Find out all about Dogwood trees and shrubs, and how to identify them by their distinctive flowers and fruit.
Quicklist: Dogwood Trees and Shrubs
- Canadian Bunchberry
- Common Dogwood
- Cornelian Cherry
- Flowering Dogwood
- Kousa Dogwood
- Northern Swamp Dogwood
- Pacific Dogwood
- Pagoda Dogwood
- Red Osier Dogwood
- Stiff Dogwood
- Roughleaf Dogwood
- Giant Dogwood
- Siberian Dogwood
- Himalayan Dogwood
- Brown Dogwood
- Walter’s Dogwood
- Silky Dogwood
The use of the word ‘Dogwood‘ first enters into the historical record as wordplay in medieval English literature. Chaucer refers to a ‘whippletree’ in The Canterbury Tales and a few centuries later Shakespeare names a character in Much Ado About Nothing, ‘Dogberry’ — the Elizabethan name for the fruit of the common Dogwood.
Dogwoods, as we know them, are a group of trees and shrubs native to Asia, Europe, and North America. They belong to the Cornus genus with many species and cultivars, each with their own set of distinct characteristics.
Rich, moist soil is ideal for growth. Most dogwood are drought tolerant, but wet areas ensure that the plants thrive. They are mostly found near streams or other areas where there is an abundance of water.
Dogwoods require little maintenance and care. They need enough moisture to grow and regular cutting due to the fact that they form large thickets. Root sprouts should be dug out if they are showing up in unwanted areas. The old stems should be cut in the winter season in order let the new growth come out properly.
The trees are prone to the same diseases as other trees, but the main problem is fungal pathogens. These include septoria leaf spot and anthracnose.
Types of Dogwood
There are many different types and cultivars of Dogwood with some of the most popular varieties listed below.
1. Canadian Bunchberry
A dogwood subshrub that can clone itself through rhizomes and spreads at a fast pace. The scientific name for this variety is Cornus Canadensis. Other common names include Crackerberry, Low Cornel, Canadian Dwarf Cornel and Bearberry.
Native to North America, northeastern Asia and Greenland the dogwood cab grow up to 12 feet.
Canadian Bunchberry has pointed leaves with stems that grow erect and in low patches. A few greenish flowers grow on top with four white or pinkish brackets. The blooms (white, yellow, brown, or green) come any time from May to September.
Red berries replace the flowers later on. This variety needs a lot of water to thrive, alongside shade or part shade, although it can tolerate sun, as well. The soil should be moist with a pH below 6.8. The plant acts as a ground cover in damp areas.
USDA hardiness zones: 2-7.
2. Common Dogwood
The stems of the deciduous perennial are bright yellow and it can grow to a height between six and 20 feet.
Tiny flowers come in dense clusters with showy bracts. The leaves turn to a deep red color in autumn while the flowers develop into black berries. Full sun or partial shade are ideal for growth.
The soil should be well-drained and moist and can be acidic, alkaline or neutral. The tree takes approximately five to 10 years to grow to its maximum height.
USDA hardiness zones: 4-7.
3. Cornelian Cherry Dogwood
The fruit of the Cornelian Cherry can be harvested once it has ripened and fallen to the ground. The harvest can be used for a lot of different purposes in the kitchen, including making liquors, jams and sauces.
Native to southern Europe and southwest Asia, Cornus mas can grow to a height of 15 to 25 feet.
Usually found planted in residential areas and parks Cornelian Cherry dogwoods can be used for hedging, massing, or as a shade tree. Alkaline soil that is moist and well-drained is ideal for growth — it can tolerate dry areas and occasional flooding, but does not tolerate drought well.
Cornelian Cherry dogwoods attract a lot of birds. The leaves are ovate and are 2 to 4 inches in length and 2.5 inches wide. The flowers are usually yellow with the seasons best for growth including early spring through early fall.
USDA hardiness zones: 4-8.
4. Flowering Dogwood
The state tree of North Carolina, Cornus florida is native to eastern North America. There are over 100 cultivars of this variety, each with their own distinct characteristics. Characterized by a set of flowers that are white, pink, or red, the leaves turn reddish-purple in fall.
Flowering Dogwoods can grow between 15 to 40 feet in height. The plant blooms in April or May and has white bracts. A glossy red fruit attracts birds. The leaves are dark green in color and four to eight inches long.
To prevent dogwood anthracnose affected branches should be pruned often. Partial shade is ideal for growth, alongside moist and well-drained soil.
USDA hardiness zones: 5-9.
