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Plant of the Month: Cornus kousa Chinensis (Chinese Dogwood)

Cornus kousa va. chinensis in flower

Every spring and summer, flowering dogwoods put on a gorgeous display. Their profuse blooms come in shades of showy white, pink, light green, red, and cream. And their abundance of flowers gives them almost universal appeal.

Cornus kousa dogwoods have great autumn colors from orange-red to scarlet and purple. This makes them an excellent choice for residential and commercial properties where ornamental trees are desired as a border, woodland garden centerpiece, bird sanctuary, or naturalized area.

So, what’s the best dogwood? There are more than 60 species and dozens of cultivars to choose from. But when it comes to beauty, abundant flowers, and exceptional showmanship, we love the  Cornus kousa var. chinensis (Chinese Dogwood) followed closely by the Cornus Kousa “Stellar Pink.”

Cornus kousa var. Chinensis (Chinese Dogwood)

01 Cornus kousa var chinensisIf you’re looking for a flowering dogwood that blooms freely and profusely, the Cornus kousa var. Chinensis (Chinese Dogwood) is a gorgeous choice for almost any landscape.

  • Plant Type: kousa dogwood
  • Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,
  • Height: 30 feet
  • Spread:  20 – 25 feet
  • Colors: Dark green leaves, creamy-white bracts that mature to pinkish-red, orange-red then scarlet in autumn
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water: Medium
  • Uses: Ornamental flowering tree (plant as a specimen or in small groupings)
  • Benefits: Excellent flowers, showy fruit, good fall color, no serious insect or disease problems

This tree is one of the most beautiful flowering trees you can plant. It has oval, pointed dark green leaves with large, creamy-white flowers that bloom in June. Those are followed by large, round, golf ball-like carpels that cover the entire tree. For homeowners, it is an eye-catching choice that creates a big impact in any size garden.

The Chinese Dogwood offers splendor year-round. It is a strong bloomer throughout the summer. Then in the autumn, it grows hanging red fruit while the leaves turn orange-red to red-scarlet shades for even greater appeal. In the winter, mature trees have bark that turns an attractive mottled, exfoliating, tan and gray.

Plus, this heavy-fruiting dogwood will attract lots of wildlife, including butterflies and birds. The Chinese Dogwood is an incredibly ornamental tree that can be planted around homes, near patios, as border trees, or in the middle of a lawn. Making it perfect as a special accent.

Noteworthy Characteristics

The Chinese Dogwood is best grown in organically rich soil. It likes medium moisture that’s well-drained. For best growth, hot summers require regular watering to avoid leaf scorch in full sun.

With no serious insect or disease problems, it’s a solid choice for properties where minimum upkeep is desired. The key is to plant the Chinese Dogwood somewhere it has room to mature, has access to partial shade, and can be admired.

Alternate Cultivar: Cornus kousa ‘Stellar Pink’

03 Cornus kousa Stellar Pink nursery rowsIf you’d prefer a kousa dogwood with showy, petal-like pink bracts instead, you’ll want to consider the Cornus Kousa ‘Stellar Pink’ cultivar.  It is one of several Cornus kousa X Cornus florida hybrids, and it is a solid alternative to the Chinensis line up.

  • Plant Type: kousa dogwood
  • Zones: 5, 6, 7, 8, 
  • Height: 15 - 30 feet
  • Spread:  15 – 30 feet
  • Colors: Dark green leaves that turn purple-red in fall, large 4-petaled white to soft pink flowers 
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water: Medium
  • Uses: Ornamental flowering tree, woodland gardens
  • Benefits: Excellent and showy flowers, sterile (no fruit), good fall color, resistant to anthracnose, discula, and dogwood borer

02 Cornus kousa Stellar Pink blossomThe Stellar Pink Dogwood was developed by Rutgers University as a hardy tree that is resistant to anthracnose, discula, and dogwood borer. It is a small deciduous dogwood with a dense upright habit that can mature to 15 to 20-feet in height and width. Uniform from top to bottom, the Stellar Pink Dogwood is best known for its profuse blooms in the spring. Each flower cluster gives the appearance of a single, large 3 to 5-inch wide flower with four soft pink petals that are broadly rounded and slightly overlapping. 

And the tree is just as beautiful in the fall when its dark green leaves turn attractive shades of purple and red. Although, it is important to note that the Stellar Pink is a sterile dogwood that produces no fruit. This can be beneficial for homeowners that want to avoid a potential mess in the fall.

Cornus kousa = Strong Growth and Abundant Flowers

When you want handsome foliage and an abundance of flowers—white or pink—there are few trees better than a kousa dogwood. They offer almost universal appeal thanks to their tremendous blooming power, excellent fall color, and general health. They’re showy and hardy, which means your clients will enjoy a Chinese Dogwood or Stellar Pink Dogwood for many years to come!

If you'd like to find out more about the field operation and growing process at our Maryland wholesale nursery that results in outstanding plant material, download our ebook The Waverly Farm Playbook for Growing Outstanding Landscape Stock Year Over Year.

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