For a delightful native specimen plant—even in a tiny yard—the highly ornamental Pagoda Dogwood (‘Cornus alternifolia’) is a perfect fit. Use it as a large ornamental shrub, or limb up the lowest branches and use it as a small tree. You’ll adore the lovely tiered horizontal branches that catch and sculpt winter snowfall.
But, honestly, this tree shines all year-long. Those graceful branches resemble Japanese pagodas in the landscape. The silhouette of this tree makes a wonderful statement throughout the winter months.
Young bark is smooth, and a warm mahogany-red. Textured older bark is gray-brown and displays light ridges and furrows. Even non-viable twigs are pretty, as they slowly turn a bright yellow before dropping off.
In spring, the branches are laden with fragrant flowers that are flat-topped. These showy clusters make the perfect landing pad for neighborhood pollinators. The fresh spring foliage is a wonderful contrast to the pale blooms.
How many butterflies will come visit your yard? You’ll be amazed!
Summertime leaves age into a rich, dark green for the season. They are deeply ribbed and add fabulous texture and shade at the height of the growing season.
As the season continues, the foliage ages into a burnished color similar to mulled burgundy wine. The flowers mature into attractive blue-black fruit in the late summer. These treats are for local songbirds, who relish the nutrient-rich, easy snack.
Each fruit sits atop a very attractive stalk boasts a pleasing coral-red color into the late winter. This is a highly ornamental plant that provides visual interest in every season and stage.
How nice to include native plants in your landscape! Pagoda Dogwood can be found in the cool climates of Eastern North America. These adaptable trees are most often found in moist forests, along streams and creek banks, as well as in open meadows.
Where most Dogwoods have leaves that are opposite of one another on the branch, Pagoda Dogwood is also known as Alternate Leaf Dogwood because of the unique way they distribute their leaves on the branches.
You’ll fall in love with this wonderful selection. Order one or more healthy plants from our expert growers and they will be boxed up and shipped directly from our field right to your doorstep. Enjoy!
How to Use Pagoda Dogwood in the Landscape
Pagoda Dogwood is a low maintenance plant. It can be an outstanding specimen in a select location in the landscape. They can be used equally well in home gardens and commercial landscapes when sited correctly.
Or, use it as a marvelous accent tree by a patio or walkway. No need to worry about aggressive roots with this plant. Plant near your front entrance to easily add curb appeal.
The trees also look great when massed in plantings of 3 to 5 trees in a woodland garden. Plant them 10 feet apart on center if you want their canopies to touch. Expand that distance to 15 feet on center to create an individual tree that doesn’t touch its neighbor. Measure from the center of one to the center of the next.
Pagoda Dogwood is the perfect choice for a naturalized landscape where you can sit and watch the birds that are attracted to the fruit. Underplant with a special, easy care collection of Hosta perennials.
You’ll have no drama, just loads of interest with restful green color, beautiful texture and charm everywhere you look. Enjoy your summer afternoons lazing away with a juicy book on a large hammock in your backyard paradise!
Try this as a native alternative in an Asian Garden. It looks especially beautiful at the water’s edge, where you’ll see its pretty reflection.
It’s also a marvelous accent tree on the outside edge of a Rain Garden. Capture and filter polluted water runoff from roofs and streets, before it flows down storm drains and out to local estuaries using wonderful plants like Pagoda.
#ProPlantTips for Care
Pagoda Dogwood prefers cool, moist, acidic soils. Partial shade conditions where it will receive at least 4 hours of sunlight a day is ideal.
It can handle up to 6 hours of direct sun a day, but it’s best to provide a sheltered spot well out of the worst of the wind. In dry climates with hot afternoon sun, please give it a location with morning sun and afternoon shade.
Pagoda Dogwood prefers well-drained soils. However, the plant will tolerate short periods of poor draining soils. Try to water the soil with soaker hoses, and not the leaves with overhead watering to avoid leaf spot.
This disease resistant tree requires regular water and will not tolerate any drought. Mulch the fibrous, surface spreading roots with a layer that is 2 to 3 inches deep. Spread mulch out 3 feet from the outside of the canopy to keep the root zone cool and the moisture level even.
Minor pruning is required in the trees early years to shape and direct limb growth. Can be grown as a single trunk tree or trained to a multi trunk or even maintained as a low shrub with more aggressive pruning.
This is a beautiful, easy care, low growing tree that works beautifully, even in smaller landscapes. Pagoda Dogwood is a fabulous addition to any yard, order yours today!
- Attributes: Genus: Cornus Species: alternifolia Family: Cornaceae Life Cycle: Woody Country Or Region Of Origin: Central & E. Canada to N. Central & E. U.S.A. Distribution: Found in western North Carolina, the northeastern United States, and as far west as Minnesota Wildlife Value: Fruits are attractive to birds and plants provide nesting sites. 118 species of Lepidopteran caterpillars feed on Cornus. Members of the genus Cornus support the following specialized bees: Andrena (Gonandrena) fragilis, Andrena (Gonandrena) integra, and Andrena (Gonandrena) platyparia. Play Value: Attracts Pollinators Screening Wildlife Cover/Habitat Wildlife Food Source Wildlife Larval Host Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems): More resistant to diseases than other dogwoods. Tolerates deer and black walnut. Dimensions: Height: 15 ft. 0 in. – 30 ft. 0 in. Width: 10 ft. 0 in. – 20 ft. 0 in.
- Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Native Plant Shrub Tree Leaf Characteristics: Deciduous Habit/Form: Horizontal Multi-trunked Maintenance: Low Texture: Medium
- Cultural Conditions: Light: Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day) Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours) Soil Texture: High Organic Matter Soil pH: Acid (<6.0) Soil Drainage: Good Drainage Moist Occasionally Wet Available Space To Plant: 12-24 feet NC Region: Mountains Piedmont Usda Plant Hardiness Zone: 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b
- Fruit: Fruit Color: Blue Green Purple/Lavender Fruit Value To Gardener: Showy Display/Harvest Time: Fall Fruit Type: Drupe Fruit Description: Drupe on red stalks green in summer blue-purple in the fall. Displays from August to September
- Flowers: Flower Color: Gold/Yellow Green White Flower Inflorescence: Cyme Flower Value To Gardener: Fragrant Showy Flower Bloom Time: Spring Flower Shape: Cross Flower Petals: 4-5 petals/rays Flower Size: 1-3 inches Flower Description: White to cream colored flat typed cyme in 3″-4″ clusters. Very fragrant blooms appear late May to early June after leave emerge. They are not as showy as other dogwoods.
- Leaves: Leaf Characteristics: Deciduous Leaf Color: Gold/Yellow Green Deciduous Leaf Fall Color: Purple/Lavender Red/Burgundy Leaf Type: Simple Leaf Arrangement: Alternate Whorled Leaf Shape: Elliptical Ovate Leaf Margin: Entire Hairs Present: No Leaf Length: 1-3 inches Leaf Width: 1-3 inches Leaf Description: Leaves are alternate appearing whorled on the stem. 2″-5″ inches longand 1″-2 1/2″ wide. Red-purple fall color. Veins appear almost parallel.
- Bark: Bark Color: Dark Gray Surface/Attachment: Ridges Bark Description: Gray ridged and furrowed when mature.
- Stem: Stem Color: Brown/Copper Purple/Lavender Stem Is Aromatic: No Stem Surface: Polished Stem Description: Stems are shiny purple-brown
- Landscape: Landscape Location: Naturalized Area Patio Small Space Woodland Landscape Theme: Butterfly Garden Cottage Garden Pollinator Garden Winter Garden Design Feature: Border Flowering Tree Foundation Planting Hedge Mass Planting Screen/Privacy Specimen Attracts: Bees Butterflies Moths Pollinators Songbirds Specialized Bees Resistance To Challenges: Black Walnut Deer Problems: Frequent Disease Problems
The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.
Pagoda Dogwood is a native deciduous shrub with alternate leaves that are however, mostly clustered at the ends of branches. It usually can be formed into a small tree and can reach up to 30 feet in height, with the smooth greenish color branches growing almost horizontal, which gives it the common name of Pagoda Dogwood as these horizontal branches are tiered into decreasing widths near the top resembling a pagoda. It is the only native dogwood that will form a tree shape.
Twigs are reddish in color, branching singly, with terminal buds not much wider than the twig. Buds are reddish also with 2 to 3 bud scales visible. The flower buds break from the terminal bud at the same time as the leaves as shown below. Lenticels are easily visible on young twigs.
Bark on smaller stems is smooth and darker green. Large older stems will turn brownish with fissures.
Leaves are broadly oval, appear entire (toothless) but some plants may have very minute teeth (not universal), have a rounded base with a tapering tip, glossy green on top, up to 4 inches long. Very fine hair on the leaf petiole and the underside. Leaf veins are prominent giving the leaf surface a ‘quilt-like’ look, and the 5 to 6 lateral veins curve up toward the leaf tip (are said to be ‘arcuate’). Fall color is yellowish to reddish.
The inflorescence is a flat-topped branched cluster (a cyme) rising from the terminal bud of last years twigs; each cluster from 2 to 4 inches wide containing 50 to hundreds of flowers – the most of any of the 4 dogwoods listed below.
The flowers are perfect, white, 4 part, small, 1/4 inch wide, with a short 4-toothed calyx, 4 spreading lance-shaped white petals, 4 stamens that arise alternate with the petals on long white exerted filaments with yellow anthers and a single yellow-green pistil with a single style that has a knob-like tip.
The fruit is an globular drupe, about 1/4 inch diameter, containing an ovoid shape stone, 5 to 6 mm in diameter and slightly flattened. Fruit turns dark blue in late summer attached to a stalk that turns reddish. Seed germination requires at least 60 days of cold stratification.
Habitat: Pagoda Dogwood is usually found growing as an understory tree or shrub in partial to full shade. Soils should be of good quality with wet to mesic moisture conditions. For full flowering and large size, the species should be grown in partial sun to full sun, and if full sun, with moist conditions.
Names: The genus, Cornus, is from the Latin cormu which refers to a ‘horn’. Most references believe that name was applied as a reference to the density of the wood of this genus, which also includes the boxwoods. Dogwood is very dense and was once used for loom shuttles and in old English “Dagwood” referring to its use in making daggers, skewers, and arrows. Cornus is also the old Latin name for the cornelian cherry, Cornus mas. The species name, alternifolia, refers to the alternate leaves. The author name for the plant classification – ‘L.f.’ refers to Carl Linnaeus the Younger (1741-1783), Swedish naturalist, son of Carl Linnaeus, who did some follow-on work from his father’s, published Supplementum Plantarum systematis vegetabilium in 1781 and died, childless, of jaundice.
Comparisons: There are four Dogwoods in the Garden. All have similar looking flowers. An identification key is presented below the photos.