Cornus florida 'Cherokee Chief'

The best dogwoods or cornus for year-round flowering

Flowering dogwoods, or cornus, are a delightful addition to the garden during the winter months. Here Andy McIndoe chooses the best flowering dogwoods for gardens of all sizes

Cornus is a genus for all seasons. Known as dogwood 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 types of flowering dogwood, plus some advice on where to see and buy them.

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Hydrangea paniculata
© Jason Ingram
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 dogwood successfully on poor sandy soil and in containers using loam-based growing media. Cornus are at their best with some light shade and shelter from deciduous trees; they thrive in open woodland settings. Many, such as Cornus ‘Porlock’ and Cornus 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
© Dianna Jazwinski

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

 

2

Cornus x rutgersensis ‘Celestial’

Cornus x rutgersensis 'Celestial'
© Dianna Jazwinski

A vigorous new dogwood 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

Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’

Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’
© Dianna Jazwinski

This dogwood has 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

Cornus Aurora (= ‘Rutban’)

Cornus Aurora (= ‘Rutban’)
© Dianna Jazwinski

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

Cornus Venus (= ‘Kn30 8’)

Cornus Venus (= ‘Kn30 8’)
© Dianna Jazwinski

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

 

6

Cornus ‘Porlock’

Cornus ‘Porlock’
© Dianna Jazwinski

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, this dogwood is tolerant of most soils, apart from shallow chalk.
Height 5m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-9b.

 

7

Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’

Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’
© Dianna Jazwinski

Pretty, variegated dogwood 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

Cornus kousa var. chinensis

Cornus kousa var. chinensis
© Dianna Jazwinski

A popular and easy to grow dogwood. 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

Cornus kousa ‘John Slocock’

Cornus kousa ‘John Slocock’
© Dianna Jazwinski

A bushy dogwood 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

Cornus kousa var. chinensis ‘China Girl’

Cornus kousa var. chinensis ‘China Girl’
© Dianna Jazwinski

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. This dogwood is upright in habit.
Height 4m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-8b.

 

11

Cornus kousa ‘Miss Satomi’

Cornus kousa 'Miss Satomi'
© Dianna Jazwinski

Elegant dogwood 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

Cornus kousa Madame Butterfly

Cornus kousa Madame Butterfy
© Dianna Jazwinski

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 on this dogwood in autumn.
Height 4m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-8b.

 

13

Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Chief’

Cornus florida 'Cherokee Chief'
© Dianna Jazwinski

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

Cornus florida ‘Rainbow’

Cornus florida 'Rainbow'
© Dianna Jazwinski

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. A compact and upright dogwood.
Height 3m. Hardiness rating RHS H5, USDA 5a-9b.

 

15

Cornus canadensis

Cornus canadensis
© Dianna Jazwinski

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

Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Sunset’

Cornus florida 'Cherokee Sunset'
© Dianna Jazwinski

Mature dogwood 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

Cornus alternifolia ‘Argentea’

Foliage of Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea'
© Dianna Jazwinski

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

Cornus alba ‘Gouchaltii’

Cornus alba 'Gouchaltii'
© Dianna Jazwinski

Dark-red stems in winter remain decorative after the ochre and green leaves have fallen. This dogwood 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

Cornus alba ‘Siberica Variegata’

Cornus alba 'Siberica Variegata'
© Dianna Jazwinski

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

Cornus mas ‘Variegata’

Foliage of Cornus mas 'Variegata'
© Dianna Jazwinski

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

 

21

Cornus controversa Variegata Franz Type

Cornus controversa Variegata Franz Type
© Dianna Jazwinski

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

Where to see dogwood

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

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

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

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Where to buy