Cornus florida 'Cherokee Chief'

The best flowering dogwoods for year-round interest

Flowering dogwoods, or cornus have glorious early summer flowers, and their bright stems and foliage are a delightful addition to the garden during the winter months. Here you'll find the best flowering dogwoods for gardens of all sizes, plus inspiration for where to see and where to buy them.

Cornus is a genus for all seasons. Known as dogwoods or cornels there are around 60 species of cornus, ranging from low, creeping, sub shrubs to large trees. Perfect for gardens of all sizes. Those grown for their leaves are some of the most beautiful foliage shrubs. Dogwoods grown for the colour of their stems light up the winter garden. Below you will find some of the best flowering dogwoods, plus some advice on where to see and buy them.

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There are few more breathtaking sights than a flowering dogwood in full bloom
Horticulturist, Andy McIndoe

Cultivation

Flowering dogwoods favour neutral to acid, reasonably moist, but well-drained fertile soil, with plenty of organic matter. However, they are more tolerant than generally thought and often succeed in alkaline conditions if mulched well with organic compost. I have grown them successfully on poor sandy soils and in containers using loam-based growing media. They are at their best with some light shade and shelter from deciduous trees; they thrive in open woodland settings. Many, such as C. ‘Porlock’ and C. florida ‘Cherokee Chief’, make splendid flowering trees for small gardens. Flowering dogwoods are best planted as young, container-grown plants from October to March. Young plants are not particularly attractive, giving little idea of the glorious subjects they will become; which puts many off planting them.

The best flowering dogwood

1

Cornus florida frubra

Cornus florida var. rubra

A wonderful display of blooms in late spring and rich autumn tints make this a fine specimen tree for a small garden. Prefers deep, fertile soil; unhappy on shallow chalk.
Height 5m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-9b.

2

C. Celestial (=‘Rutdan’)

Cornus x rutgersensis 'Celestial'

A vigorous new cultivar, bred for disease resistance. Domed, greenish-white bracts in early summer and good autumn leaf colour. Upright and narrow in habit on moist, well-drained, acid soil.
Height 5m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-8b.

3

C. ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’

C. ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’

Large, rounded, creamy-white blooms appear in early spring, and are spectacular after a good summer the previous year. Crimson-pink autumn colour. Upright and narrow in habit.
Height 4m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-9b.

4

CAurora (= ‘Rutban’)

C. Aurora (= ‘Rutban’)

A robust, upright, hybrid dogwood with dark-green foliage and long-lasting autumn colour. Wonderful display of white bracts in an open, sunny position; no fruit. A good small, specimen tree.
Height 5m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-8b.

5

CVenus (= ‘Kn30 8’)

C. Venus (= ‘Kn30 8’)

A recent introduction with exceptionally large, creamy-white bracts. Dark-green foliage and vibrant autumn colour. Best in a sheltered situation to avoid damage to flowers.
Height 4m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-8b.

6

C. ‘Porlock’

C. ‘Porlock’

Flowering from an early age, this large, spreading cultivar produces abundant creamy bracts that colour pink as they age, and are followed by luxuriant strawberry-like fruits in autumn. Easy to grow, it is tolerant of most soils, apart from shallow chalk.
Height 5m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-9b.

7

C. kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’

C. kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’

Pretty, variegated shrub with pointed, grey-green leaves margined with white; starry, white blooms in early summer. Best grown in semi-shade on moist, well-drained, acid soil.
Height 3m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-8b.

8

Ckousa var. chinensis

C. kousa var. chinensis

Popular and easy to grow. Thrives on most soils, including heavy clay. Robust and free flowering with the bonus of good autumn colour and crimson fruits that follow creamy flowers.
Height 5m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-8b.

9

Ckousa ‘John Slocock’

C. kousa ‘John Slocock’

A bushy plant; upright, then spreading in character. The creamy-white bracts become blotched with pink as they age and are followed by deep-pink fruits. Outstanding.
Height 4m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-8b.

