Cornus florida is the botanical name of a beautiful flowering dogwood that graces our native woodlands and our landscapes.
The best way to keep the dogwoods healthy is to find a place to plant them close to where they like to live in the wild.
It is easy because the plants are not too picky about the soil they grow in and the addition of compost helps all soils to be better.
Plant the dogwoods where they will get morning sun and afternoon shade, and at least 1 inch higher than the soil line and then add about an inch of mulch on top.
They will need to be watered at least twice a week after planting, three times a week if the weather is 90 degrees or warmer.
After a year, water the plant at least once a week unless there is an inch of natural rainfall.
It may seem like a lot of work, but the plants growing in your own yard makes it so worthwhile.
The dogwood grows only 15-30 feet tall and the branches arch out and gracefully stretch horizontally, creating a lovely silhouette in the winter months when there are no leaves on the trees and the branches become living art.
Early in the spring before the dark glossy green leaves emerge, the dogwoods begin to open their flowers.
The true tiny yellow flowers are in the center of four pure white petal-like bracts.
Spreading out 3-4 inches, each of the outer ends of the bracts have a center dip that scallops and defines the flowers.
As the flowers mature, they become a bouquet of small shiny red berries that the native birds devour early in the autumn.
The glossy green leaves turn a burgundy red in the autumn that glows in the morning sun.
There are a few diseases that can damage our native dogwoods, but there are also a number of disease-resistant dogwoods that can be purchased.
Anthracnose is usually a disease that attacks dogwoods grown on the western side of Maryland, while powdery mildew is a disease that thrives on the Eastern Shore.
Powdery mildew needs warm moist days and cooler nights which can happen in the spring and again in the fall of the year.
We can’t change the weather, but we can plant dogwoods that can grow despite the weather.
There are three varieties that are named after the wives of the scientists who grew the disease-resistant plants and they include Cornus florida “Jean’s Appalachian Snow,” “Karen’s Appalachian Blush” and “Kay’s Appalachian Mist.”
There is also Cornus florida “Appalachian Joy,” a beautiful flowering dogwood that is very resistant to powdery mildew and has up to eight pure white petal-like bracts instead of the usual four.
At this time, the plants may be difficult to find, but as more gardeners ask, more nurseries and garden centers will stock them.