TREES & plants

Flowering dogwood

Flowering dogwood in full flower.

Flowering dogwood is a small to medium woodland understory tree, native throughout most of the eastern United States. Showy white, red or pink flowering bracts appear before the leaves in early spring. Dark green summer foliage turns a brilliant reddish purple in fall.  It is sensitive to adverse soil and environmental conditions such as road salt and pollution. 

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

Botanical name: 
Cornus florida
All Common Names: 
flowering dogwood
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area, 
  • Illinois, 
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
Landscape Uses: 
  • Massing, 
  • Mixed border, 
  • Patio/sidewalk, 
  • Specimen, 
  • Utility
Size Range: 
  • Medium tree (25-40 feet), 
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)
Mature Height: 
20-40 feet
Mature Width: 
20 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily), 
  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7, 
  • Zone 8, 
  • Zone 9
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil, 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Requires
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Intolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Intolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Intolerant of pollution
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Spring blossoms, 
  • Fall color, 
  • Showy fruit, 
  • Showy flowers, 
  • Attractive bark
Season of Interest: 
  • Mid spring, 
  • Late spring, 
  • Late summer, 
  • Early fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Pink, 
  • Red, 
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Round, 
  • Vining
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
Transplants Well: 
  • No
  • Game birds, 
  • Insect pollinators, 
  • Small mammals, 
  • Songbirds
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

Tends to develop problems in heavy clay soil.
Prefers acid soil and  gets chlorotic symptoms (pale green leaves) in high pH soils.
Shallow root system benefits with a few inches of mulch to moderate soil temperature.   It is also beneficial to shelter the plant from wind.
Considered borderline hardy in the Chicago area.

Disease, pests and problems

Poorly drained soils, wind, salt, drought stress  predispose plant to insect and disease problems.
Borers and cankers are possible problems.
Anthracnose (Discula) is a very serious problem is some parts of the United States.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 9
Native to much of the eastern United States.
Common in wooded areas.

Bark color and texture 

Mature bark is gray-brown and blocky and when shed it reveals a dark inner bark.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Opposite, simple, rounded  leaves with a pointed tip. Pale green with wavy leaf margins. Veins grow toward tip of leaf without running to the edge.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Flowers appear large because of the 4 white bracts. True flowers are clustered in center of bracts.
Flower buds are a small button-like bud at the tips of branches. Leaf buds are flattened and reddish color.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Clusters of bright red fruit  ripen in July- August. 

Cornus florida or Flowering dogwood