5. Kousa Dogwood
Native to eastern Asia, the botanical name is Cornus kousa. A deciduous tree, characterized by lots of showy flowers and fruits, it is tolerant of drought. The lower branches should be pruned off so that the trunk can receive light which creates a colorful display of yellow and white spots on the bark.
Kousa Dogwood has a medium growth rate with its height increasing by 12 to 24 inches every year. Full sun or partial shade, both are ideal for the growth of this tree. Well-drained and moist soil can ensure that this plant grows to become healthy.
The blooms are white in color after which come red berries. The bloom time is from May to June.
Kousa Dogwood can grow to a height of 15 to 30 feet and attracts a lot of wildlife.
USDA hardiness zones: 5-8.
6. Northern Swamp Dogwood
The Northern Swamp Dogwood is native to eastern North America and its height ranges from four to 15 feet. Other names include Gray Dogwood and Panicled Dogwood.
Cornus racemose is characterized by an orangish-brown bark that eventually fades to gray as the tree grows older. It has white flowers and white fruits. Like some other species, this species can form suckers. The tree can thrive in sunny or shady areas with wet or dry conditions.
Sharp-tipped foliage is grayish-green in color. The flowers are creamy-white in color and have four elliptical petals that make a star-like a shape.
The flowering season is May to June. The fruits come somewhere in August and September and are white in color, too. Very rarely, they are pale blue. This plant has an upright growing habit and oppositely arranged leaves.
USDA hardiness zones: 4-8
7. Pacific Dogwood
The scientific name for this tree is Cornus nuttallii. Other common names include mountain dogwood and western flowering dogwood. It is native to British Columbia and Washington.
Pacific dogwood typically grows to a height of 15 to 40 feet, but in some cases can reach 75 feet and live up to 150 years old. The leaves are three to five inches long and are smooth in texture. They turn to a bright red color in autumn. The flowers are small and white.
Pagoda dogwood bears reddish berries in abundance. It has smooth and grey bark and grows best in deep well-drained soil. Pigeons and waxwings are highly attracted to the fruit. Deer feast on the twigs.
USDA hardiness zones: 7-9.
8. Pagoda Dogwood
Native to eastern North America, Cornus alternifolia attracts a lot of wildlife, including butterflies. This dogwood variety features creamy-white flowers that bloom in late spring. It also bears fruit in the form of blueberries which mature in late summer.
The leaves are long and turn to a purple color in autumn. Moist, fertile soil along with a sunny site is ideal for the healthy growth of this plant, although some shade is needed in the afternoon.
It is best that the soil is well-drained and acidic.
USDA hardiness zones: 4-7. Pagoda dogwoods can grow to a height of 15 to 25 feet tall.
9. Red Osier Dogwood
Multi-stemmed shrub, native to North America, has many names, including red twig dogwood, western dogwood, and poison dogwood. Cornus sericea is characterized by a cluster of small white flowers and oval leaves.
It is most commonly found in wet areas and is tolerant of flooding. Growing best in full sun Red Osier can also survive in the shade but will have a slow growth rate and will bear fewer fruit.
USDA hardiness zones: 2-7. It typically grows to a height of six to 12 feet.
10. Stiff Dogwood
Cornus foemina is a midsize shrub native to the eastern and southeastern U.S. and grows in wetlands from six to 12 feet. Also known as Swamp Dogwood, clusters of white flowers appear in the spring with blue fruits following in the fall.
USDA hardiness zones: 5-8. Grows best in shade or light shade but tolerates some sun.
11. Roughleaf Dogwood
Native to the midwestern U.S. and around the regions of the Mississippi River the Roughleaf Dogwood (Cornus drummondii) displays white flowers in the summer and white fruit in the fall. A bird magnet the deciduous tree can grow to 25 feet tall.
Hardiness: Zones 4 to 9, considered a very adaptable plant.
12. Giant Dogwood
The Giant Dogwood certainly lives up to its name. It can grow up to 50 feet in height, and it spreads itself out over a large area. Native to China, Korea, the Himalayas and Japan, Cornus controversa displays white flowers in the summer, followed by black fruit.
USDA hardiness zones: 5-8. Grows best in full sun to part shade in rich, acidic soils.
13. Siberian Dogwood
Native to Siberia, northern China and Korea, the Siberian Dogwood produces white or yellow flowers and bright red stems in the fall. Cornus alba grows very fast as a deciduous shrub, and reaches a maximum height of eight or nine feet. Tolerates many conditions but does best with full sun or part shade
USDA hardiness zones: 4-9.
14. Himalayan Dogwood
Cornus capitata is an evergreen tree that can grow up to 30 feet in height with flowers that appear in late spring to early summer. The flowers it produces have a pink tint to them.
