Cornus florida, the flowering dogwood, has showy white flowers and red stems. It is a popular tree that has season-long interest. Find out how to grow and care for deciduous flowering dogwoods.
Cornus species grow well in Zones 5-9. It if often used as single specimens and as an understory. This particular dogwood has a horizontal spreading form and a rather slow to medium growth rate. It grows anywhere from 12-30’ h x 8-15’ wide.
The showy spring color of the flowering dogwood tree comes from showy bracts that appear from April to May. The leaves turn deep burgundy early in the fall followed by showy crimson berries that appear in clusters on the branch tips. Many birds, especially the Robin, love the berries.
Cornus florida prefers, cool, moist, acid soil that contains organic matter. Full sun promotes the greatest flowering, but it will also tolerate partial shade. It is not tolerant of stresses such as heat, drought, pollution, or road salt. Flower buds can be killed or injured in cold in Zone 5.
Growing and Caring for Dogwood Trees
This tree can be slow to re-establish following transplanting. Keep roots cool with 2-4” of organic mulch (shredded pine bark or pine needles) to avoid leaf and trunk scorch. Keep the soil evenly moist during the growing season. Dry soil can lead to leaf scorch and open to diseases. Root feeding is especially important for stressed trees. Use acidifying plant food such as Miracle Gro Shake ’n Feed Azalea, Camellia, Rhododendron food or ammonium sulfate sprinkled around the plants in spring. Pruning is only necessary to shape up the tree as desired.
Propagation is done by removing seeds from their fleshy cover and sow them in fall. Cuttings may be taken in late spring.
Pests and Diseases of Cornus florida include anthracnose (dogwood blight) which can be a serious problem. Healthy trees grown in sunny areas with good air circulation and soil moisture are rarely killed. Other problems include dogwood borer, powdery mildew, crown rot, and canker.
Related Species include, Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) is less showy, but is a good substitute in Zones 3 and 4. It has a more horizontal branching habit. Kousa dogwood (C. Kousa) blooms 2-3 weeks later and is resistant to many of the pests that plague flowering dogwood. Pacific dogwood (C. Nuttallii) grows better on the West Coast.