Dogwood comes in a number of varieties. It is a common decorative shrub or hedging plant and can have a number of applications in our gardens. European dogwood is often seen in ancient hedges and is more muted in colour than other varieties and yet still provides delicate year-round interest. It has dark, plum-coloured leaves well before other plants gain their autumn colour and dark fruits on its twiggy stems. But it is the vivid stems in winter which are arguably the main appeal of the various dogwood shrubs.

Growing dogwood:

Dogwood can be grown in partial shade but it is only in full sun that the vibrant red stems of some varieties of Cornus are to be seen to their full effect. Dogwoods grown for their winter stem colour are not at all fussy about their soil conditions. They are excellent for use in damp, waterlogged gardens where many other shrubs will not thrive. Flowering dogwoods on the other hand will do far better in well-drained soil that is neutral to acid in pH and that is rich in organic matter and very fertile. Creeping dogwood, another variety in this family, will require acid conditions.

All dogwoods will require a thorough watering during dry spells and this requirement is especially important up to five years after planting, after which the plants are usually more established and more capable of looking after themselves.

Dogwoods will appreciate an appropriate mulch around the root area which should be reapplied in spring and/or in the autumn. Mulching will aid water retention as well as keeping down any competitive weeds.

The shrubby varieties of dogwood grown for their winter stems will do best if they are pruned. Leave plants to establish themselves without pruning for a couple of years after planting and then prune back hard (or coppice) every year. While traditionally dogwood was pruned in February or March, recent studies have suggested that the best time to do so is actually between late March and mid-April. Hard pruning is not a good idea for other dogwood varieties, which should simply be thinned out or gently shaped as required.

Dogwood is best propagated from hardwood or softwood cuttings as the various cultivars do not come true from seed. Pick up young plants from a garden centre or plant nursery.

Why grow dogwood in the garden?

Dogwood can be used as part of garden hedging and can aid in making an effective barrier as well as a varied habitat for native wildlife. It can also be used to great effect in border schemes to add interest to the winter garden. There are a number of interesting variants to choose from and each had slightly different characteristics.

Shrubby dogwoods are great for gardens that suffer from drainage problems and which are too damp for many other shrubs to grow.

Quick Facts

Latin Name