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How to Grow and Care for Flowering Dogwood (Cornus)

These large trees and shrubs produce abundant, long-lasting displays of elegant white or pink-tinged spring blooms. They are easy to care for and take a long time to grow. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and can thrive in sun or shade.

Cornus controversa variegata – Variegated Wedding Cake Tree

Quick Facts

  • A beautiful addition to the garden that is well worth the initial extra care.
  • Long-lasting flowers appear in winter or late spring, with autumnal colors and fruits.
  • They can be planted all year, but they thrive in full sun or partial shade.
  • For the best results, use homemade leaf mold as a mulch to help make the soil rich and well-drained.
  • The plants you can buy are usually grafted, but you can also grow them from cuttings or seeds.

Before You Start

Choose a flowering dogwood

This group of dogwoods (Cornus) can be grown as large shrubs or feature trees. Cornus canadensis, a ground cover herbaceous perennial, should also be considered when designing borders.

The size of the flowers and whether they are white or pink are your next options after deciding on the plant size you want. It is important to note that the majority of flowering cornus produce immature green flowers, which eventually change to their mature colour, and then typically turn pink later in the summer. So just keep in mind that even if you want the flower bracts to be completely white, they will still have pink tinges as they get older.

Cornus are an investment in both time and money, so it’s important to give them the right growing conditions and think about how big they will get. However, they are well worth the extra effort due to their showy flowers and graceful habits.

Flower bracts that are white, will still develop pink tinges as they get older.
Flower bracts that are white, will still develop pink tinges as they get older.


Flowering dogwood can be planted from autumn to early spring. If you decide to plant in summer, we suggest keeping out of direct sunlight as the thin leaves are prone to scorching. It is also best to keep the flowering dogwood watered, making sure the compost is always moist.

By planting these trees and shrubs in the sun or shade, you can get the most out of them. On soil that is both moist and well-drained, flowering cornus really do well. As slow-growing trees, they may take some time to establish themselves, and for at least three to four years after planting, they will frequently require watering during dry spells. However, once they have settled in, they will demonstrate that the additional care was well worth it. Trees that are more than 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 centimetres) tall need to be staked to keep them from leaning or rocking.

Ongoing Care


Flowering dogwood require regular watering for up to four years because their establishment takes time. They will only require watering after they have been established during prolonged droughts (droughts). Before watering, make sure the soil is dry. The papery leaves of flowering cornus are very likely to wilt just to deal with the heat, but they will reswell once the sun goes down in the evening.


Mulching well-rotted organic matter or composted bark can improve the soil. To prevent the mulch from touching the trunk and causing rot, simply leave a space between them.

Caring for established plants

Flowering dogwoods are the ideal additions to any garden once their challenging establishment phase is over, and they will continue to provide interest throughout the entire year for many years to come. Pruning is strongly discouraged for flowering dogwoods.

Pruning and Training

Dogwoods that produce flowers do not require regular pruning. Especially as the tree gets older, it’s best to put your pruning tools away, if only to improve the shape. The best option is to trim them sparingly while they are young to achieve the ideal silhouette with strategically placed branches. From late autumn to early spring, prune when dormant. Remove branches as the tree grows to create a clear trunk on young trees. The scar that remains to heal is smaller the smaller the branch.

Heavy pruning of flowering dogwoods is not a good idea because it could change their shape and habit. The natural habit of Cornus controversa is tiered, with rows of branches held out at right angles. Cutting the plant to fit will ruin the appearance of the whole thing, so give it plenty of room to grow naturally into the best shape. However, if you happen to find an upright stem that could potentially join two tiers, you can remove it cleanly with secateurs.


Keep an eye out for infections caused by Cornus anthracnose in wet springs. Root diseases like Phytophora root rot and honey fungus can also affect flowering dogwoods.


Where is the best place to plant flowering dogwoods?

“Choose a location for your dogwoods that has good drainage but isn’t too dry. The best soil has a lot of organic matter. You can plant dogwoods in full sun or partial shade, but partial shade is best,” says Chris Bonnett, gardening expert for The Express.

How do I keep a flowering dogwood tree healthy?

“For the first summer, cover the area with a thick layer of natural tree leaf mulch to “feed” the soil and protect the roots. Lightly water frequently. Dogwoods love a light feeding in the spring and a slow, deep soaking at least once a month during extremely dry summers once they have established themselves,” says Chris Bonnett, gardening expert for The Express.

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How to Grow and Care for Dogwood (Cornus)

These shrubs brighten up the garden with a fiery display of orange, red, or yellow stems in the winter and look great underplanted with early flowering bulbs. Plant in full sun, prune annually in spring, and ensure that the soil does not dry out for the most vibrant stem colour.

Updated on April 12, 2023

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