Native to low-elevation woodlands of the Himalayas in China, India and Pakistan, the hardy Himalayan Dogwood is able to grow in many different environments.
USDA hardiness zones: 7-8.
15. Brown Dogwood
Native to California and southwest Oregon, the Brown Dogwood grows in low-elevation wetlands up to 15 feet. The deciduous tree displays clusters of white flowers followed by dark blue fruit.
16. Walter’s Dogwood
Native to Korea and China, Walter’s Dogwood flower in early spring and produce a reddish-purple colored fruit. Medium-sized deciduous tree can reach 30 feet in height.
USDA hardiness: Zones 5-8A.
17. Silky Dogwood
Cornus amomum is native to eastern North America, and the deciduous shrub can grow six to 12 feet.
Silky Dogwood produces yellowish-white flowers in summer followed by blue fruit. USDA hardiness: Zones 4-8.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many types of dogwood are there?
58 species of dogwood belong to the Cornus genus that is split into four subgroups called clades based on shared characteristics.
In the United States, 24 species of dogwood exist to some degree. The most widespread dogwood varieties are: C. alba, C. alternifola, C. amomum, C. canadensis, C. drummondii, C. florida, C. foemina, C. obliqua. C. racemosa, and C. rugosa. The Cornus florida is particularly notable within the gardening community under the common name of flowering dogwood.
When do dogwoods bloom?
Flowering dogwoods bloom in the spring and early summer depending on the climate, taking about 6 years to reach maturity for flowering production. If you keep an eye on the buds in the fall, you can get an idea of how many flowers you will get to enjoy next year.
When is the best time to plant dogwood trees?
When planting Cornus florida grown using seeds, plant the seeds in the spring after the frost has passed. The young trees grow roots quickly throughout the spring and summer.
How big do dogwood trees get?
The largest recorded flowering dogwood grew to be 55 feet tall. A typical dogwood in good growing conditions can grow up to 40 feet tall, while poor conditions can stunt the growth by half or more.
How fast do dogwood trees grow?
Dogwood trees aren’t fast to grow. A decent growth rate would be a little over a foot per year up to their maximum height.
Are dogwood berries edible?
Flowering dogwood berries are edible for humans in the sense that they likely won’t kill anyone who doesn’t have an allergy to them, but their taste makes them practically inedible unless on the verge of starvation. Some variations of dogwood have more delicious berries, like the Kousa variety.
Where is the best place to plant dogwood trees?
Each dogwood tree may have its own preferences. For the common flowering dogwood or Cornus florida, dig a sizable hole and clean the soil of rocks and roots. They like slightly acidic soil between 6 to 7 pH that’s kept moist but not overly wet.
Dogwoods naturally tend to grow under other trees, so they prefer low sunlight or shade, achieving their best photosynthesis rates with just one-third of a full day of sun. Too much sun can actually reduce their growth.
The common flowering dogwood has a wide growing range, stretching all along the east coast of the United States. Cold or arid climates will see shorter variations of dogwood that are more similar to shrubs.
When do you need to prune dogwood?
The slow and steady pace of dogwood growth doesn’t need much pruning. If you want to trim your dogwood, do it in the late fall or winter after the cold has set. This advice holds true for most trees. If absolutely necessary, spring pruning can be done before growth has started.
Do dogwood trees smell?
Dogwood trees don’t have a noticeable odor. The flowers have a floral aroma that is generally considered non-offensive, but species and opinions may vary.
How far from a house should you plant a dogwood tree?
Dogwood trees don’t have massive roots, but they should still be planted at least 15 feet away from a house to avoid structural complications to the house or the tree. Keep underground power lines and other nearby obstructions in mind, as well.
Are dogwood trees poisonous to dogs?
No members of the Cornus genus are on the ASPCA’s list of plants toxic to dogs. They also aren’t on the list of plants not toxic to dogs, so exercise caution and do not let any animals eat the plant or its fruit.
When is the best time to plant dogwood trees?
Plant seeds in the spring when the sun starts to come back. Dogwoods don’t need much sun, so an early start can help them get ahead.
When do dogwood trees need fertilizer?
Dogwood trees enjoy fertilizer early on in their lives. Start with a dose of fertilizer in the early spring, and repeat applications every six weeks. Your everyday fertilizer that’s available at the garden store works just fine.
Adjust the amount of fertilizer based on the size of the dogwood. Use one teaspoon of fertilizer for every square foot of the planting area for new growth. Trees from two feet to six feet tall need four tablespoons, and larger trees can take one cup of fertilizer per inch of tree thickness.