Flowering Dogwoods

Spring is an excellent time to plant a dogwood tree

A stand out amongst spring flowering trees is our native flowering dogwood, Cornus florida. Cornus florida is one of those multi-season performers with beautiful large white or pink flowers in the spring and a strong red-reddish purple fall color. Our native dogwood also supports wildlife with autumn red fruit that many bird species adore plus it has an interesting alligator skin textured bark. In the wild it grew as small understory tree in our eastern forests, and so it prefers to be planted in part sun or dappled sun conditions.

Unfortunately this understory tree has been attacked by several blights and diseases that have almost decimated the populations of the straight species of Cornus florida in the northeast. Luckily for us, horticulturalists have bred many cultivars of Cornus florida that we carry in the nursery that have proven to be more disease resistant. Varieties in the Cherokee series such as ‘Cherokee Princess’, have all the advantages of the parent tree, but less issues.

Cornus kousa, or the Kousa dogwood, is another popular flowering dogwood available in our area, although not a native species. Cornus kousa flowers a bit later than the native C. florida, and so it is distinguishable because it flowers with its leaves on. Kousa dogwood flowers are a little bit pointier, like a four-pointed star. Its bark is also very different, with the Kousa dogwood having a multi-colored exfoliating bark. Kousa dogwoods produce large red bumpy fruit in the fall, but the birds do not care for them. Kousa dogwoods also are more tolerant of being planted in full sun and drought.

Maybe the best of both worlds is the Stellar Series of hybrid dogwoods, like Cornus ‘Stellar Pink’. These varieties are hybrids of Cornus florida and Cornus kousa and have the best characteristics of each parent, including better disease resistance and vigorous growth.

After all, I don’t see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles when every year there are miracles like white dogwood.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, American author

Did you know…

That the large white petals of the dogwood flowers are not petals at all. The actual flowers are the small, yellowish-green heads at the center of the larger ‘flower’. The white petals are actually bracts, which are modified leaves that surround the true flower. Poinsettias are another example of a plant with colorful bracts.