Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, organically rich, acidic soils in part shade. Benefits from a 2-4” mulch which will help keep roots cool and moist in summer. May be inadvisable at this time to plant this tree in areas where dogwood anthracnose infestations are present (see problems section below).
Cornus florida, commonly known as flowering dogwood, is a small deciduous tree that typically grows 15-30’ tall with a low-branching, broadly-pyramidal but somewhat flat-topped habit. It arguably may be the most beautiful of the native American flowering trees. It is native from Maine to southern Ontario to Illinois to Kansas south to Florida, Texas and Mexico. It is the state tree of Missouri and Virginia. It blooms in early spring (April) shortly after, but usually overlapping, the bloom period of the redbuds. The true dogwood flowers are actually tiny, yellowish green and insignificant, being compacted into button-like clusters. However, each flower cluster is surrounded by four showy, white, petal-like bracts which open flat, giving the appearance of a single, large, 3-4” diameter, 4-petaled, white flower. Oval, dark green leaves (3-6” long) turn attractive shades of red in fall. Bright red fruits are bitter and inedible to humans (some authors say poisonous) but are loved by birds. Fruits mature in late summer to early fall and may persist until late in the year.
Genus name comes from the Latin word cornu meaning hard and bony in reference to the hard wood of the tree.
Specific epithet comes from the Latin word flos flower in reference to its attractive spring flowers. Common name of dogwood is in probable reference to an old-time use of hard slender stems from this tree for making skewers once known as dags or dogs.
‘Cherokee Chief’ is a cultivar that is noted for it deep rose red floral bracts. New foliage is tinged with red. U. S. Plant Patent PP1710 (1958).
Flowering dogwood, when stressed, is susceptible to a rather large number of disease problems, the most serious of which is dogwood anthracnose. Although this anthracnose is not yet a serious problem in Missouri, it has caused considerable devastation in parts of the eastern U.S. Plants are also susceptible to powdery mildew, leaf spot, canker, root rot and leaf and twig blight. Stressed trees also become vulnerable to borers. Leaf miner and scale are less serious potential insect pests.
Popular as a specimen or small grouping on residential property around homes, near patios or in lawns. Also effective in woodland, bird or native plant gardens.