Plant DetailShow Menu

Cornus kousa is often confused with:
Cornus florida Cornus florida
Native alternative(s) for Cornus kousa:
Cornus florida Cornus florida
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Cornus florida Cornus florida
Cornus mas Cornus mas
Cornus officinalis leaves and flowers

Chinese Dogwood Cornus kousa

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Benthamia japonica
  • Benthamia kousa
  • Cynoxylon kousa
  • Dendrobenthamia japonica
Phonetic Spelling
KOR-nus KOO-sa
Description

The Kousa dogwood is a handsome, small- to medium-sized tree reaching a mature height of 30 feet. Sometimes referred to as the Chinese dogwood, this Asian is a cousin to our native flowering dogwood. It can be used as a specimen plant or in shrub borders.

The genus name, Cornus, is Latin, from the word, cornu, which means "horn." This references the hardness of the wood. The species name, kousa, is the Japanese name for this plant.

Depending on the age of the Kousa dogwood, the tree takes on a different appearance. Young trees grow in an upright fashion and in somewhat of a conical shape. They are vase-shaped in their youth. As a Kousa matures, it develops more horizontal branching, rounded form, and becomes more wide-spreading.  

Our native dogwoods bloom in April, while the Kousa dogwoods flower nearly a month later. A tree for all seasons, the Kousa dogwood has berries that resemble raspberry fruit in autumn, and the peeling bark on the mature tree trunks gives the bark an attractive mottled appearance. The fall leaf color is reddish-purple to scarlet and lasts for 3 to 5 weeks.  It truly has year-round interest.  

The plant has a slow growth rate and prefers a sunny location but is tolerant of moderate shade. It does better in open areas like lawns than the native trees but it prefers some light shade, especially in the afternoon. It flourishes in well-drained acidic soil, and while it tolerates some dry soil, it will not survive in waterlogged environments.

Compared to Cornus Florida this plant is more resistant to drought problems, more cold-hardy, and more disease-resistant (including less susceptibility to dogwood anthracnose). The shallow roots make it difficult to transplant, however, the Kousa dogwood can be easily transplanted in the early spring. It is also mildly resistant to damage by deer.

Cornus kousa would be a great addition to many Carolina landscapes. Don’t let this opportunity to plant a real showstopper pass you by!  

Seasons of interest:

Foliage: Fall     Bloom: early summer      Fruits:  Fall     Bark: Winter

Quick ID Hints:

  • bark develops exfoliating patches of tan and brown
  • creamy, white bracts appear in late spring
  • fruit is a reddish to pink drupe appearing late summer and fall
  • leaves are shiny dark green and become reddish-purple to scarlet in the fall

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  The Kousa dogwood is generally disease and pest-free.  Calico scale, dogwood borer, dogwood sawfly, Japanese maple scale, leafhoppers, oyster shell scale.  Leaf and flower blight (botrytis), crown canker, bacterial leaf scorch, powdery mildew, and septoria leaf spot can occur.  Dropped fruits can ferment and attract yellow jackets.  Underneath the tree seedlings sprout prolifically and can be weedy.

