Gray dogwood is a very adaptable, native shrub that is excellent for naturalizing, especially in difficult sites, such as pond and stream banks. Although its suckering, spreading habit makes it impractical for formal plantings, it can be incorporated into the shrub border and useful as a mass planting. Creamy white clusters of flowers in May are followed by white berries in late summer that are quickly eaten by birds.
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.
All Common Names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Large shrub (more than 8 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 3,
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8
- Dry soil,
- Wet soil
- Dry sites,
- Occasional drought,
- Wet sites,
- Occasional flooding,
- Alkaline soil,
- Clay soil
Season of Interest:
- Late spring,
- Late summer,
- Early fall,
- Mid fall,
- Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
Size and Form
A large, 10 to 15 feet high and wide upright shrub forming large thickets
Tree & Plant Care
Grows in full sun in wet or dry sites but best in well-drained soil. Tolerant of heavy shade.
An excellent plant for sceening or to use along ponds and stream banks.
Its suckering, spreading habit requires more maintenance and pruning for formal plantings.
Disease, pests and problems
No serious problems
Native geographic location and habitat
Occurs in disturbed woods, moist ground along streams, wet meadows, and prairie margins.
Attracts birds & butterflies
White berries are quickly eaten by birds
Over 98 species of birds, including flicker, tanager, woodpeckers, and catbird are attracted to this plant for its fruit and use as a shelter and a nesting site.
Bark color and texture
Younger stems have a reddish color, older stems are grayish-brown.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Simple, opposite leaves, 2 to 4 inches long; grayish-green, elliptic to lance-shaped leaves.
Foliage turns an interesting (but not always showy) purplish red in fall.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Bluish-white berries ripen July through October and persist into early winter.
Attractive bright red fruit stalks persist through winter.