5 Dogwood Trees: Guide to Every Color, How to Plant, Where to Buy

White Dogwood tree against a pale blue sky centered in an oval green frame.

Did you know that the flowering Dogwood tree is endangered?

It’s true.

About 15 years ago, a non-native and invasive fungus began to threaten the life of this gorgeous spring-blooming beauty, and governments around the U.S. stepped up to help fight the plague, especially in the Appalachian regions of the country.

Fortunately, you can help repopulate the beautiful flowering Dogwood tree. This complete guide examines X different Dogwoods, where to buy them, and how to plant and care for this delicate herald of spring.

Flowering Dogwood Tree

(genus Cornus)

Dogwood tree image in an oval frame on green background.
  • Family: Cornaceae
  • Genus: Cornus
  • Leaf: Smooth-edged leaves with veins that curve parallel to the margins
  • Bark: Grayish bark that looks like alligator skin
  • Seed: Hard and resemble elongated grape seeds
  • Blossoms: Cross-shaped white or pink bracts
  • Fruit: Oblong scarlet red, waxy-looking berries
  • Native Habitat: Eastern North America and northern Mexico
  • Height: 15 to 40 feet
  • Canopy: Wide dome up to 30 feet
  • Lifespan: 80 years
  • Other Names: Common dogwood
  • Type: Deciduous

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Ranking



The flowering dogwood is a common sight, native to the Eastern United States and crucial to the health of the forests. Knowing how to buy them and where to plant them can not only beautify your own yard or garden, but can also help repopulate these vital trees.

The stunning pink, white and red blooms act like a magnet for pollinators in the spring, and the berries are a dietary staple for many birds, spreading them naturally.

Flowering Dogwood Facts

There are 17 varieties of dogwood, native to North America, with the most common garden types being Pacific dogwood, native flowering dogwoods, Japanese dogwood, and Cornelian cherry dogwoods.

The dogwood fruit, though marginal and sometimes toxic for people, is nonetheless eaten by many species of local and migrating birds, as well as deer, rabbits, black bears, foxes, and beavers. Dogwood trees are also a host tree for Azure butterflies.

Related Reading: Cherry Blossom tree planting tips

The spread of dogwood anthracnose disease has caused significant declines in the Canadian population. This emergency reflects similar declines in the dogwood range in eastern North America. The current risk assessment applies to dogwoods in the wild, not to ones cultivated in nurseries and gardens, meaning that the forest health itself is in jeopardy.

United States plant hardiness zones map, with color coded areas for all states including Alaska and Hawaii.
Thankfully, there are many ways to help strengthen and repopulate this species of tree, you just need to know how.

#1. Flowering Dogwood Tree

This is the most common type of dogwood cultivated and used for ornamental purposes. But, just because it graces many yards along Eastern North America doesn’t mean that its less important to plant.

With red, white, or pink blossoms, this tree is a favorite with gardeners, bees, and birds alike.

Close up of Dogwood flower with white petals.

(Image: SamuelStone4)

These trees grow to approximately 20′ and flourish in climates that have a bit warmer summers (growing zones 5-9).

Close up image of Pacific Dogwood flower with white petals and green leaves.

(Image: HeikeFrohnhoff5)

#2. Pacific Dogwood

This tree isn’t an East Coast dweller, it resides on the West Coast, flourishing in growing zones 9a through 6b. It’s flowers aren’t pink or red though, they are greenish white, and sometimes have a purplish tinge.

But, the berries are bright red, like most dogwoods, and this tree will often bloom twice in a year, in both spring and fall.

#3. Kousa Dogwood

This tree is a native of Asia, mainly China, Korea, and Japan, and actually has human-edible fruit. But, although they look like raspberries, the texture is fairly unpleasant.

When choosing a dogwood tree, keep in mind that the Kousa variety grows well in zones 4-8, but the berries will leave quite a mess behind, so you’ll want to place it in a garden spot that won’t suffer from the leftover fruit.

Close up of Kousa Dogwood tree with small rounded bright red berries and leaves during daylight.

