Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a small deciduous tree native to Michigan. The flowering dogwood also grows in regions of the Eastern and Central United States and Ontario, Canada. If you are trying to limit your Michigan garden to native plants or simply like the blossom of this tree, flowering dogwoods offer picturesque beauty to many landscapes.
The flowering dogwood reaches 30 feet in height but averages around 15 feet tall and 15-20 feet wide. It is most notable for its early spring flowers, white or sometimes pink, that bloom for 2-3 weeks. The blooms are a bract type with small yellow flower clusters in the center. In the fall, dogwoods produce shiny red berries that are eaten by birds and squirrels. Fall foliage is showy and leaves turn red and purple.
The flowering dogwood grows wild as part of the understory in mixed hardwood forests or at the edges of pine forests. It prefers moist, acidic soil rich in organic matter. It is widely planted as an ornamental tree in yards and gardens and can tolerate anything from full sun to partial shade.
If you are planting a flowering dogwood in Michigan, especially in colder areas of the state, make sure the variety comes from a northern climate, as transplanted southern varieties may not grow well. Dogwood can be propagated from seed, cuttings, or bud grafting. If you have a native stand of dogwood on your property, do not plant a cultivated tree near it, as this may spread blight to the native trees.
Dogwood blight, or anthracnose, poses the greatest threat to flowering dogwoods. It was introduced to the US in the 1970s and was first seen in Michigan on imported dogwoods in 1990, near Kalamazoo. To mitigate its effects, plant trees in full sun or at least morning sun with good air circulation and keep them well-watered and free of stressors. Avoid overhead watering and keep trees mulched. Symptoms can be hard to detect and asymptomatic trees may be carriers. Other diseases, which pose a far lesser threat, include the dogwood borer, powdery mildew, and cankers.