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Pagoda dogwood is an excellent native plant for the four-season garden. The unique horizontal  branching pattern has a distinct tiered habit, often catching snow in the winter. Clusters of white flowers show up in spring, dark green foliage turns a beautiful burgundy-red in fall, and blue-black berries attract many birds. Pagoda dogwood makes an attractive small tree or large shrub in a shade garden or for naturalizing.

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
  • Planting site Residential and parks, Under utility lines
  • Tree or plant type Tree, Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Compact tree (10-15 feet), Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Mature height 15-25 feet
  • Mature width 20-30 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Dry sites
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, late winter, late spring, early summer, midsummer, late summer, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Broad, Oval, Round, Upright
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well No
  • Wildlife Butterflies, Game birds, Small mammals, Songbirds, Water birds
  • Has cultivars Yes

Size and form:

Pagoda dogwood is a native, low-branched tree reaching a mature height of 15 to 25 feet and 20 to 30 feet in width. Its unique horizontal branching pattern has a distinct tiered habit.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to the northern portion of the eastern United States. C-Value: 9

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife:

Butterflies, game birds, small mammals, songbirds, and water birds are attracted to it.

Bark color and texture:

The bark is wine-purple to brown in color with vertical tan lenticels.

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

The simple, alternate, oval leaves with wavy margins are about 4 inches long. They are medium green with pale undersides that turn to reddish-purple in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Small white flowers in 2 inch wide, flat-topped clusters appear in May to June.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

It produces clusters of bluish-black berries (drupes) and red flower stalks (penduncles) that ripen in July.

Plant care:

Pagoda dogwood prefers part shade and moist, slightly acidic, well-drained soil. Planting in a wind-protected site is recommended. If planted in full sun, the shallow root system benefits with a layer of mulch to moderate soil temperature and conserve moisture. 

List of pests, diseases and tolerances:

The tree is susceptible to minor leaf infections and golden stem canker. It is deer resistant and tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Gold Bullion™ Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia ‘Bachone’):

This cultivar is 8 to 10 feet high and wide with golden yellow foliage that turns chartreuse-yellow in the fall. 

Golden Shadows™ Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia ‘W. Stackman’):

A variegated form with creamy-white margins. It is best grown in part shade.


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