The species of dogwood tree that is native to California is the Pacific or Western dogwood (C. nuttallii). It is one of the tallest of the dogwoods and one that produces the most blooms. Its natural habitat ranges from southern British Columbia in Canada to the southernmost parts of California and as far as 200 miles inland.
The branches of the Western dogwood, which can grow horizontally as well and vertically, form a thick crown that can be round or cone-shaped. The tree can grow from 15 to 40 feet tall, or be trimmed to grow as a hedge. It produces white flowers that can have a touch of pink and are larger than the flowers of other dogwood species, and orange-red berries. The green leaves turn yellow/orange in the fall and then fall off.
The California dogwood is hardy in planting zones 7-9. Zone 7 ranges from Delaware to north Georgia and along the coastal areas of New Jersey, Long Island and Cape Cod in the Eastern U.S.; southern New Mexico and parts of Arizona, Nevada and the southern part of Utah in the South; and, in the West, the eastern border of California through central Oregon and Washington, as far north as Alaska’s Inland Passage, areas where the winter temperatures do not go below 0 to 10 degrees F.
Zone 8 ranges along the western and southern borders of the United States and up the East Coast as far as North Carolina, areas where the winter temperatures do not get below 10 to 20 degrees F.
Zone 9 is one of the smallest--central Florida, the coastal regions of Louisiana and Texas, the rest of California and the southernmost part of Oregon, areas where the winter temperatures do not go below 20 to 30 degrees F.
The California dogwood is not fussy when it comes to sunlight. It can grow in full sun--an area that gets at least six hours of sunshine a day--and full or partial shade. The tree like a rich, moist--but not wet--soil and a lot of humidity.
Uses and Benefits
The California dogwood will attract birds and wildlife. It can be used as a stand alone lawn plant, grown as a hedge or as part of a windbreak.
Older plants can be damaged by too much watering. If the trunk has been damaged, such as when it is hit by a lawn mower, it becomes very vulnerable to fungal diseases. The wound gives the fungus a place through which it can enter the tree. It is very susceptible to a fungal disease called anthracnose, a disease that came close to wiping out the dogwood population in the 1980s.