Flowering Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood

Photo Compliments ofMartin LaBar

Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Chief’ or flowering dogwood grows 20 to 25 feet tall and spreads 12 to 15 feet. This is one of the most popular red-flowered cultivars. You will usually see this in the landscape as a multi-trunked tree. The flowers consist of four bracts which subtend the small head of yellow flowers. The bracts are deep red and gorgeous. The fall color is usually bronze and the bright red fruits are often eaten by birds. Fall color is more vivid in Hardiness Zones 5 to 8. Branches on the lower half of the crown grow horizontally; those in the upper half are more upright. In time, this can lend a strikingly horizontal impact to the landscape, particularly if some branches are thinned to open up the crown. Lower branches left on the trunk will typically drop to the ground.

Cherokee Chief is a classic beauty, offering deep, ruby-red flower bracts and four seasons of interest. New leaves emerge bronze-red in spring, maturing to green. Autumn brings fantastic burgundy-red foliage. The show continues on into winter, with red fruit clinging to bare branches. This small, low-branched tree has an attractive branching habit, giving a graceful, layered effect. Flowering Dogwoods are deciduous.


Flowering dogwoods are easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to partial shade. The preference is moist, organically rich, acidic soils in part shade. Flowing dogwoods benefit from a 2-4” mulch which will help keep roots cool and moist in summer. Before planting ask your local nursery if dogwood anthracnose infestations are present.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Cornus florida, or flowering dogwood, is a small deciduous tree that typically grows 15-30 feet tall with a low-branching, broadly-pyramidal but somewhat flat-topped habit. You can easily make a case that this is the most beautiful of the native American flowering trees. It is native from Maine to southern Ontario to Illinois to Kansas south to Florida, Texas and Mexico. It is the state tree of Missouri and Virginia. It blooms in early spring (April) shortly after, but usually overlapping, the bloom period of the redbuds. The true dogwood flowers are actually tiny, yellowish green and insignificant, being compacted into button-like clusters. However, each flower cluster is surrounded by four showy, petal-like bracts which open flat, giving the appearance of a single, large, 3 to 4 inch diameter, 4-petaled, flower. The leaves are oval, dark green (4 to 6 inches in length) that turn attractive shades of red in fall. Bright red fruits are bitter and inedible to humans (some sources say poisonous). Fruits mature in late summer to early fall and may persist until late in the year.

‘Cherokee Chief’ is a cultivar that is noted for its deep rose red floral bracts.  New foliage is tinged with red.

Pests & Diseases

Flowering dogwood, when stressed, is susceptible to a rather large number of disease problems the most serious of which is dogwood anthracnose which has caused considerable devastation in parts of the eastern US. This dogwood is also susceptible to leaf spot, crown canker, root rot. and leaf and twig blight. When flowering dogwoods are stressed trees they also become vulnerable to borers. Leaf miner and scale are less serious potential insect pests.

Garden Uses

The flowering dogwood is a popular as a specimen or it can be used in a small grouping on residential property around homes, near patios or placed in your lawn. It is also quite effective in woodland, bird, or native plant gardens.

Additional Information

Scientific Name: Cornus florida
Common Name: Flowering dogwood
Type: Tree
Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9
Height: 15 to 25 feet
Spread: 15 to 25 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Rose red
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Growth Rate: Moderate
Leaf Type: Simple, entire, ovate
Leaf Size: 4 to 6 inches long, 2 to 4 inches wide
Fall Foliage Color: Red
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy
Tolerates: Deer, clay soil

Photo Search

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  1. THat is a gorgeous plant – especially when in full flower!
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