Cornus florida

Flowering Dogwood




  • native to the eastern and central United States
  • zone 5 with selection of proper genetic material
  • grows naturally as an understory tree

Habit and Form

  • a small deciduous tree
  • grows to about 30' tall with an equal or greater spread
  • shape is rounded to somewhat flat-topped
  • branching is approaching horizontal
  • branches low to the ground with a short trunk

Summer Foliage

  • opposite, simple leaves
  • oval to ovate shape
  • leaves 3" to 6" long
  • leaves 1.5' to 3" wide
  • leaf color is medium green

Autumn Foliage

  • red or reddish purple
  • generally quite showy
  • colors early and color holds for an extended period


  • flowers are small and yellowish green
  • the showy part of the bloom the four white bracts
  • each bract is nearly 2" long
  • the diameter of the bracts combined is about 4" across
  • bloom time is mid-May
  • bloom is effective for 2 weeks
  • flowering occurs before leaf out


  • bright, shiny red fruits
  • held in tight clusters of 3 to 4
  • each fruit is 0.33" to 0.5" long and elongated
  • some trees retain fruit into the winter
  • birds often eat the fruit


  • quite attractive
  • develops small square or rectangular blocks
  • resembles alligator skin
  • color is dark gray, brown or black


  • prefers a cool, moist, acidic soil that contains organic matter
  • full sun promotes greatest flowering but tolerates partial shade well
  • not tolerant of stresses such as heat, drought, pollution, road salt
  • best transplanted at a small size
  • can be slow to reestablish following transplanting

Landscape Uses

  • small groupings
  • lawn tree
  • specimen
  • border
  • naturalistic areas
  • edge of woods
  • patio tree
  • has four season appeal in flowers, fruits, fall, color, bark and branching character


  • flower buds can be killed or injured by cold in zone 5
  • dogwood borer
  • dogwood anthracnose
  • powdery mildew
  • crown rot and canker
  • almost overused

ID Features

  • flower buds large and flattened
  • twigs reddish purple
  • alligator-like bark on large branches
  • horizontal branching
  • white flowers comprised of 4 bracts in May


  • by seed
  • by bud grafting
  • by cuttings


Dwarf forms (such as 'Compacta') and fastigiate plants (such as 'Fastigiata') are known, but they are rarely available and perhaps best reserved for collectors.

'Cherokee Brave' - Considered one of the best red forms, with deep pink bracts that have a white center. Will grow 15' tall.

'Cherokee Chief' - A popular selection with bracts that are deep red and reddish new growth. The most popular red-pink dogwood.

'Cherokee Daybreak' ('Cherokee Daybreak™) - A variegated selection with white-margined leaves that age to pink in fall. Flower bracts are white.

'Cherokee Princess' - This form blooms at an early age, with very large white flowers -- up to 5" across. It blooms heavily and reliably every year. It's always ranked near the top of dogwood evaluations.

'Cherokee Sunset' (Cherokee Sunset™) - A red-flowered form with variegated foliage that is marked with pink/yellow. A good performer, with strong growth to 25' tall and disease resistance.

'Cloud 9' - A slow-growing cultivar with white overlapping bracts. Very heavy bloomer that starts producing as a young plant. Shows good cold hardiness.

'Pendula' - This rare form features branches that are strongly weeping. Flower bracts are white.

'Plena' - Somewhat of a catch-all name for double, white-bracted forms.

var rubra ('Rubra') - This variety has flowers that range from pink to reddish with considerable variation in color. Very common in the trade.

'Welchii' - The leaves are variegated with a mixture of green, cream and pink. Flowers are white and the fall color is rose red. It benefits from a location in partial shade.

'Xanthocarpa' - A form with unusual yellow fruits and white-bracted flowers.

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database,, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.