10

Ckousa var. chinensis ‘China Girl’

C. kousa var. chinensis ‘China Girl’

Abundant, creamy-white bracts that do not blush pink as they fade. The bracts start small, star-like and green, and stand on short stalks along the branches. Upright in habit.
Height 4m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-8b.

11

Ckousa ‘Miss Satomi’

Cornus kousa 'Miss Satomi'

Elegant plant with a broad, spreading habit. Large, pink bracts, poised along branches in early summer, become more intense in colour as they age. Orange-red autumn foliage.
Height 3m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-8b.

12

C. kousa ‘Madame Butterfly’

Cornus kousa Madame Butterfy

Elegantly pointed bracts curve inwards at first as the blooms sit butterfly-like along the branches; they blush pink as they age. Rich autumn tints and lychee-like fruits appear in autumn.
Height 4m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-8b.

13

C. florida ‘Cherokee Chief’

Cornus florida 'Cherokee Chief'

An improved form of flowering dogwood with abundant blooms on wonderfully sculptural branches in late spring. Lovely autumn foliage. Prefers rich, fertile soil; unhappy on shallow chalk.
Height 5m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-9b.

14

C. florida ‘Rainbow’

Cornus florida 'Rainbow'

Rich, gold-margined leaves turn purple-red edged with scarlet in autumn. Large, white blooms resemble wontons as they open at the tips of the shoots. Compact and upright.
Height 3m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-9b.

15

C. canadensis

Cornus canadensis

The tiny, creeping dogwood forms mats of short, upright stems and dark-green leaves studded with small, white starry blooms. Clusters of red berries follow in autumn.
Height 10cm. Hardiness RHS H7, USDA 2a-7b.

16

C. florida ‘Sunset’

Cornus florida 'Cherokee Sunset'

Mature leaves are mostly gold, splashed green in the centres, turning red, purple and pink in autumn. Large, deep-pink flowers in late spring are striking against the leaves.
Height 3m. Hardiness RHS H5, USDA 5a-9b.

17

C. alternifolia ‘Argentea’

Foliage of Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea'

The variegated dogwood is one of the finest foliage shrubs with floating horizontal branches and delicate green and white leaves. Lacy, white flowers in early summer.
Height 3m. Hardiness RHS H6, USDA 4a-8b.

18

C. alba ‘Gouchaultii’

Cornus alba 'Gouchaltii'

Dark-red stems in winter remain decorative after the ochre and green leaves have fallen. Thrives on any soil; excellent in wet conditions. Cut back hard to 20cm every two years.
Height 1.8m. Hardiness RHS H7, USDA 3a-7b.

19

C. alba ‘Sibirica Variegata’

Cornus alba 'Siberica Variegata'

Much less vigorous than other red-barked dogwoods; ideal for smaller gardens. Attractive foliage with the bonus of dark red winter stems. Grows on any soil in sun or shade.
Height 2m. Hardiness rating RHS H7, USDA 3a-7b.

20

C. mas ‘Variegata’

Foliage of Cornus mas 'Variegata'

Tiny, golden flowers on bare stems in late winter before the white and green leaves unfurl. Scarlet fruits in autumn. Slow growing and upright in habit when young.
Height 3m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-8b.

21

C. controversa ‘Frans Type’

Cornus controversa Variegata Franz Type

An excellent form of the variegated wedding cake tree with grey-green leaves with narrow white margins. More vigorous than C. controversa ‘Variegata’ and better in more challenging growing conditions.
Height 5m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-8b.

Where to see

The Sir Harold Hillier Gardens
National collection holder
Jermyns Lane, Romsey, Hampshire SO51 0QA. Tel 01794 369317/318, hilliergardens.org.uk

Newby Hall
National collection holder.
Ripon, North Yorkshire HG4 5AE. Tel 01423 322583, newbyhallandgardens.com

The Savill Garden
Many fine, mature specimens.
Crown Estate Office, Windsor Great Park, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 2HT. windsorgreatpark.co.uk

Where to buy

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Words Andy McIndoe