The Korean Dogwood (or Kousa Dogwood), also known by the botanical name Cornus kousa, is a beauty to behold every spring and early summer. Originating in the East Asian countries of Korea, China, and Japan, they are deciduous trees that have become widely available in cultivation due to their small size, versatility and beauty. Cornus kousa blooms in May and June, with four showy bracts (white or pink) which look like petals surrounding the light green, tiny true flowers in the center. Together they create a large, beautiful inflorescence up to 4” wide.

Dogwoods are also highly identifiable by their leaves, which are a graceful mid-green oval-shape and taper to a point with unusual parallel venation. These trees are in the same genus (Cornus) as the red twig dogwood, which are woody shrubs with very similar leaves. Instead of the bracts for flowers, red twig dogwoods have large clusters of tiny creamy-white flowers.

Close up of large, white Kousa dogwood flowers with light green centers and green leaves in the background.

The Kousa Dogwood Beautifies Small Gardens

Dogwoods are beautiful specimen trees that are useful for small gardens. They can be planted in a group to create a woodland effect or installed in a lawn or near a patio for shade. Their beauty provides year-round interest. They offer show-stopping flowers in the spring, followed by pinkish-red fruit in the summer, burnt orange and crimson foliage in the fall, and attractive peeling gray and tan bark more visible in the winter. Their fruit also makes them suitable for a wildlife garden, as songbirds love to feast on them.

Korean dogwoods reach 15’ to 30’ tall and wide, depending upon the variety. They are fairly slow growing. Initial growth habit is a vase shape, but as they reach maturity they develop a more rounded canopy.

Growing Conditions

Korean dogwoods prefer to grow in full sun but will tolerate partial shade, especially when grown in very hot climates. Plant them in moist soil high in organic matter with good drainage, and be sure to water regularly. However, Korean dogwoods do have some drought tolerance. They thrive in Zones 5-8.

Kousa dogwood tree with hanging fruits that are round, bumpy and a dull pinkish-red about 1 inch round.

Kousa Dogwoods Have Excellent Disease Resistance

One of the most important qualities in making the Korean dogwood an ideal small garden tree is its resistance to common plant diseases such as anthracnose and powdery mildew.  Most Korean dogwoods have some resistance to these diseases, making it a more practical choice to make over the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida). Cornus florida is undoubtedly a beautiful addition to the garden but can be more susceptible to these diseases.  However, some cultivars are more resistant, such as ‘Cherokee Brave’ and ‘Appalachian Joy’.

If you’re wondering which of these dogwoods you have planted in your garden, there are a few ways to tell them apart. Cornus florida (native to the eastern United States) bloom earlier with larger flowers than the Korean dogwood and have shiny red berries, which look very different to the dull, bumpy Korean dogwood fruits.

Diseases that can Affect Non-Resistant Dogwoods:

  • Anthracnose is a fungal disease that can cause non-resistant dogwoods to have ugly brown leaf spots around the tip and edges of the leaves. It is usually made worse by late spring rains occurring when new leaves are growing. This disease can also infect twigs, where it can over-winter and re-infect leaves year after year.
  • Powdery mildew is a fungus that can thrive during dry weather. It can cover leaves causing stunting as well as causing new leaves to curl and distort.

Both diseases can impact the health and appearance of trees. Therefore, it is better to plant a disease resistant cultivar when installing new trees. There are many choices for the Korean Dogwood. ‘Milky Way’ is an outstanding disease-resistant white cultivar with showy flowers and bright red fall color. ‘Satomi’ is a wonderful choice for a pink-blooming dogwood. It is a smaller tree, growing to around 12’ tall with bright pink flowers in the late spring. There are also many other wonderful cultivars to choose from.

Contact Frontier Tree Service to help you select and plant the right dogwood tree for your yard.

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