Flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) are small, deciduous trees with a symmetrical form and a broad, rounded canopy of foliage. Flowering dogwoods grow to 40 feet tall and have simple, 6 inch, ovate-shaped, crinkled, light green leaves. Their flowers are small, dense clusters surrounded by white, showy, petal-like bracts. Some cultivars have pink to red bracts. Dogwoods flower profusely in spring before their leaves expand.
Flowering dogwood trees are suitable as specimens, as framing trees, near patios and as small shade trees. Its flowers provide spring color, and its leaves provide color in the fall. Its form softens lines in the landscape and its nature is well-suited to growth at the edge of wooded areas and incorporated into shrub borders.
Several cultivars of flowering dogwood are available, including apple blossom with light pink bracts. Double white bracts, as well as good drought and heat tolerance, are characteristic of bay beauty. Cherokee chief has red new growth and bronze fall color. Fragrant cloud is a slightly fragrant cultivar with large white bracts and some disease resistance. Reputable local nurseries and garden centers are good sources for flowering dogwoods well suited to your area.
Flowering dogwoods prefer full sun to partial shade and nutrient-rich, well-drained, acidic soils. Flowering dogwoods are slightly salt tolerant. Waterlogged conditions, pollution and compacted soil are all detrimental to optimum growth. It is especially important to adequately irrigate flowering dogwoods during their first year of planting, especially when established in a hot location. In fact, dogwoods planted in full sun locations benefit from regular irrigation during the lifetime of the tree. Those planted in shade need less irrigation unless it is a time of drought.
Diseases affecting flowering dogwoods include leaf spot, blight, cankers, root rot and mildew. Leaf scorch looks like a disease and occurs during dry, hot, windy weather and is a result of inadequate soil moisture, transplanting shock or other factors. Your local county extension agent is a recommended source of information regarding specific disease identification and management in your region.
Insect pests of flowering dogwoods include borers that attack weakened trees, the dogwood club gall midge, leaf miners, scales, aphids and twig girdlers. Avoidance of tree injuries is important to the health of flowering dogwoods. Pruning and destruction of infested twigs is practiced to control borers and club galls. Consultation with local county extension is helpful for information regarding what insects affect flowering dogwoods in your area and the best practices for their management.