(Image: Hans6)

A tall Wedding Cake Dogwood Tree with white flowers.

(Image: cararta7)

#4. Wedding Cake (Giant) Dogwood Tree

Although most dogwood trees stay no taller than 20 feet, the wedding cake dogwood can grow up to 50 feet tall. Although it is a native of Asia, this tree thrives in US growing zones 5 through 8 and its leaves turn a gorgeous, rich red in the fall.

The flowers (green and white variegated) are actually its leaves, and this giant Dogwood yields up blueish-black berries in fall.

#5. Cornelian Cherry Dogwood

This tree is one of the first to issue yellow flowers in the spring, but like many other varieties, produces bright red berries in the fall.

On the larger side, the Cornelian Cherry is able to reach heights of up to 30 feet, but can also branch out into a large, full shrub when planted correctly.

Cornelian Cherry Dogwood tree branches with abundant yellow blossoms against a blurred rocky background.

(Image: Photos of Korea8)

Dogwood Native Region and Habitat Growing Needs

The range of the flowering dogwood varieties extends from southwestern Maine west to New York, Ontario, Michigan, Illinois, and Missouri as well as southeast Kansas, eastern Oklahoma, east Texas, and east to north Florida. However, there are many Asian species that grwo well in these regions.

A dogwood tree needs well-drained soil that doesn’t get too dry. Soil high in organic matter is advised. Dogwoods thrive in full sun and partial shade, though partial shade is best. In the wild, dogwood trees grow beneath the forest canopy, but usually toward the edges of the cover, where they can branch out and reach direct sunlight

How To Identify Dogwood Trees (Hint: Look for the “Bark”)

In the Southern United States, many schoolchildren are taught to identify dogwood trees by their “bark.” Of course, the pun is a great way to help anyone remember how to pinpoint a flowering dogwood in the wild (when it’s not in bloom).

Related Reading: Magnolia Tree Guide

Dogwood Leaves

Dogwood leaves range from hairy to waxy, which depends on the variety but are mostly oblong in shape with a point at the top. The leaves sprout oppositely in most species and have lateral veins that arch as they reach the leaf’s edge.

dogwood identification chart with pacific dogwood leaves, kousa dogwood flowers, flowering dogwood tree, cornelian cherry dogwood seeds, and flowering dogwood bark in oval frames.

Most dogwood leaves are oval and measure 2-5 inches long. They turn yellow and orange in autumn and provide colorful foliage, but many species also produce bright red leaves in the fall, making them a lovely colorful addition to any garden or yard.

Dogwood Seeds

Native dogwoods start as 1/4-inch-long, hard seeds that look like long grape seeds. When flowering, the seeds form inside clusters of berry-like balls.

Dogwood Bark

The dogwood tree’s bark is dark gray. It’s smooth when the tree’s young, but as the tree ages, the bark splits into small squares that give the appearance that the trunk is covered in scales.

The scaly look is easy to spot in forests, along with the gnarled branches and twisty trunk.

Dogwood Flowers

Dogwood flowers are not typical flowers. White, pink or red petals are modified leaves that surround the tiny yellowish-green flower heads. Each flower head has about 25 separate flowers. The dogwood’s flowers are bisexual, meaning they have both male and female reproductive abilities.

Flowering dogwood tree flowers with white petals witch are really leaves, and the closely bunched tiny yellow flower cluster nestled in the center.

(Image: ChiemSeherin9)

Dogwood trees bloom in March or April. The flowers smell and stay on the tree for up to four weeks.

Dogwood Tree Fruit

Shiny red when mature, drupes and berries are harvested from dogwood trees in late summer or fall.

Close up of a Kouse Dogwood berry, bright red with nodules.

(Image: Nennieinszweidrei10)

This close up shows the Kousa berry, but most dogwoods produce bright red, hard waxy berries that are a favorite with squirrels and birds.

How To Grow and Plant Flowering Dogwoods

Growing dogwood trees isn’t rocket science, but there are some things to know, to ensure that your transplanted seedlings will thrive and create the atmosphere you intend.

