Flowering dogwoods signal early spring in the eastern United States. With their bright white flowers (which are actually bracts) and distinctive branching habit, the flowering dogwood is a native tree that is a welcome sight in the home landscape.
While the flowering dogwood is the most popular dogwood in the U.S., it’s not the only one gardeners grow here. The Kousa dogwood blooms after the flowering dogwood, with flowers that are perched above the leaves. The red twig dogwood is notable for its bright red stems in winter, and is particularly adaptable to wet soil.
Creeping dogwood is a low-growing ground cover with abundant flowers that cover the ground in June.
Each variety of dogwood has its own qualities and needs. This article focuses on the flowering dogwood. Resources at the end direct the reader to information about other dogwoods that have landscape value.
In their native habitat flowering dogwoods grow in the forest under a canopy of larger trees that filter the sunlight. In the garden dogwoods do best in light shade. They prefer a well-drained acidic soil with plenty of organic matter. Flowering dogwoods are shallow rooted, so they need watering when there is no regular rainfall.
After planting, covering the ground with pine bark mulch or chips or pine needles will conserve moisture, keep weeds down, and protect the trunk from injury. Plus, the slowly decaying organic mulch will provide all the nutrients the dogwood needs.
Pests and Diseases
While flowering dogwoods are susceptible to a variety of fungal diseases, occasional attacks do not usually cause permanent damage. The best way to keep the diseases at bay is to observe the growing requirements noted above.
Dogwood borers can get into the trees through open wounds from pruning or from being hit by a lawn mower. Seed corn maggots, which look like small, black flies, may infest dogwoods, but they don’t hurt the trees. Pruning out dead and infected branches and disposing them at a distance from the trees can control midges.
Dogwoods in the Landscape
With its spring flowers, summer and fall foliage, red fall fruit, and unique winter branching habit, a flowering dogwood has four-season interest. Growing only 20 feet tall, it’s a perfect specimen tree for the home landscape. Placing it against a brick or dark wall accentuates its flowers and branching. Landscapers also use it in groupings and in garden beds.
Commercial nurseries propagate dogwoods from seeds and cuttings.
Other Dogwoods for the Home
Dozens of types of dogwoods, both native and non-native, make excellent plants for the home landscape.
Find out about the different species and varieties from these sites.
Learn all about Dogwood Tree Varieties.
Red Twig Dogwood is also full of great info.
Stay up to date with New Dogwood Varieties.