Cornus, dogwood, many stunning species

Cornus, or dogwood, flowers and leaves

Dogwood (or Cornus) is a beautiful shrub that shares lovely flowers and beautiful leafage, especially in Fall.

Key facts to remember

NameCornus
FamilyCornaceae
Type – Shrub

Height – 16 to 40 feet (5 to 12 meters)
Exposure – Sun, part sun
Soil – ordinary, humus-rich

Foliage – deciduous (evergreen for some species)
Flowering – April to June

The dogwood family has a number of shrubs and even a few small trees, but none of them grow any taller than a few dozen feet. The tallest dogwood species, such as the Cornus florida and the Cornus kousa can reach 20 to 25 feet though (6-7 meters), whereas the smaller species like Cornus alba won’t ever get any taller than 6 feet (2 m).

Planting dogwood

Dogwood, or cornus, is preferably planted in Autumn to enable roots to settle in before the Winter colds strike. This will ensure a nice vegetation in Spring. If purchased in a pot or in a container, you can also plant in spring taking great care to water regularly at the beginning and in case of heat waves. Whatever the species, your dogwood will love locations with a rather high exposure to sunlight.

  • It loves full sun but doesn’t like it when it gets too hot.
  • Dogwood doesn’t grow well in soil that’s too dry.
  • Follow our advice on planting trees.

Dogwood care and maintenance

Cornus florida pink flowersHardy down to -4°F (or -20°C), it’s resilient in most climate types. This makes it easy to care for.
Dogwood naturally takes on a very elegant bearing as it grows older. You should really only prune your tree if you need to reduce it in size.

  • It really isn’t mandatory to prune it.
  • If you wish to balance growth to make the tree more symmetrical, wait for the blooming to end.

Note that it helps to cut dead wood off every now and then.

Learn more about dogwood

Dogwood is a magnificent tree that presents spectacular blooming in Spring and at the very beginning of Summer.

  • Since it stays small, it’s an ideal tree for small spaces.

It’s easy to care for, even though certain parasites can still turn invasive on it, like scale. The entire Cornus genus comprises 30 to 50 different tree and shrub species, some of which have long-lasting evergreen leaves and others deciduous leaves.

Cornus canadensis is excellent for ground coverDogwood, as it’s commonly called, takes on beautiful hues as the year progresses. In Fall, it’ll become one of the highlights of the garden. As a standalone, its leafage and bearing will stand out the most, but you can also include it in a free-growing hedge with evergreens to either side. Lastly, if you specifically desire pink blooms, select the Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’ variety: it’s the only pink-blooming dogwood in the world! This species will bear magnificent pink flowers in Spring, and leaves take on rich, fire-like colors in Fall.

Note the special Cornus canadensis, shown here in the picture, which makes for an excellent ground cover shrub that blooms in Summer.

Cornus alba, a remarkable dogwood

Cornus alba is the dogwood that has red bark in winterCornus alba, also called the white dogwood, is one of the most appealing species. What makes it interesting are its leaves that are dotted with white spots, and the bark of its stems and trunk: red, yellow and even white in Winter. The white blooming, though appreciated by the passing honeybee, isn’t its most striking asset. Winter is when it’s truly revealed: fallen leaves make way for the stunning bark to be admired! Growth is rapid: it’ll reach 6 to 8 feet (2 to 3 m) within a few years. In order to give your Cornus alba even more colorful stems, cut it back at the end of winter to trigger more growth and branching.

Smart tip about dogwood

Mulch locks moisture in the ground where the dogwood needs it. It’ll help the young tree cope with water needs on hot Summer days, when it really needs it! It’s especially useful during the first three year.


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Cornus kousa by Blondinrikard Fröberg under © CC BY 2.0
Cornus florida by Miltos Gikas under © CC BY 2.0
White on green by Larissa Sayer under © CC BY 2.0
Cornus alba by Klaus Berdiin Jensen under © CC BY-SA 2.0