Flowering Dogwood

by Millie Davenport, Horticulture Extension Agent, Home & Garden Information Center, Clemson University, 2009

Hi, I am Millie Davenport, a horticulture Extension agent with the Clemson University Home & Garden Information Center. Today we are going to talk about one of the trees that signifies the onset of spring, the flowering dogwood, Cornus florida.

Today we are here in the South Carolina Botanical Gardens and we are looking at a flowering dogwood, Cornus florida. This plant is native to South Carolina. And, it does put out the blossoms before the leaves. The actual bracts themselves are actually the showy white flowers; they are just modified leaves themselves. After you get the full show of the flowers then the leaves will come on after that to fill out the plant.

This is typically an understory plant out in the wild. It does prefer a part shade situation which means ultimately you want some morning sun and afternoon shade in that area. It does have a shallow root system, so with any potential drought that we have in the state you really need to make sure you have mulch down around the roots to protect it. Again, you want to make sure that its only a 2-3 inch layer of mulch there to protect those roots, if you get beyond that then you can actually inhibit oxygen uptake of the roots and that can kill your plant as well.

The flowering dogwood will reach 20 to 30 feet tall in your landscape and about 20 feet wide as well, so you want to make sure you have room for it. The flowering dogwood is a great tree for a specimen planting or even in mass planting in naturalized areas. Acidic soil works really well, rich in organic matter, in a well drained site.

The flowers of the flowering dogwood are actually modified leaves, which are called bracts. So, you have got four bracts surrounding the actual flowers that are in the center. These flowers in the center will be the ones that will actually develop into the berries that you will have in the fall.

This is another variety of the species Cornus florida. This is Cherokee Princess and the really awesome thing about this is the very large flower size. The flower bracts themselves each can individually reach up to 2 inches a piece, so you are looking at a diameter of up to about four inches wide. So, you know, theres very large flowers on this.

Whether you are choosing the straight species Cornus florida to add to your landscape or a cultivar like Cherokee Princess here or even one of the pink or red varieties that are available it is a great way to start your spring in the landscape with these showy flowers.

For more information on gardening, landscaping, insect and disease problems on your plants, visit the Home & Garden Information Center web site at www.clemson.edu/hgic.

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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.