green above, lighter beneath; they turn glowing red and crimson before they drop. Clusters of showy, oval, scarlet fruits last into winter or until birds eat them.

Flowering dogwood grows fine in full sun if planted in deep, fertile soil that retains moisture. In shallow, dry, or rocky soil, it often leaf-scorches badly in summer droughts. Succeeds most reliably as an understory tree where it receives light shade; in heavy shade, it will not bloom.

Unfortunately, an anthracnose fungus has been infecting and destroying these trees throughout their range. Dieback symptoms show up rst in lower branches and can spread to whole tree. Trees growing at high elevations and in shade are more susceptible. Borers often attack trunks and limbs of stressed trees. Variegated selections generally have more disease problems. C. orida has been bred with C. kousa to produce more disease-resistant hybrids; see C. x rutgersensis.

'Appalachian Joy'. Large white bracts, often more than the normal four. Resists powdery mildew.

'Appalachian Spring'. Large white bracts; attractive foliage. Resists anthracnose and mildew. Fast grower. Upright, symmetrical.

'Cherokee Brave'. Red bracts with white centers. Resists mildew and anthracnose.

'Cherokee Chief'. Deep rosy red bracts, paler at base. Good resistance to anthracnose and mildew.

'Cherokee Daybreak'. Variegated green-and-white leaves turn pink and red in fall. White bracts.

'Cherokee Princess'. Unusually heavy display of large white blooms. Begins blooming while young.

'Cherokee Sunset'. Variegated green-and-yellow leaves turn redish purple in fall. Reddish bracts. Resistant to anthracnose, but susceptible to mildew.

'Cloud 9'. Blooms young and heavily. Tolerates heat and lack of winter chill better than other selections. White bracts are rounded and overlapping.

'Junior Miss'. Deep pink bracts, paler at center. Resists anthracnose.

'Pendula'. Drooping branches give it a weeping look. White bracts.

'Pluribracteata'. Two sets of white bracts (some large, many tiny aborted ones) give appearance of double flowers. Resists anthracnose and mildew.

'Pygmy'. White-flowered dwarf; blooms at 2 ft. tall. Only 12 ft. tall after 20 years.

'Red Pygmy'. Red-flowered dwarf; matures at 7 feet.

'Royal Red'. Big, deep red bracts. Leaves are red when young, turn red again in fall.

'Spring Grove'. Extra-large bracts and very floriferous; often bears two or three flower buds at branch tips. Resists anthracnose.

'Weaver's White'. Large white bracts. Good resistance to anthracnose and mildew.

'Welch's Bay Beauty'. Doubled white bracts, 4-5 in. wide. Tolerant of spot anthracnose.

C. kousa. KOUSA DOGWOOD. Shrub or small tree. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to Japan and Korea. Later blooming (late spring or early summer) than other owering dogwoods. Can be big multistemmed shrub or (with training) small tree to 20 ft. tall and wide (or even larger). Delicate limb structure and spreading, dense horizontal growth habit. Lustrous medium green leaves, 4 in. long, have rusty brown hairs at base of veins on undersurface. Yellow or scarlet fall color. Handsome peeling bark.

Flowers are carried along tops of branches and show above the leaves. Narrow, 2- to 3-in.-long bracts with slender, pointed tips are creamy white, turning pink along edges. In late summer and fall, red fruits like big rasp- berries hang below branches. This species is less susceptible to diseases than C. florida and has been bred with the latter to produce resistant hybrids; see C. x rutgersensis.

'Autumn Rose'. To 20 ft. tall, 25 ft. wide. Leaves are light green when new, pink to red in fall.

C. k. chinensis. CHINESE DOGWOOD. Chinese native to 1530 ft. tall and wide, with larger leaves and larger bracts than the species.

'Gold Star'. To 12 ft. tall and wide, with yellow-centered green leaves.

'Heart Throb'. Large, deep red to rose-pink flowers over a long period.

'National'. To 2530 ft. tall, 1215 ft. wide, with bright red fall color. Blooms earlier than the species.

'Satomi'. ('Satomi Red', 'Rosabella'). Reaches 20 ft. tall and wide. Rose red bracts.

'Summer Stars'. To 25 ft. tall, 18 ft. wide, with vase-shaped form. Lavish bloom; later than the species.

'Wolf Eyes'. Gray-green leaves edged with white. Pinkish red fall color. 'Samaritan' and 'Summer Fun' are other excellent selections with white-variegated leaves.

