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Cornus sericea ‘Baileyi’ (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)
Cornus sericea ‘Baileyi’ (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)

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Zone
Zones 2B, 3-9, 14-16, 28, 29, 31-41
Full SunPartial Sun
Full, Partial
Regular Water
Moderate

Cornus florida

Flowering Dogwood, Eastern Dogwood
Cornaceae
Deciduous, Trees

CORNUS

All dogwoods offer attractive foliage and blossoms; some have spectacular fruit or winter bark. Leaves of many types turn brilliant colors in fall. What appear to be flower petals in many dogwoods are actually bracts—petal-like modified leaves. These surround the inconspicuous true flowers.

Cornus florida ‘Rubra’
Cornus florida ‘Rubra’

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Cornus florida

Native to eastern U.S. May reach 40 ft. high and wide, but more commonly seen at 20–30 ft. Trees tend to branch low, the branches building up in horizontal layers (with gray twigs pointing upward at branch ends). Mature trees—often wider than tall—have a gently rounded to flat crown.

Small flower clusters are surrounded by four roundish, 2–4-in. bracts with notched tips. The species has white bracts, but selections offer bracts in pink shades to nearly red (as well as white). Bracts form in fall; tips may dry out in harsh, dry winters, preventing inflorescence from opening fully. Flowers almost cover the tree in midspring before the leaves expand. Oval, 2–4-in.-long leaves are bright green above, lighter green beneath; turn glowing red in fall. Clusters of small, oval scarlet fruit last into winter or until birds eat them.

Subject to anthracnose, a fungus that can cause leaf damage, stem cankers, and decline or death of the tree. Avoid injury to bark from mowers and string trimmers; try to keep the tree healthy with adequate feeding, watering, and air circulation.

‘Cherokee Daybreak’ (‘Daybreak’)

Green leaves with white variegation turn pink and red in fall. White bracts.

‘Cherokee Sunset’ (‘Sunset’)

Yellow-variegated leaves turn red-purple in fall. Reddish bracts. Resistant to anthracnose.

‘Cloud Nine’

White-bracted selection blooms young and very heavily. Gives better bloom in cold climates than other C. florida varieties; also tolerates heat and lack of winter chill better than other varieties.

‘Prairie Pink’

Soft pink bracts. Well adapted to areas of the West, east of the Rocky Mountains.

‘Welchii’

Leaves about 4 in. long, variegated in creamy white, pink, deep rose, and green throughout spring and summer; turn solid deep rose to almost red in fall. Rather inconspicuous pinkish to white bracts are not profuse. Best with some shade.

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