Kousa dogwood

Flowers of kousa dogwood.

Kousa dogwood is an excellent small specimen tree. Two outstanding characteristics are the four-petaled, white flowers that appear above the foliage in June and reddish-purple fall color. In the Midwest, this is a hardier substitute for the acid-loving flowering dogwood. The shallow root system will benefit with a layer of mulch to maintain a cool root environment.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

Botanical name:

Cornus kousa

All Common Names:

Kousa dogwood

Family (English):

Dogwood

Family (Botanic):

Cornaceae

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree

Foliage:

  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median

Landscape Uses:

  • Mixed border,
  • Patio/sidewalk,
  • Shade tree,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Medium tree (25-40 feet),
  • Small tree (15-25 feet)

Mature Height:

20-30 feet

Mature Width:

21-30 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil

Acid Soils:

  • Prefers

Alkaline Soils:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Ornamental Interest:

  • Spring blossoms,
  • Fall color,
  • Edible fruit,
  • Showy fruit,
  • Showy flowers,
  • Attractive bark

Season of Interest:

  • Early winter,
  • Mid winter,
  • Late winter,
  • Late spring,
  • Early summer,
  • Late summer,
  • Early fall,
  • Mid fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Pink,
  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Broad,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

Transplants Well:

  • Moderate

Wildlife:

  • Insect pollinators

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

Although tolerant of neutral pH soils, it prefers acid soil and may develop chlorotic symptoms (pale green leaves) in high pH soils.
Shallow root system benefits with a few inches of mulch to moderate soil temperature.  
Best in part shade conditions in a protected site.Flowers on old wood, prune after flowering.

Disease, pests and problems

Heavy clay soil can contains moisture, which   can lead to root rots.
Borers and leaf spots

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

More resistant to drought than flowering dogwood.
Resistant to the anthracnose (Discula) that is common on flowering dogwood.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Asia.

Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa)
Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa)
photo: John Hagstrom

Bark color and texture 

Bark is gray-brown and slightly exfoliating.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, opposite, 2 to 4 inch long with entire margins, elliptical shape;  dark green leaves change to a burgundy-red in fall. 

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

This tree blooms 2-3 weeks after native dogwoods.
True flowers are inconspicuous. 1 to 2 inch, white pointed bracts appear above the foliage and persist for several weeks.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Large, attractive, 1 inch, raspberry-like fruit appear in August.  

Cultivars and their differences

Champion's Gold kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa 'Losely'): Vase-shaped, 25 to 20 feet high and wide; white flowers; 3/4 inch red fruits

Heart Throb kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa 'Schmred'): A rounded habit; 20 feet high and wide; deep dink flowers; 3/4 inch red fruits; deep red fall color

Milky Way Select kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa 'Milky Way Select'): Rounded to wide vase shape; 15 feet high and wide; 3/4 inch red fruits; bright red fall color

Satomi kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa 'Satomi'): Vase to rounded habit; 15 to 20 feet high and wide; rose pink flowers; red fall color

Summer Gold kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa 'Summer Gold'): rounded to wide vase-shaped habit; variegated creamy white and green foliage; white flowers;  pink to red fall color; 3/4 inch red fruits

Location of Cornus kousa (Kousa dogwood) at the Arboretum