Kousa 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’re going to talk about the Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa).

More than likely you are familiar with the native flowering dogwood in the southeast. Today we are going to look at a distant relative of that, and this is the Kousa dogwood. Now the Kousa dogwood is not native to North America, it actually is from Japan, Korea and China. One thing about, it does put out it’s foliage before the flowers, so that’s a little different than our native flowering dogwood. It is deciduous and the bracts actually come out after that. The flowering of these usually occur 2 to 3 weeks later than our native flowering dogwood. The bracts themselves with the flowers and the show that you get are about 4 inches wide, now the interesting thing about this is that you are going to get flowers that have a tapered tip kinda point to it, a lot different than our native flowering dogwood. Now again, like the native flowering dogwood these are just modified leaves, they are bracts, and with that these are just showy, they are not the actual flower.  The actual flowers are here in the center of these bracts.  These flowers are going to be the ones that actually develop into a really cool looking berry that will come out later in the season.  Now with the Kousa dogwood you have different seasons of interest with it that we are going to talk about. First we have talked about the beautiful flowers that you get in late spring. In late summer, you are going to get the berries that form from these flowers. Now after the fruit comes on and goes away you will actually get into a beautiful show for fall of the foliage. The foliage will turn into kind of a reddish purple color, scarlet look. And that will give you a really nice show for the fall. Now, after the leaves have fallen you’ll have this beautiful interest of the bark. The bark of the Kousa has this really nice exfoliating bark and it will also give a kind of mottle dark brown and gray kind of look as you can see here on the trunk.  So that is something you can enjoy in the winter months after the leaves have fallen.  Now, considering a Kousa dogwood for your landscape you want to make sure you have the right conditions for it. You need a full sun location to part shade, it will do okay there.  It needs acidic soil, moist but well drained. And one thing about it that is kind of cool is that it does tolerate full sun which is unique for a dogwood.  Your Kousa dogwood will reach about 15 to 20 feet tall and wide. So, you definitely want to be sure you have enough room for it the landscape. So, if you have a sunny location in your landscape and you are considering a flowering dogwood for your landscape, instead you may want to consider the Kousa dogwood which is actually more tolerant of a full sun location.

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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