Cornus Kousa- Which Variety of Kousa Dogwood is Best?


Cornus kousa, Kousa dogwood, or Japanese Flowering Dogwood, is a deciduous small flowering tree sought after for its colorful foliage, flowers, and bark. Find facts and information on kousa dogwoods and Cornus kousa varieties. There are many great varieties to choose from. A description of some of the dogwood tree varieties are given to help you choose which one is best for you.

"Cornus Kousa"

Japanese Flowering Dogwood, Cornus kousa

Facts on Cornus kousa

Japanese flowering dogwood trees are grown as specimens, groves, patio trees, and bonsai trees, all of which look good year round. Its origin is in mountain forests of Japan, Korea, and China. These beautiful flowering trees are hardy in Zones 5-8 and require full sun to partial shade. The soil shouls be moist, acid, well-drained, and fertile soil rich in organic matter. Many people enjoy the peeling bark of the Kousa dogwood and prune back some of the lower branches so that the bark is displayed.

The Kousa dogwood has a rounded, spreading, form that makes them very appealing. They grow from 20’ to 30’ tall and wide, but are usually wider than tall in appearance. Young kousa dogwoods start out vase shaped, developing a rounded habit with horizontal branching over time. They bloom later than native flowering dogwoods, and their showy bracts last longer.

The tree has edible, bright red fruits and attractive dark green leaves. It has suburb red to purple fall color, and gorgeous, flaking bark. The slow-growing Japanese deciduous trees resist the anthracnose fungus that decimates our native dogwood species.

"Kousa Dogwood"

Petals of the Kousa Dogwood

The simple, opposite 2”-4” dark green leaves turn red to purple in fall. The bark, when mature, exfoliates (peels), creating a patchwork of gray, beige, and reddish brown. It has tiny green to yellowish flowers packed into a tight, round cluster that is surrounded by 4 showy 2”, white or pink tinged bracts.

The edible ornamental red fruit of the kousa dogwood tree resembles a long-stalked, 1” round strawberry dangling above the leaves. Some say it has a mealy, sweet taste, but is not too bad tasting. It attracts birds to its colorful fruit as it ripens from August to October.

Cornus kousa Varieties

Cornus kousa ‘chinensis’ has larger bracts and fruits than the species, and is supposedly hardier too. ‘Milkyway’ is a chinensis variety that has more flowers, and grows 20’-30’ h and w.

Cornus kousa ‘Elizabeth Lustgarten’ has an elegant weeping form with rounded rown. It grows 5’-7’ h x 5’w.

Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’ (syn. C. Kousa ‘Rosabella’, ‘Heart Throb’) has rosy pink bracts, is robust, pretty and very popular. It grows 15’-20’ h and w.

Cornus kousa ‘Square Dance’ has white, overlapping bracts that form a square, persisting into summer and has burgundy purple fall color. It grows 15’-20’h and w in Zones 6, 7, and 8.

C. Kousa ‘Summer Stars’ holds bracts for so long that the fruit sometimes forms while the bracts are still on the tree. It has a burgundy fall color and reaches heights of 15’-25’ by 15’-20’ wide.

C. Kousa ‘Rutdan’ (Celestial; Galaxy) is one of the Rutdgers hybrids, which are crosses between our native C. Florida and C. Kousa. It is a vigorous and resistant to anthracnose and borers. Their floral bracts touch but do not overlap, and appear between the bloom cycles of native and kousa dogwoods. The fruit is not ornamental and the fall color is purplish burgundy. It grows 15’- 20’ h and w.

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