For example:

  • If you plant the dogwood where some shade is still possible but there are no other trees to seek the sunlight, the tree will be fuller, less tall, but with more blooming branches.
  • Make sure to check the hardiness zone for the variety you want.
  • Water access is key! Dogwoods need plenty of moist soil.

Step 1. Choose the Color Dogwood You’d Like

The color choice is completely up to you, but keep in mind the ‘resulting’ colors. For example, if you choose a white flowering dogwood, know that the berries will be red and the leaves will likely turn red in the fall.

Step 2. Choose the Size and Location

Choose the dogwood that will fit in the space where you intend to place it. Remember that the berries will attract squirrels and birds.

Step 3. Choose a Species That Will Flourish in Your Growing Zone

Use the USDA hardiness chart to choose a species that will handle the climate.

Step 4. Buy From a Local Nursery (Find Pink Dogwood Trees for Sale)

Rather than buying from ‘big box’ stores that have their trees and seedlings shipped in, a local nursery is a much better investment. These seedlings are usually perfect for the growing zone where you live, and you’re reducing the carbon footprint of the purchase by buying a dogwood tree from a local grower.

Remember that all purchases come with an ecological cost. Buying a dogwood tree has a lower cost to the planet than buying a car, naturally, but there’s still a footprint. Erase it by purchasing tree planting carbon offsets from one of the best carbon offset programs. This way, your investment in the planet will be magnified.

Planting Tips for Dogwoods

It’s advised to plant dogwoods in the spring when the soil is still. A good planting site should receive moderate shade. Extract all weeds and clear debris and grass.

Dogwood tree seed identification chart with images of Pacific Dogwood seed, Common Dogwood seed, Flowering Dogwood seed, Kousa Dogwood seed, and Cornelian Dogwood seed in circle frames.

Dig a hole 2/3 the depth of the root ball. Make sure the root ball is slightly above the surrounding soil when placing the root ball in the hole. Fill the hole with soil and tamp it down to get rid of air pockets. Water extensively and add a 3-inch layer of mulch that will retain the water. Keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk.

Related Reading: How much carbon does a tree capture?

To create a solid landscape of white dogwoods, they need to be planted five feet apart from each trunk. For a layered look, they can be staggered about 10 feet apart.

Upkeep and Dogwood Care

White dogwoods are relatively easy to maintain with limited soil requirements. Regular and abundant watering is required. Also, keep an eye on your dogwood for signs of fungus or disease and treat accordingly.

Sun and Shade

White dogwoods grow best in partial shade. Four hours a day of direct sunlight will provide for consistent and healthy growth.

Soil and Fertilizing

Dogwoods adapt well to many soil conditions and will grow in clay and sandy soils. They flourish best in moist and slightly acidic soil. They should stay moist because of their shallow roots but don’t take well to soaked soil.

Young dogwoods should not be fertilized and stand to die if too much fertilizer is used. It’s best to begin fertilizing during the tree’s second season and use a small amount of slow-release, nitrogen-rich fertilizer.

Dogwood Pruning

Dogwood trees grow in a dome-like shape canopy and don’t need to be pruned for maintenance aside from the usual procedure of pruning dead or diseased branches. For aesthetic reasons, the tree should be clipped in late autumn or winter when it’s dormant.1

Folklore and Religious Significance

Many legends are attributed to the dogwood, some are contemporary while others were told in ancient times. Some are funny and others are religious. Where and when did the name “dogwood” originate?

One version claims the name Dogwood originates from the wood of the tree,  which is dense, hard, dense almost rock-like when dry. The wood was used as ‘doggerwood’ – an old English phrase that means “the stick used to skewer meat.”  Another tale says the name comes from an English to cure mange by washing the dog with it.

Native American flower lore shares the dogwood legend about how the Cherokee tribes believed that a tiny race of divine people lived amidst the dogwoods. They were sent to teach the human race how to live in harmony with the woods.

The Dogwood People were gracious and kind. They took care of babies as well as the old and sick. It’s rumored that when the Cherokee started speaking English, the dogwood people took on the name Brownies.

