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Genus Cornus (Cornel, Dogwood)

Cornus Cornus kousa Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
KOR-nus Common Name: Cornel, Dogwood
The 45 or so species in this genus, originating mostly in northern temperate areas, are mainly deciduous shrubs and small trees, with a few woody-based perennials, from grassland, thickets, woodland, rocky slopes, and swamps. Dogwoods are grown for their showy bracts, elegant habit, fruits, and colorful autumn leaves. Some are effective specimen trees or shrubs, especially in a woodland garden.
Noteworthy characteristics: The fruits of many species are attractive to birds, but may cause stomach upset in humans.
Care: Species have differing soil requirements, but those grown for their colorful winter stems show best in full sun. See species reports for pruning requirements.
Propagation: Sow seed in a seedbed in autumn, or stratify and sow in spring. Graft cultivars in winter. Take hardwood cuttings of those grown for their colorful winter stems in autumn.
Problems: Spot anthracnose (dogwood blight), powdery mildew, Discula blight, canker, bacterial leaf spot, and mushroom rot occur, while twig borers, weevils, sawfly, scale insects, aphids, leafhoppers, root knot nematodes, and thrips are common.

Species, varieties and cultivars for genus Cornus

Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' Cornus alba 'Elegantissima'
(Redtwig dogwood, Cream-edge tatarian dogwood)
(2 user reviews)
Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This vigorous deciduous shrub provides a long season of interest in the garden with its variegated leaves, attractive berries, pretty fall color, and red winter stems.

no image available Cornus alba
(Redtwig dogwood)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

These showy shrubs have two distinct phases of garden interest. In winter, they display boldly colorful bark—red, yellow, or orange—on twiggy stems to make a striking scene. In spring, the stems lose their vivid color and produce bright green, gold, or variegated foliage that accents the garden through the fall. Twig and leaf color vary according to the cultivar.

Cornus alternifolia Cornus alternifolia
(Pagoda dogwood, Green osier)
(1 user review)
Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This plant owes its name to its distinctive layered branches, which resemble the tiered, spreading roofline of an elaborate pagoda. Pagoda dogwoods are especially striking when accented by masses of small, fragrant creamy white flowers in early summer. Small, round fruits ripen to a deep blue-purple in late summer.

no image available Cornus canadensis
(Creeping dogwood, Bunchberry, Dwarf cornel)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

A spreading subshrub, Cornus canadensis has whorls of leathery mid-green leaves that turn purple in the winter. Green and white, sometimes pink-flushed flowers emerge in late spring and early summer, followed by clusters of scarlet berries.

Cornus controversa 'Variegata' Cornus controversa 'Variegata'
(Giant dogwood)
(1 user review)
Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This rounded, deciduous tree with spreading, tiered branches is especially dramatic in the landscape. Its branches stand out in winter while the leaves, edged in a bold creamy white, add superb color and texture to the garden. In early summer, single white flowers are borne in large, flattened clusters up to 7 inches across. Blue-black fruit follows in autumn, attracting birds.

no image available Cornus drummondii
(Roughleaf dogwood)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This dogwood can be classified as either a deciduous shrub or small tree. Appealing creamy white flowers appear in late spring and become attractive clusters of milky white fruit in fall. The first cold front often turns the leaves a dark burgundy, and the winter stem tips have a glossy mahogany hue.

Cornus florida Cornus florida
(Flowering dogwood)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This native flowering tree is best known for its early spring blossoms, which are actually yellowish green flowers clustered in the center of four showy, white to pink bracts 1-1/2 to 2 inches long. Clusters of four bright red fruits mature in early fall, often persisting into the beginning of winter. 

Cornus kousa Cornus kousa
(Kousa dogwood)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

A native of Korea and Japan, Kousa dogwood makes an excellent landscape tree and offers a long season of interest. Beginning in early summer, white bracts in sets of four (sometimes with pink tinges) surround tiny green flowers. These are followed by reddish fruit that resembles raspberries and attracts birds. Autumn color is a deep reddish purple. This species is resistant to dogwood anthracnose and has good cold hardiness. Grow as a specimen plant or in a woodland setting. It can be grown as a tree or large, multi-stemmed shrub.

Cornus racemosa 'Emerald' Cornus racemosa 'Emerald'
(Snow Lace® gray dogwood)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

This native shrub dogwood is more compact than the species with semiglossy, emerald green foliage and showy, white fruit. Purple fall leaf color and rosy pink pedicels make this gray dogwood a fine choice for the woodland edge. Its silvery gray bark in winter adds interest into another season. White flowers in the spring add to the list of what it offers. Plant this dogwood in the landscape where it will be seen in the fall and winter. It rarely suckers.

Cornus stolonifera Cornus stolonifera
(Red osier dogwood)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Red osier dogwood is a deciduous shrub with a rounded, spreading form. Opposite leaves with rounded bases are ovate to lance-shaped and dark green, turning a dull red, purple-red, or orange in autumn. Clusters of white flowers appear in late May to early June, followed by white to pale blue fruit. Green stems turn reddish or purple-red from late summer into early fall, becoming brighter in winter.