Flowering dogwoods are traditional and cherished trees in many DeKalb County home landscapes because of their graceful beauty.

The flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a widely planted ornamental native to the eastern United States and can be found growing throughout Alabama.

This small tree offers interest for all seasons, beginning with its floral display in late winter or early spring before leaves appear.

The showy part of a dogwood flower is actually four large, whitish bracts which are modified leaves that turn colorful and are notched at the ends.

The true flower parts in the center of the bracts are less showy and are greenish-yellow in color.

In summer these trees provide pleasant green foliage and a light shade. The leaves are simple with smooth margins and usually opposite each other. Fall is enhanced by the brilliant show of red, orange and scarlet foliage, along with bright red berries borne in small clusters.

In winter the button-shape buds are prominent on the tips of twigs. The interesting polygonal bark texture and branches help create an excellent winter silhouette.

An appealing feature of the flowering dogwood is the graceful beauty of its tiered horizontal branching.

The size of flowering dogwoods varies, depending on the species and location. The height ranges from 15 to 20 feet in the sun to 40 feet in shade. The spread may be even greater than the height, though the trunk will rarely grow more than 18 inches in diameter.

Dogwoods grow at a slow rate of about 20 feet in 25 years.

Flowering dogwoods may have white, pink or red bracks.

Some selected white varieties for DeKalb County include Cloud 9, Barton, Cherokee Daybreak, Bay Beauty, Plena, Weaver’s White, Welchii, Cherokee Princess and Welch’s Bay Beauty.

Pink varieties include Junior Miss and Stokes Pink. Red varieties are Cherokee Chief and American Beauty Red. A reddish-pink variety is Cherokee Brave.

Always plant quality nursery grown dogwood trees. Their main demands are good soil drainage and protection from drought. Planting in poorly drained areas can result in tree death.

They are adaptable to several types of soils. However, they naturally grow in moist, fertile soils high in organic matter and prefer acidic soils with a pH of 5.5 to 6.0.

When preparing the soil for planting, adding peat moss or decayed leaves will improve nearly all soil types.

The best time to plant dogwood trees is in the fall or winter, because the root systems have more time to become established before hot weather.

Therefore, spring planted dogwoods will need to receive frequent watering to insure survival.

With proper care a dogwood tree will remain a solid fixture in the home landscape for many years to come.

I hope this information will be useful in your horticulture enterprise.


Terry Shackelford is a regional extension agent in DeKalb County. His column appears Tuesdays in the Times-Journal.

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