Dogwood Recommendations

Question: What dogwoods do you recommend for Williamsburg, Virginia?

The first thing to keep in mind is that dogwoods fall into two major groups: Cornus florida, typically called Flowering Dogwood, and Cornus kousa, sometimes called Oriental Dogwood or simply Kousa Dogwood. The key differences are:

  • Flowering Dogwood put out flower in early spring before the leaves emerge. Kousa flowers later in the spring. So with the Flowering Dogwood you get dramatic flowers when almost everything else is dormant for winter, while Kouse gives you an interesting layered effect with flowers on top of leaves.
  • Flowering Dogwoods are native to our area, while Kousa is original to Japan. They both put out bright red fruit in the fall, although the fruit  looks quite different. An interesting side note is that Flowering Dogwood seeds are spread by birds, so the fruit does not taste good to humans. Kousa seeds are spread by primates, so the seeds have a sweet taste we find appealing. Try one in the fall when it is red and very soft.
  • Native Flowering Dogwood tends to get mildew in late summer. Kousa does not have this problem. I’ll often hear people say that Flowering Dogwoods get anthracnose. While this is a major problem in other areas, we don’t see it in Williamsburg.

Recommended Varieties of Flowering Dogwood

I would stay away from the true native dogwood. As I said before, it gets mildew. “Cherokee Princess’ is a variety I like. The flowers are bigger, whiter and the plant is mildew resistant. Another variety is ‘Cloud 9,’ which is very similar to ‘Princess.’

Recommended Varieties of Kousa Dogwood

The plain old regular Kousa Dogwood does fine. There are a few varieties that have larger flowers and they seem to do well too.

What About Pink Dogwood?

What people refer to as “Pink Dogwood” is officially classified as Red Dogwood. The flowers are pink, so I call them Pink Dogwood too. Stay away from them if you want a tree that last’s a while. The pinks tend to live 15 years or so, then fade away.

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