by Marilyn Odneal, Horticulture Adviser
(Mountain Grove) – Flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, is definitely one of the delights of spring. We all enjoy the big and beautiful blooms brightening up our native woodlands at this time of year. Botanists will remind us that the lovely flower petals are actually bracts or modified leaves and the actual flower in really the center of the bracts.
The flowering dogwood grows 15-30 feet tall and wide, and can be grown as a single or multi-trunk tree. The fruit of the flowering dogwood turn bright red in September and October and grow in clusters that persist until December, if the birds leave them alone. Although attractive to birds, the fruit is poisonous to humans. The fall leaf color is red to maroon to purple and is better with more sun.
Flowering dogwoods prefer moist, fertile, sandy or loamy and slightly acidic soil with good internal water drainage. It is best suited to the north or east side of the house or where it is shaded in the afternoon. It is important to irrigate dogwoods during dry periods, especially the first few years after planting. A good idea is to mulch around the base of the tree (but keep mulch from contacting the base of the trunk) to prevent mower and weed eater blight and to help retain soil moisture.
The flowering dogwood is susceptible to many diseases and pests. The dogwood borer will attack newly planted specimens, trees in poor health and those damaged by lawn mowers or weed eaters. Other fungal diseases may also develop.
The flowering dogwood is recommended for use as a specimen, near a deck or patio, as a border accent or in a woodland planting. Remember that it does have some disease and insect problems and needs to be well taken care of in the landscape. If you opt not to plant and care for one in your own landscape, just sit back and enjoy our lovely spring woodland show.
Direct comments or questions concerning this column to Marilyn Odneal via email at MarilynOdneal@missouristate.edu; write to Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station, 9740 Red Spring Road, Mountain Grove, Mo. 65711; or call (417) 547-7500. Visit our website at http://mtngrv.missouristate.edu.