One legend site Biblical times that the dogwood was Adam’s favorite tree. Satan sneaked into the Garden of Eden by scaling a locust tree to breach the wall surrounding Eden. He attempted to strike the blossoms of the dogwood but his villainous attempt didn’t succeed because the Dogwood blossoms were arranged in the shape of a cross. All Satan could do was bite a chunk of each petal. Furthermore, the locust tree, upset it was used by Satan to scale the wall, grew thorns and thus made sure it could never be used to access the garden again.

Some have said that Jesus had a particular affection for Dogwood trees, which, at the time, were as big as oak trees. The dogwood was so firm a tree, that it was selected to construct the wooden cross. The tree was extremely upset for being chosen to fulfill the inhuman purpose. Jesus, with his gentle pity for all misery, said, “Because you regret and pity my suffering, never again will you grow large enough to be used as a cross. You will henceforth be slender and twisted and your blossoms will take on the form of a cross–two long and two short petals.”2

Medicinal Qualities

American dogwood is still used as medicine, but not that much. It was formerly used to treat headaches, fatigue, fever, and diarrhea. It was also used to stimulate appetite and as a tonic. Some have applied the leaves directly to the skin in treating boils and wounds.

White Dogwood tree in the wild, with clusters of white blooms against a deep blue sky.

The Jamaica dogwood has been used in traditional remedies for treating insomnia, nerve pain, anxiety, and insomnia. Western scientists, in the mid-1800s, found Jamaican dogwood to have pain-relieving and sweat-promoting properties.3

  • Kousa dogwood fruit tastes similar to ripe persimmons. The fruit varies in texture and taste. Some deep-orange colored fruit has a richer flavor, while other varieties are yellow-fleshed and lighter in flavor.
  • Most dogwood berries are not toxic when eaten but there have been reports of rashes after skin contact with the tree.
  • Cornus Florida, the dogwood species native to the Southeastern US, grows small red berries that are somewhat poisonous to humans. They taste terrible. Well, that should come up as a red flag—supposed to taste bad.)
  • Close to 90 percent of dogwood lumber in commercial use is carved into weaving shuttles for the textile market. The lumber is also used to make spools, bobbin heads, durable skewers, and golf club heads. It’s also converted into charcoal for gunpowder making.

Dogwood trees offer a beautiful and colorful addition to any garden, and by planting them, you can help reduce the danger to the species and support wildlife in your area.


1The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2022). dogwood. dogwood. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from <https://www.britannica.com/plant/dogwood>

2This Old House Reviews Team. (2022). Everything You Need to Know About White Dogwood Trees. Gardening. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from <https://www.thisoldhouse.com/gardening/21333880/white-dogwood-trees>

3NatureServe Explorer. (2022). Flowering Dogwood. Cornus florida. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from <https://explorer.natureserve.org/Taxon/ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.149695/Cornus_florida>

4SamuelStone. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/dogwood-flower-blossom-spring-3386805/>

5HeikeFrohnhoff. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/nature-shrub-garden-dogwood-7220029/>

6Hans. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/asian-dogwood-flowering-dogwood-684/>

7cararta. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/dogwood-tree-stair-steps-to-heaven-354002/>

8Photo by Photos of Korea. Resized and Changed Format. Unsplash. Retrieved March 19, 2024 from <https://unsplash.com/photos/a-yellow-tree-in-the-middle-of-a-field-6JkQuQYBmiM>

9ChiemSeherin. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/flower-blossom-bloom-leaves-summer-3393107/>

10Nennieinszweidrei. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/photos/dogwood-fruit-dogwood-asian-dogwood-6603549/>

11Featured Image and Species Information Image: North carolina, charlotte, united states, and grey in Charlotte, United States Photo by Kendal. (2019, March 4) / Unsplash License. Cropped and added text, shape, and background elements. Unsplash. Retrieved April 11, 2022 and October 11, 2022, from <https://unsplash.com/photos/white-trees-RLlwhlh0KpM>