A small deciduous tree, the flowering dogwood is found in its splendor during spring, bearing tiny white flowers. It is often planted as an ornamental tree in the home landscape. The flowering dogwood is popular for its graceful appearance and fast-growing nature. In the late summer, the bright fruit is a valuable source of food for a wide variety of wildlife including birds. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 5 through 9, the flowering dogwood is suitable for a wide range of climates.
Flowering dogwood thrives in well-draining soils but can grow in dense, moist ground as well as in lighter soils. It is often found growing under taller trees such as oak, beech and maple, primarily in the Eastern United States. It prefers a light shade, but may develop anthracnose disease if grown in full shade in regions with higher humidity such as the Southern states.
The flowers on a flowering dogwood appear in spring in shades of white to pink before the leaves bloom for the season. It makes for a dramatic contrast to the otherwise still barren trees in the surrounding landscape. The tiny flowers have four petals around a dark center appearing in clusters along the branches of the tree. Flowering dogwood reaches mature heights between 15 and 30 feet and occasionally 40 feet. The dark green, ovate-shaped leaves are 3 to 6 inches long and boast a smooth margin and pointed tip. In fall, the bright red fruit appears for wildlife, occurring in glossy clusters among the shiny green leaves. The bark of the tree is known for its thick, rough texture in shades of grayish brown.
Flowering dogwood is a moderate to fast grower, provided ideal climate conditions are available. Growth is slower in heavier shade or in more humid climates. It extends to a width of 15 to 20 feet.
When planting flowering dogwood, be careful not to plant cuttings from the wild, as wild plants often have odd shapes with uneven rooting systems. Flowering dogwood is ideally purchased from a gardening center. Late fall or early spring are the recommended transplanting dates for this tree. Occasional mulching can help keep the soil moist. Do not prune flowering dogwoods unless necessary as dictated by diseased or pest-infested branches. Water initial transplants often, as it is critical for optimal growth. Avoid fertilization during the first year because that vigorous growth may in turn reduce the amount of flowering.