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Cottage Style Foundation Planting Mountain Ridge Top Garden - East Lawn and Lower Drive Border
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Blue Shadow'
    dark green foliage
  • 'Gold Cup'
    dark green leaves with gold streak in the leaf center
  • 'Gold Star'
    green leaves with a yellow blotch in the center
  • 'Greensleeves'
    dark green leaves with prominent veins, heavy flowering
  • 'Lustgarden Weeping'
    smaller tree, 8 feet tall, 15 feet wide, weeping form
  • 'Milky Way'
    flowering appears to be biennial
  • 'Milky Way Select'
    Interesting bark, amazing fall color
  • 'Moonbeam'
    large 7 inch in diameter flowers
  • 'Rutpink' or trade name, Scarlet Fire
    deep pink to fushsia bracts
  • 'Samaritan'
    Upright, single trunk, variegated leaves
  • 'Satomi'
    pink flowers
  • 'Summer Fun'
    gray green foliage with white edges
  • 'Wolf Eyes'
    compact, shrub form, variegated foliage, small flowers
'Blue Shadow', 'Gold Cup', 'Gold Star', 'Greensleeves', 'Lustgarden Weeping', 'Milky Way', 'Milky Way Select', 'Moonbeam', 'Rutpink' or trade name, Scarlet Fire, 'Samaritan', 'Satomi', 'Summer Fun', 'Wolf Eyes'
Tags:
#deciduous#small tree#full sun tolerant#interesting bark#specimen#white flowers#wildlife plant#purple leaves#red leaves#nectar plant#cover plant#fall interest#flowering tree#street tree#year-round interest#showy fruits#specialized bees#disease resistant#cpp#deer browsing plant#scarlet leaves#red fruits#showstopper#border planting#pollinator plant#fantz#nesting sites#exfoliating bark#bird friendly#partial shade tolerant#bee friendly#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Blue Shadow'
    dark green foliage
  • 'Gold Cup'
    dark green leaves with gold streak in the leaf center
  • 'Gold Star'
    green leaves with a yellow blotch in the center
  • 'Greensleeves'
    dark green leaves with prominent veins, heavy flowering
  • 'Lustgarden Weeping'
    smaller tree, 8 feet tall, 15 feet wide, weeping form
  • 'Milky Way'
    flowering appears to be biennial
  • 'Milky Way Select'
    Interesting bark, amazing fall color
  • 'Moonbeam'
    large 7 inch in diameter flowers
  • 'Rutpink' or trade name, Scarlet Fire
    deep pink to fushsia bracts
  • 'Samaritan'
    Upright, single trunk, variegated leaves
  • 'Satomi'
    pink flowers
  • 'Summer Fun'
    gray green foliage with white edges
  • 'Wolf Eyes'
    compact, shrub form, variegated foliage, small flowers
'Blue Shadow', 'Gold Cup', 'Gold Star', 'Greensleeves', 'Lustgarden Weeping', 'Milky Way', 'Milky Way Select', 'Moonbeam', 'Rutpink' or trade name, Scarlet Fire, 'Samaritan', 'Satomi', 'Summer Fun', 'Wolf Eyes'
Tags:
#deciduous#small tree#full sun tolerant#interesting bark#specimen#white flowers#wildlife plant#purple leaves#red leaves#nectar plant#cover plant#fall interest#flowering tree#street tree#year-round interest#showy fruits#specialized bees#disease resistant#cpp#deer browsing plant#scarlet leaves#red fruits#showstopper#border planting#pollinator plant#fantz#nesting sites#exfoliating bark#bird friendly#partial shade tolerant#bee friendly#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cornus
    Species:
    kousa
    Family:
    Cornaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Layering
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Sikkim, China to Temp. Eastern Asia
    Distribution:
    Native: China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, East Himalaya, Inner Mongolia, Japan, Korea, Nansei-Shoto, and Taiwan; Introduced: US--HI, MA, NY, and NC
    Wildlife Value:
    Fruits and nesting sites attractive to songbirds. Squirrels eat fruits as well. Members of the genus Cornus support the following specialized bees: Andrena (Gonandrena) fragilis, Andrena (Gonandrena) integra, and Andrena (Gonandrena) platyparia.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Resistant to anthracnose and blights that native dogwoods are susceptible to. Mildly resistant to deer damage
    Edibility:
    Fruits are technically edible but are usually left for the birds.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 20 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 15 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Horizontal
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Vase
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Green
    Pink
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is an edible round drupe and measures 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter. The fruit is light red to pink in color. The inside is a fleshy yellowish-orange and contains a stone. The stalk measures 1.5 to 2 inches long. The fruits ripen in late summer to early fall. The fruit of 'Greensleeves,' may be green at some points and a little pointy.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    White
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Cross
    Flower Petals:
    Bracts
    Flower Size:
    3-6 inches
    Flower Description:
    This plant has showy, white to slightly yellowish-white bracts that measure 2 to 3 inches long. The bracts surround a small cluster of inconspicuous flowers. They bloom in late spring and can nearly cover the entire tree.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves appear opposite, simple, oval and have entire margins. They measure 2. 5 to 4 inches long and 2 to 2.5 inches wide. The leaf surface is shiny and dark green. The underside of the leaf is paler and has tufts of golden brown hairs at the base of the petiole. The fall foliage is reddish-purple to scarlet. Cornus kousa, 'Greensleeves,' has glossy, slightly wavy, green leaves that are pointed at the ends. The top of the leaf's venation is yellowish-green which makes the venation obvious against the glossy green leaf. The leaf's underside is a lighter green color than on top and the venation is prominent sticking out slightly and being a pale-green.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Light Brown
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Bark Description:
    The bark is smooth and light-brown on young trees. The bark later forms exfoliating patches of tan and brown.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Initially, the stem is thin and purple to green in color and later turns light brown.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Naturalized Area
    Small Space
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Asian Garden
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Flowering Tree
    Mass Planting
    Small Tree
    Specimen
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Pollinators
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer