The Korean, Japanese, Chinese, or sometimes just Kousa dogwood, is native to east Asia and is a highly used ornamental planted across much of the US. A bit hardier than our native flowering dogwood, it tolerates full sun locations better and is resistant to anthracnose, a foliar disease that can be serious if not fatal to our native species. They prefer a deep humus rich soil but can tolerate a wide range of soils if the roots are protected by a layer of mulch and supplemental water is provided to prevent drying and leaf scorching during hot dry periods.
They can have a single stem but often branch low to the ground with multiple stems and a vase shaped habit, becoming more rounded with age. While generally considered a small tree growing from 15-25 feet in height and width, they can often attain 40 feet with age and adequate soil volume and growing space.
The leaves are shiny and glossy green with a familiar dogwood veiny appearance. Growing to 4” in length by 1-2” wide with a pointed tip, they put on a splendid show in their orange, red and crimson hues in the fall.
The flowers are actually 4 modified leaf bracts arranged in a star-like pattern around the non-showy yellow-green true flowers in the center. The white to pink flowers, depending on cultivars, arrive after the tree is in full leaf and 2-4 weeks after our native flowering dogwood in June to July. The flowers will persist for a few weeks and then produce their large 1” diameter fruit resembling a raspberry on a 3-4” long stem. The fruit is edible and can even be made into a wine but is most often left for the birds. Some years the fruit can be so heavy as to bend and even break limbs from the volume of fruit.
Korean dogwood bark is also showy and provides a winter interest. Typically, smooth and gray when young, it takes on a mottled to mosaic appearance with exfoliating patches of gray, tan and brown that can be accentuated on wet or snowy days. Korean dogwood is a hardy tree with low maintenance requirements and four-season interest.