Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea'
Common Name: pagoda dogwood 
Type: Tree
Family: Cornaceae
Zone: 3 to 7
Height: 10.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 12.00 to 20.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Yellowish-white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Flowering Tree
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Colorful
Attracts: Birds, Butterflies
Fruit: Showy
Tolerate: Deer


Best grown in acidic, organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Some afternoon shade is appreciated in hot summer climates such as the St. Louis area. Best performance occurs in cool summer climates. Provide consistent moisture and mulch root zone.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Cornus alternifolia is a small deciduous tree or large multi-stemmed shrub that typically grows 15-25’ tall with distinctive tiered/layered horizontal branching which is upward-turned at the tips. It is native to both moist and dry forests, forest margins, stream banks and fields from Newfoundland to Minnesota south to northern Arkansas and through the Appalachians to Georgia and Alabama. Small, fragrant, yellowish-white flowers bloom in flattened cymes (each to 2 1/2" across) in late spring (May-June). Flowers give way to bluish-black fruits (drupes) on red stalks. Fruits mature in late summer. Elliptic-ovate, medium green leaves (to 3-5” long) turn reddish-purple often tinted yellow or green in fall. Although the leaves of most species of dogwood are opposite, those of pagoda dogwood are alternate, hence the specific epithet and often used common name of alternate-leaf dogwood.

Genus name comes from the Latin word cornus meaning "horn", possibly in reference to the strength and density of the wood. Cornus is also the Latin name for cornelian cherry (Cornus mas). May also be related to the Greek kerasos meaning "cherry".

Specific epithet refers to the alternate arrangement of the leaves.

Common name of pagoda dogwood is in reference to the tiered horizontal branching.

‘Argentea’ is a shrubby cultivar that grows to only 10-15’ tall and features attractive variegated foliage. It features the same layered, horizontal branching as the species. Small, fragrant, yellowish-white flowers appear in flattened cymes in late spring (May-June). Flowers give way to bluish-black fruits (drupes) that mature in summer. Elliptic-ovate, medium green leaves (to 3.5” long) are variegated with white. Argentea means silver in reference to the foliage variegation.


Susceptible to leaf spot, twig and leaf blights, root rot and canker. Scale, leaf miner and borers are occasional insect pests.


Plant as a specimen or in small groupings on residential property around homes, near patios or in lawns. Also effective in shrub borders, woodland gardens, bird gardens or naturalized areas.