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Dogwoods

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Outstanding Features

  • Small to medium size allows for many landscape applications.
  • Either tree or shrub form depending on species.
  • Early spring blossoms from bright yellow to creamy white.
  • Burgundy-red fall foliage on most species.
  • Bright red or bluish-black fruit.
  • Exfoliating bark or horizontal branching give winter interest.

Landscape Use

  • Tree forms used as specimen plants for residential, municipal and commercial landscapes.
  • Smaller species useful in the shrub border.
  • May be used in naturalized areas or as understory plantings.
  • Fruit provide food for wildlife.

Cultural Requirements

  • Best grown in moist, well drained soils high in organic material; tolerant of most soil conditions except extremes of wet or dry; all hardy to Zone 5.
  • Prefer slightly acidic soils: pH 5.5 - 6.6.
  • Plant in light shade to full sun, avoid extremely windy sites.
  • When used as specimen trees in turfed areas, plant in beds extending to the edge of the mature leaf canopy and mulch with three inches of mulching material.
  • Little pruning needed; shrub species with colored stems should have the oldest canes removed at the crown annually.

Key Pests

Diseases:

  • Dogwood anthracnose
  • Spot anthracnose
  • Botrytis petal blight
  • Trunk canker

Insects:

  • Dogwood borer
  • Dogwood sawfly

Common Cultural Problems

  • Wounding of the trunk by lawn mowers and string trimmers.
  • Bluegrass can exert an allelopathic influence on Flowering Dogwood.
  • Planting in beds will alleviate these problems.

Selected Species

Cornus alternifolia - Pagoda Dogwood - Zone 3; 15'H x 25'W
Native to Northeastern United States; has pronounced horizontal branching and alternately arranged leaves; small white flowers in flattopped clusters in spring; blue-black fruit in fall. Useful in the woodland garden.

Cornus florida - Flowering Dogwood - Zone 5; 20'H X 20'W
Native to Northeastern United States; distinct branching pattern gives it year round character. Creamy white or pink rounded bracts surround the tiny yellow flowers in May before the leaves appear. Red glossy berries and purple-red fall foliage give interest in autumn. Extremely susceptible to Dogwood Anthracnose; other species should be given preference in the landscape.

Cornus kousa - Kousa Dogwood - Zone 5; 30'H x 25'W
An Asian species that exhibits greater resistance to dogwood anthracnose under normal landscape conditions; vase shaped habit when young; white pointed bracts appear after the foliage emerges in late May - early June. Bracts remain effective for up to six weeks. Soft, edible raspberry-like fruit effective in the fall. Exfoliating bark on mature trees gives year round interest. More tolerant of dry conditions than other dogwoods; less susceptible to borer.

Cornus x 'Stellar' Hybrids - Zone 5; 20'H x 20'W
Hybrids of C. florida and C. kousa, these crosses exhibit characteristics midway between the parents. Six cultivars have been released: 'Aurora', 'Celestial', 'Constellation', Ruth Ellen', 'Stardust', and 'Stellar Pink'. These hybrids show greater resistance to dogwood anthracnose under normal landscape conditions and are resistant to borer.

Cornus mas - Corneliancherry Dogwood - Zone 4; 18'H x 20'W
A European native understory tree; blooms in March with tiny, bright yellow flowers in clusters, no bracts; bright red fruit in September make an effective show. The Asian counterpart, Cornus officinalis, has shaggy exfoliating bark.

Cornus sericea - Red Twig Dogwood - Zone 2; 7'-9'H x 10'W
A shrub form with distinct red twig color. Very effective for winter interest and adaptable to wet conditions. Prune oldest canes each year for best twig color. Good for naturalizing, stabilizing embankments or mass plantings.

Written by: Roberta Clark
Revised: 08/2011

Topics: 
Commercial Horticulture
Commercial Horticulture topics: 
Plant Materials