Tree of the Month: Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Posted: April 10, 2012
Growing Healthy Flowering Dogwoods
Location, location, location is critical for success in growing healthy flowering dogwoods. They do not perform well in very stressful sites and are intolerant of urban conditions. However, a site that has well-drained, evenly moist, acidic soil with good organic matter content and shade from the hot afternoon sun is just the ticket for success with this tree. Full morning sun is most appropriate because it allows the foliage to dry quickly, which helps reduce the incidence of Discula anthracnose; it also results in more flowers and better fall color. It is best to mulch around the base with a two to three inch layer of wood chips that extend out to the drip line to help moderate soil temperatures, preserve soil moisture, and to protect the trunk from weed whackers and lawn mowers. Mulch should not physically contact the trunk. Underplanting with shade-tolerant ground covers such as ginger (Asarum spp.), green-and-gold (Chrysogonum virginianum), barrenwort (Epimedium spp.), or Allegheny foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) is another option.
Flowering dogwood grows 20-30 feet tall with a greater spread. There are dozens of cultivars to choose from, including the white ‘Appalachian Spring,’ ‘Cherokee Princess, and ‘Ozark Spring;’ the pink ‘Cherokee Chief,’ ‘Sweetwater Red,’ and Cornus florida var. rubra; the gold-variegated ‘First Lady,’ ‘Golden Nugget,’ and Hohman’s Golden;’ and the gold-fruited ‘Poinsett'.