Content Detail

Kousa dogwood is an excellent small specimen tree. Two outstanding characteristics are the four-petaled, white flowers that appear above the foliage in June and reddish-purple fall color. In the Midwest, this is a hardier substitute for the acid-loving flowering dogwood. The shallow root system will benefit with a layer of mulch to maintain a cool root environment.

  • Family (English) Dogwood
  • Family (botanic) Cornaceae
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Small tree (15-25 feet), Medium tree (25-40 feet)
  • Mature height 20-30 feet
  • Mature width 21-30 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, late spring, early summer, late summer, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Pink, White
  • Shape or form Broad, Round
  • Growth rate Slow
  • Transplants well Moderate
  • Wildlife Insect pollinators
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat:

Kousa dogwood is native to Asia.

Bark color and texture:

Bark is gray-brown and slightly exfoliating.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Leaves are simple, opposite, 2 to 4 inches long, with entire margins, and elliptically shaped. They are dark green, changing to burgundy-red in fall. 

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

This tree blooms 2 to 3 weeks after native dogwoods. White, 1 to 2 inch pointed bracts appear above the foliage and persist for several weeks. The true flowers are inconspicuous. 

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Raspberry-like fruit is large (1 inch) and attractive, appearing in August.  

Plant care:

Although tolerant of neutral pH soils, kousa dogwood prefers acid soil and may develop chlorotic symptoms (pale green leaves) in high pH soils. It has a shallow root system that benefits from a few inches of mulch to moderate soil temperature. Grows best in part shade conditions in a protected site. Flowers on old wood, so prune soon after flowering.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

The kousa dogwood can develop root rot in heavy clay soils. It can be affected by borers and leaf spots. More resistant to drought than flowering dogwood, it is also resistant to the anthracnose (Discula) that is common on flowering dogwood.

Champion’s Gold kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Losely’):

This variety is vase-shaped, grows 25 to 20 feet high and wide. White flowers are followed by 3/4 inch red fruits.

Heart Throb kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Schmred’):

This variety has a rounded habit and grows 20 feet high and wide. It has deep pink flowers, 3/4 inch red fruits, and deep red fall color.

Milky Way Select kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Milky Way Select’):

This cultivar has a rounded to wide vase shape growing 15 feet high and wide. It produces 3/4 inch red fruits and has bright red fall color.

Satomi kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’):

This cultivar has a vase to a rounded habit and grows 15 to 20 feet high and wide. It has rose-pink flowers and red fall color.

Summer Gold kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Summer Gold’):

This cultivar has a rounded to a wide vase-shaped habit with variegated creamy white and green foliage and white flowers. It has pink to red fall colors and 3/4 inch red fruits.


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