Content Detail

Gray dogwood is a very adaptable, native shrub that is excellent for naturalizing, especially in difficult sites, such as pond and stream banks. Although its suckering and spreading habit makes it impractical for formal plantings, it can be incorporated into the shrub border and useful as a mass planting. Creamy white clusters of flowers in May are followed by white berries in late summer that are quickly eaten by birds.

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.  

  • Family (English) Dogwood
  • Family (botanic) Cornaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily), Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Dry soil, Wet soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought, Occasional flooding, Wet sites
  • Season of interest late spring, late summer, early fall, mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Multi-stemmed, Thicket-forming, Upright
  • Growth rate Slow

Size and Form:

A large, 10 to 15 feet high and wide, upright shrub that forms large thickets.

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 1. It occurs in disturbed woods, moist ground along streams, wet meadows, and prairie margins. 

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife:

This shrub’s white berries are quickly eaten by birds. Over 98 species of birds, including flicker, tanager, woodpeckers, and catbird are attracted to this plant for its fruit and as a shelter and a nesting site.

Bark color and texture:

Younger stems are a reddish color and older stems are grayish-brown.

Leaf description:

Gray dogwood has simple, opposite, grayish-green, elliptic to lance-shaped leaves that are 2 to 4 inches long. Foliage turns an interesting, but not always showy, purplish-red in fall.

Flower description:

Flat clusters of white flowers borne in terminal clusters bloom in late spring and have a slightly unpleasant smell.

Fruit, cone, nut and seed descriptions:

Bluish-white berries ripen July through October and persist into early winter. Attractive bright red fruit stalks persist through winter.

Plant care:

This shrub grows in full sun in dry or well drained soil. It is tolerant of heavy shade. An excellent plant for screening or to use along ponds and stream banks. Its suckering, spreading habit requires more maintenance and pruning for formal plantings.

List of pests and diseases:

It doesn’t have any serious problems.


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