C. mas. CORNELIAN CHERRY. Shrub or small tree. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Pest-free dogwood native to southern Europe and Asia. Usually an airy, twiggy shrub but can be trained as a small tree, 1520 ft. high and wide. Tough and adaptable; tolerates most well-drained soils. Provides a progression of color throughout the year. One of earliest dogwoods to bloom, bearing clustered masses of small, soft yellow blossoms on bare twigs in late winter or early spring. Shiny green, oval, 2- to 4-in.-long leaves turn yellow in fall; some forms turn red. Autumn color is enhanced by clusters of bright scarlet, cherry-size fruits that hang on until birds get them. Fruits are edible and are frequently used in making preserves. In winter, aking bark mottled in gray and tan provides interest. 'Golden Glory' is slightly more upright; produces more bloom. 'Spring Grove' is a generous bloomer with shiny, dark green leaves and no suckers. 'Variegata' features leaves marbled creamy white.

C. officinalis. JAPANESE CORNEL DOGWOOD. Shrub or small tree. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Similar to C. mas but blooms slightly earlier and has handsome bark in gray, brown, and orange. Showier in bloom than C. mas and a better performer in the Lower South. 'Kintoki' is a heavy-blooming, slightly smaller tree.

C. racemosa. GRAY DOGWOOD. Shrub or small tree. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native from Minnesota to Maine, south to Nebraska and Georgia. To 1015 ft. high and wide; will spread even wider, but this can be controlled by removing suckers. Creamy white flowers are held in racemes at branch tips in late spring. Attractive blue-green, 2- to 4-in.-long leaves turn deep purplish red in fall and contrast nicely with white fruits. Adapts to various soils and moisture levels; tolerates air pollution and a good bit of shade.

C. x rutgersensis. STELLAR DOGWOOD. Tree. Zones US, MS, LS.; USDA 6-8 This hybrid between C. orida and C. kousa has greater disease resistance than C. orida. Single-stemmed tree to about 20 ft. tall, 2530 ft. wide. Bloom time falls between the midspring bloom of C. orida and the late spring or early summer bloom of C. kousa; bracts are produced with the leaves. 'Stellar Pink' has pink bracts; 'Aurora', 'Galaxy', and 'Ruth Ellen' bear broad white bracts; 'Constellation' and 'Stardust' have narrower white bracts. 'Constellation' has the most upright growth habit; other selections are more rounded. 'Celestial Shadow' has large white bracts and leaves variegated yellow and green. All have brilliant red fall leaves.

C. sanguinea. BLOODTWIG DOGWOOD. Shrub. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Multistemmed growth to 12 ft. high, about 8 ft. wide, with dark green, 1 to 3-in.-long leaves. Greenish white late-spring flowers in 2-in. clusters are followed by black fruits. Big show comes in fall, with dark blood-red foliage color, and in winter, when purplish to dark red twigs and branches are on display. 'Midwinter Fire' has brilliant orange-red fall color, red fruits. Older stems turn gray. Cut these to the ground in spring to encourage growth of new red stems.

C. sericea (C. stolonifera). Shrub. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Native to moist places, eastern North America and Northern California to Alaska. Another dogwood with brilliant red fall foliage and bright red winter twigs that look striking against a snowy backdrop. Grows rapidly to 79 ft. high; spreads to 12 ft. or wider by creeping underground stems and rooting branches. Leaves oval, to 12 in. long, fresh deep green. Blooms throughout the summer months, bearing small, creamy white owers in 2-in.-wide clusters among the leaves; blooms are followed by white or bluish fruits. Canker disease can devastate this shrub, causing dieback.

Good space ller in moist ground (good for holding banks); also good planted along property line as a screen. To control spread, use a spade to cut off roots; also trim branches that touch ground. Shade tolerant.

'Alleman's'. To 46 ft. tall, with red winter stems.

'Arctic Fire'. Dark red stems on a compact, 3- to 4-ft.-tall plant.

'Arctic Sun'. Yellow stems tipped red; grows 34 ft. tall.

'Cardinal'. Cherry-red stems.

'Flaviramea'. YELLOWTWIG DOGWOOD. Yellow twigs and branches. Very susceptible to canker disease.

'Hedgerow's Gold'. Foliage variegated green and gold. Red stems.

'Isanti'. Compact growth to 5 ft. tall. Bright red stems.

'Silver and Gold'. Yellow branches and cream-edged green leaves.

C. 'Venus'. Tree. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. A multispecies hybrid that combines large white flowers with disease resistance. More vigorous that C. kousa, it grows 14-18 ft. tall and 18-24 ft. wide.

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