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What Is a Cherry Dogwood?

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  • Written By: O. Parker
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 04 September 2016
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The cherry dogwood is a large shrub or small-size landscape tree native to southern Europe and western Asia. It has a rounded, shrub-like growth habit and blooms early in spring on bare branches before the first leaves develop. As an ornamental, the cherry dogwood creates a noticeable color point in the early spring landscape. This old-world native is a member of the Cornaceae plant family, commonly called dogwood. It can be found under the scientific name Cornus mas and is commonly called Cornelian cherry dogwood.

Classified as a large shrub or small tree, the cherry dogwood grows approximately 20 feet (about 6m) tall with a spread of 15 feet (about 4.5 m) wide. It naturally forms a shrubby, rounded form, but it can be pruned into a tree-like shape by removing the lower branches during development. It is a non-thorny deciduous shrub.

An early bloomer, the cherry dogwood flowers even before foliage develops. Early in spring, this shrub is covered with delicate yellow flowers, set against the dark, bare branches. As a specimen shrub or tree, the early season flowers add color to the garden before most other plants are emerging from winter dormancy.

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This dogwood is a versatile addition to the landscape. It is well-suited as a specimen shrub, a landscape tree or as part of a foundation planting. The thicket-like growth habit makes the cherry dogwood suitable as a hedge shrub or a windbreak as well. Additionally, the dense growth habit makes this dogwood an ideal habitat for wildlife.

Spring is the best time to plant a cherry dogwood. Though cold hardy, this shrub benefits from a full growing season to get established in the first year. When planting in fall, chances of success can be increased by spreading a thick layer of insulating mulch on the soil around the base of the shrub.

The plant grows well in full sun or part shade, and can tolerate heavy clay soil or rocky soil conditions. Once established, it requires minimal care. Regular pruning to thin the branches or to create a tree-like structure is optional and a matter of aesthetics. Left to itself, the cherry dogwood will form a dense, healthy shrub.

Disease tolerant and not commonly bothered by pests, the only liabilities this shrub presents are a somewhat messy scattering of leaves and fruit. The dense shade created by the canopy and low-growing branches prevents grass from growing over time. This can be amended with regular pruning.

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