flowering pink dogwood

Flowering pink dogwood. Photo: Richard Floyd, Creative Ideas LLC, Bugwood.org

Updated: April 12, 2021

Key points

  • Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a small Maryland native tree with white or pink flower bracts in the spring, colorful foliage in the fall, and berries that support wildlife.
  • Dogwoods are forest understory trees that grow best in partially shady sites with regular moisture and an annual application of organic matter such as leaf compost.
  • Disease-resistant cultivars are available and reduce the chances of problems such as powdery mildew and spot anthracnose.

Growing flowering dogwood trees

Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a native forest understory tree found naturally in acidic (pH 5.5-6.5), well-drained soil in semi-shaded areas. It typically grows 15’-30’ tall and 15’-25’ wide. For landscaped areas, flowering dogwoods:

  • Provide three seasons of interest, with pink or white flower bracts in the summer, red berries in summer, and attractive red to burgundy color in the fall. The flowers and berries support native wildlife such as pollinators, birds, and small mammals.
  • Are suitable for partially shaded locations with moist, well-drained soil. They are not tolerant of full sun, hot and dry,  poorly drained sites, or flooding.
  • Are prone to several diseases for which resistant varieties are now available.
  • Are shallow-rooted and do not compete well with turf. They may need irrigation during the drier months of July and August. If overhead irrigation is applied, water early to allow leaf drying before nightfall, which will minimize disease problems.

The Kousa dogwood (C. kousa), also called Chinese dogwood, has a longer bloom season and different growth characteristics and is more tolerant of dry conditions than the native flowering dogwood. There are several hybrids between the native flowering dogwood and the non-native Kousa dogwood that exhibit better disease resistance and longer bloom periods than the native species.

Other trees or multi-stemmed shrubs in the same genus as dogwood, but less commonly seen in landscapes, include cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), and bigleaf dogwood (Cornus macrophylla).

Tree health and disease-resistant dogwoods

The key to maintaining the health of your dogwood is to plant it in a suitable location and take proper care of your tree to minimize stress (e.g., water during drought, avoid mulch against the trunk, etc.). Refer to our pages about tree planting and after-planting care. Trees that are stressed due to unsuitable cultural and environmental conditions are more susceptible to diseases and pest problems.

Select disease-resistant dogwood cultivars to reduce the chances of problems with common dogwood diseases. Refer to the table below for recommendations. It is important to note that disease-resistant does not mean immune to disease. Even disease-resistant dogwoods may develop problems if they are planted in an unsuitable environment (full sun, drought, flooding).

Research your selections prior to purchase. Some cultivars exhibit characteristics that may or may not be desirable to you or wildlife (e.g., double flowers, lack of berries).

Tree species Cultivar name Resistance to powdery mildew Resistance to dogwood anthracnose Resistance to spot anthracnose
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) 'Appalachian Spring'  

X

 
  'Appalachian Joy' X    
  'Cherokee Brave' X   X
  'Cherokee Chief'     X
  'Cherokee Princess'     X
  'Jean's Appalachian Snow'

X

   
  'Karen's Appalachian Blush' X    
  'Kay's Appalachian Mist' X    
  'Springtime'     X
  'Welch's Bay Beauty'     X
Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa) 'Big Apple'   X  
  'China Girl'   X  
  'Elizabeth Lustgarten'   X  
  'Gay Head'   X  
  'Greensleeves'   X  
  'Julian'  

X

 
  'Milky Way' X X  
  'Milky Way Select' X   X
  'National' X   X
  'Steeple'   X  
  'Temple Jewel'   X  
Hybrid Dogwood (C. florida x C. kousa) 'Aurora' X X  
  'Celestial' X X  
  'Constellation' X X  
  'Empire'   X  
  'Pam's Mountain Bouquet'   X  
  'Red Steeple'   X  
  'Ruth Ellen'   X  
  'Stardust' X X  
  'Stellar Pink' X X X