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. Best planted in acidic soil.
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.
This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
All Common Names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Residential and parks
- Mixed border,
- Medium tree (25-40 feet),
- Small tree (15-25 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
- Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8,
- Zone 9
- Acid soil,
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Intolerant of pollution
- Spring blossoms,
- Fall color,
- Showy fruit,
- Showy flowers,
- Attractive bark
Season of Interest:
- Mid spring,
- Late spring,
- Late summer,
- Early fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
- Game birds,
- Insect pollinators,
- Small mammals,
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.
Flowers on old wood so harsh winters can damage flower buds.
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
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.
Cultivars and their differences
Cherokee Chief flowering dogwood (Cornus florida 'Cherokee Chief'): Upright rounded habit, 20 feet high and wide; rose red to ruby red flowers
Cloud 9 flowering dogwood (Cornus florida 'Cloud 9'): Broadly rounded, 15 feet high and 20 feet wide; white flowers
Dwarf Red flowering dogwood (Cornus florida 'Red Pygmy'): a dwarf form with a upright habit reaching 5 to 6 feet high and wide; pinkish-red bracts; good for containers
Stellar Pink flowering dogwood (Cornus florida 'Stellar Pink'): Rounded 20 feet high and wide; pink flowers
Sweetwater Red flowering dogwood (Cornus florida 'Sweetwater Red'): Upright, rounded reaching 20 feet high and 15 feet wide; reddish foliage and deep reddish foliage; burgundy fall color