How to Plant and Grow Dogwood Shrub

Enjoy the beauty of dogwood trees on a smaller scale.

Dogwood shrubs let you enjoy many of the characteristics of dogwood trees on a smaller scale. Several species native to North America produce flowers for local pollinators and berries for wildlife. Shrub dogwoods range from red osier and tatarian dogwood (the winter variety that sports brightly colored stems) to silky dogwood and kousa dogwood, grown for their striking flowers and outstanding fall color. Add dogwood shrubs, hardy in Zones 3-8, to a mixed shrub border or a perennial planting.

Dogwood Shrub Overview

Genus Name Cornus
Common Name Dogwood Shrub
Plant Type Shrub
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 3 to 15 feet
Width 3 to 15 feet
Flower Color White
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Colorful Fall Foliage, Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom, Winter Interest
Special Features Attracts Birds, Good for Containers
Zones 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Propagation Seed, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Good For Privacy, Slope/Erosion Control

Where to Plant Dogwood Shrub

Grow dogwood shrubs in full sun or part shade and moist soil. Many dogwood shrubs grow well in wet soil during the growing season, making them suitable for rain gardens and low spots in the landscape. Silky and red osier dogwoods are especially tolerant of consistently moist soil. They make lovely additions to a shrub border and grow nicely under deciduous trees.

How and When to Grow Dogwood Shrub

Plant dogwood shrubs in spring or early summer. When purchasing plants, read the plant tag to ensure your growing location matches the plant's moisture requirements. Dig a hole about the same depth and twice the width of the planting container. Remove the plant and loosen the roots a bit from the root ball before placing it in the hole. Backfill with soil, tamp lightly, and water well. When planting dogwood shrubs, it's helpful to create a catch basin around them by building up a wall of soil to keep moisture around the plant.

Dogwood Shrub Care Tips

In the right conditions, dogwood shrubs are very easy to grow and require little attention or maintenance.


Dogwood shrugs do best with four to five hours of direct sunlight each day and produce the brightest colors planted this way.

Soil and Water

Dogwood does well in boggy conditions, while many other shrubs don't.

Water the shrubs well after planting and spread a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch over the root zone to prevent soil-moisture loss. Water plants regularly during the first growing season to promote a robust root system. They should get at least 1 inch of water per week from rain or watering. Dogwoods like more acidic and moist, well-drained soil. Enhance soil with a humus additive.

Temperature and Humidity

Dogwood can tolerate almost any kind of temperature, but they don't do well in high heat and humidity. Protect them from the hottest part of the day by planting them where they'll receive morning sun and afternoon shade.


There's no need to fertilize dogwood shrubs, but if you want to, do so in the early spring, following the fertilizer manufacturer's instructions.


Dogwood shrubs don't require frequent pruning, but you can intensify winter stem color by regularly removing older canes so that young woody stems can show off their bright red, yellow, or orange-red winter colors.

Cut back one-third of the oldest, most faded stems in early spring. Remove damaged or dead stems at the same time. Each subsequent spring cut back another third of the branches. When the pruned dogwood bush emerges from dormancy in the spring, you'll see an increased number of colorful stems appearing as a result.

Pests and Problems

If dogwood shrubs develop fungi such as leaf blight or canker, the infected branches and leaves should be cut off and thrown away to keep the fungus from spreading. Sawfly larvae can chew big chunks from leaves. Other pests include scale and bagworms. Though they won't do much damage, they can be eliminated with insecticide.

How to Propagate Dogwood Shrub

Dogwood shrubs can be propagated easily with stem cuttings. In the spring before the buds start to open, take 12” cuttings from 1-year-old wood of the dogwood shrub. Each cutting needs at least three pairs of buds. Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting. Moisten the end of each cutting and dip it into rooting hormone. In a small but deep pot filled with a sterile medium, such as sand or perlite, make a hole and plant the cutting deep enough to cover two pairs of buds. Press down on the medium so that the cutting stands straight. Keep the medium moistened and cover the pot and cutting with a clear plastic bag, using wooden sticks to keep the bag off the cutting, if needed.

After a couple of weeks, check the cutting once a week for evidence of rooting by giving the stem a slight tug or looking to see if roots are coming through the pot's drain hole. After about eight weeks, the cutting should begin to root. When it does, remove the plastic bag entirely. Keep the pot in a warm area with bright light but not full sun, and wait as the cutting develops a robust root system.

Types of Dogwood Shrub

'Elegantissima' Red Twig Dogwood

redtwig dogwood Cornus alba 'Elegantissima'

Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' features gray-green leaves edged in white that open on red stems. It grows 10 feet tall and wide. Zones 2-8

'Golden Shadows' Pagoda Dogwood

'Golden Shadows' pagoda dogwood Cornus alternifolia

This variety of Cornus alternifolia offers gold-edge leaves. It bears white springtime flowers and purple fruits in summer and fall. It prefers shade and grows 15 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-8

Gray Dogwood

Gray dogwood Cornus racemosa

Cornus racemosa is an upright North American native shrub with reddish-brown bark that matures to gray. The white spring flowers are followed by white fruit in summer. It grows 10-15 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-8

'Ivory Halo' Red Twig Dogwood

Ivory Halo redtwig dogwood Cornus alba 'Bailhalo'

This Cornus alba selection is a compact shrub featuring white-edge medium green leaves and bright red twigs. It grows 6 feet tall and wide. Zones 3-7

'Isanti' Red Osier Dogwood

'China Girl' Kousa dogwood

Cornus sericea 'Isanti' forms a dense, compact shrub of red stems. It grows 6 feet tall and wide. Zones 2-8

Garden Plans For Dogwood

Bold Woodland Garden Plan

Bold Woodland Garden Plan

The space under big trees can be ideal for growing shade-loving plants with colorful flowers and foliage. This bold woodland garden plan includes a red twig dogwood shrub (Cornus alba 'Elegantissima') and will look gorgeous from spring until frost.

Low Water Garden Plan

Low-Water Garden

Use the selections in this garden plan to create a beautiful display near your home's foundation, along your driveway, or on the streetside strip of grass in front of your house—where you may need some extra durable options. Stocked with low-maintenance plants—including a red twig dogwood shrub—that thrive in full sun and well-drained soil, this garden is designed to look good, even through extended dry spells.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does a dogwood shrub live?

    Dogwood shrubs can live for up to 80 years in the right environment. In places where they don't get the best soil and sunlight, they won't survive for as long.

  • Did George Washington plant dogwood?

    Yes, he planted them at Mt. Vernon. Thomas Jefferson also planted dogwood at Monticello. Some Native American groups used dogwood shrubs as a signal for when to plant certain crops. The wood was widely used to make tools and the bark could produce a red dye. Dogwood has a firmly rooted place in American history.

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