Pink dogwood, Cornus florida ‘Rubra’, is found in gardens to a lesser extent than the white flowering dogwood but is no less a rite of spring to southern gardeners.
A classic native understory tree, the dogwood is a gardening standard with good reason. After a long winter and lots of squash soup, spring brings warmth to the soil, and the dogwood trees and azaleas bloom.
Being understory trees, pink dogwoods look most natural with a forest canopy overhead.
Pink dogwoods are quite adaptable when it comes to sunlight, handling anything from fairly heavy shade to full sun. Dogwoods grown in shade will be more open in habit.
Bright light in the morning to early afternoon and some shade in the afternoon will be ideal, as the flowers shine like beacons in shady spots. Cornus florida and azaleas are natural companions, and if you are fortunate enough to have some taller pines or hardwoods overhead then the garden will have interest from high to low, allowing you to feel enveloped by the landscape.
Pink Dogwoods have wide lateral branches, giving them a unique visual signature in the landscape.
This layering effect can also be seen in doublefile viburnum.
There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about dogwood anthracnose (Discula destructiva), a fungus that seems to attack dogwoods in the natural landscape more often than in the garden. Powdery mildew has also been a problem in recent years.
Researchers have established that dogwoods grown in more sun with plenty of space are more resistant, so plant your dogwood trees where there is good air circulation and no crowding. More information about dogwood anthracnose…
We have hundreds of dogwoods within walking distance of our office, and I have not seen problems with anthracnose in over a decade of watching. Fear of this fungus would not prevent me from planting dogwood. This does not suggest it is not serious, and my heart goes out to those who have lost dogwoods to anthracnose.
Pink dogwoods grow to 25′ or so, with a rounded, spreading shape. Hardiness is USDA zones 5-9, and acid soil is strongly preferred.