Dogwood trees, of the genus Cornus, can make beautiful and mostly hardy additions to a landscape. Their small to medium size and shrub or tree habits allow for various applications around the landscape. Beautiful blooms of yellow to creamy white or pink and vibrant fall foliage colors along with exfoliating bark or horizontal branching add interest to a property throughout the seasons. Small species do well as a shrub border, and larger trees can be used on residential, commercial and municipal location if planted correctly.
Most dogwood species fare best when grown in moist, well-drained soil with a high organic matter content. As long as soils are not excessively wet nor dry, these plants will probably tolerate the conditions, although they prefer slightly acidic soils with a pH of 5.5 to 6.6. Dogwoods will thrive in partial to fully sunny locations, and may require little pruning. However, dependant on the species chosen, they can be susceptible to: dogwood anthracnose, spot anthracnose, Botrytis petal blight, trunk canker, dogwood borer and/or dogwood sawfly.
Here are several species of dogwoods commonly kept on landscapes, their hardiness information, tolerances and habit description:
Cornus florida, the flowering dogwood, is native to the U.S. and has a distinctive branching pattern which gives it year-round aesthetic appeal. It blooms in May, before it leafs out and flowers range in color from creamy white to pink. Berries are glossy red and foliage turns a deep purple in the fall. This dogwood is hardy in zone 5 and can grow to 20 feet. The flowering dogwood is extremely susceptible to dogwood anthracnose.
Cornus alternifolia, the pagoda dogwood, is native to the northeastern U.S. and is hardy to zone 3. These trees, as you can see, have pronounced horizontal branching. The leaves are arranged alternately and it produces blueish-black fruit in the fall.
Cornus kousa is an Asian species of dogwood which has a vase-shaped habit when young. It is hardy in zone 5. White-creamy colored flowers with pointed bracts emerge late May to early June. And soft, edible fruit which appear similar to raspberries are produced in the fall. The exfoliating bark of this species gives it year round interest. The Kousa dogwood is very resistant to anthracnose.
Cornus mas is referred to as the Cornelian cherry dogwood probably due to its bright red, showy fruit produced in September. Native to Europe this dogwood is hardy to zone 4. It blooms in March with tiny, bright yellow clusters of flowers which are bract-less.
Cornus sericea is the red-twigged dogwood, for good reason. This is one dogwood species which particularly enjoys having its feet wet, so if you have some swampy area or poorly drained property consider planting these shrubs there. Prune off the oldest canes if possible to maintain the best color. The red-twigged dogwoods are often used to stabilize areas with high erosion or in mass plantings. They are hardy to zone 2.
For advice on which dogwood species to plant on your property and for help with site selection, disease or pest control and proper nutrition, contact your arborist.