DALY: The native dogwood colors the spring landscape

Timothy Daly

Timothy Daly

Of all the spring blooming trees, the common flowering dogwoods are perhaps the most widely recognized and appreciated. The trees are native to Georgia and are a common understory tree, meaning they grow under the larger trees in the forest. They have attractive features throughout the year in regard to their flowers, fruit and fall color. They have a rounded to flat top crown with a horizontal branching pattern. They are great additions to residential landscapes.

Since dogwoods are an understory tree, they prefer part shade. They suffer in full sun, which increases their vulnerability to pests such as powdery mildew and dogwood borers. They prefer moist, well-drained soils with ample organic matter. During prolonged dry spells, the application of supplemental water is beneficial since they have shallow roots. Provide a three- to four-inch layer of an organic mulch, such as pine straw or pine bark, to keep moisture in the soil. Mulch also can provide a barrier to keep lawn mowers and other equipment from damaging the trunk. Dogwoods seldom need pruning except to remove dead or broken branches.

Flowering dogwoods can potentially grow to a height of 20 feet or more. The flowers are white although some varieties have red or pink blossoms. They bloom in the spring before their leaves emerge. In the fall, their leaves turn a red to purple color. The trees produce small red fruit in clusters that serve as a food source for birds and other wildlife. Some years dogwoods do not have as many blooms as others, particularly if they produce a heavy berry crop in the previous growing season.

Kousa dogwoods are closely related to the flowering dogwood and are similar in appearance. However, they are not native to Georgia and originate from Asia. Since people are not as familiar with them, these dogwoods are not frequently planted. They can tolerate full sun, and they bloom a couple of weeks after the flowering dogwood. Their blooms appear after the foliage emerges. The trees also have greater resistance to insects and diseases. The fall color is similar to the flowering dogwood, and they produce a pink to red raspberry colored fruit in autumn. Over time, the bark develops a tan to gray color.

Both types of dogwoods have a multitude of uses in the landscape. They are frequently used as specimen or accent plants around the front of homes or around patios. In shady areas, they are frequently planted with shade-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, liriope and other plants. Dogwoods thrive in natural woodland areas.

Dogwoods are a delightful addition to the landscape. Under the right growing conditions, they will thrive and produce attractive blooms in the spring.

Timothy Daly, MS, a agricultural and natural resource extension agent with Gwinnett County Extension may be contacted by phone at 678-377-4010 or email at timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.