Introducing different types of Cornus

Cornus - the beauty for all seasons

When we talk about Cornus we often refer to the vibrant coloured stems that brighten any garden in winter or when planting native hedgerows. However, there is so much more on offer when talking about Cornus. In this article we are focusing on the mis-understood flowering Cornus types. These are trees of various sizes which often put on some of the best spring flowering displays around and have dazzling autumn foliage colour, with reds, oranges and yellows blending together to create beautiful flame like patterns. Adding Cornus into your designs will make your customers gardens the envy of their neighbours!  

Read below to discover just a few of the best Cornus species.

Cornus florida


Cornus florida is native of Eastern North America and Northern Mexico. It is a deciduous broadly conical tree up to 10 metres. Leaves can be slightly twisted and have good autumn colour. The tiny green flowers are surrounded by conspicuous flower like bracts in mid to late spring which are followed by bright red fruits. Grows best in acid soils pH 5.5 – 7.0 Prefers growing positions with afternoon shade or dappled shade and shelter. Will not cope in exposed or salty coastal conditions. Has been used in the production of inks and scarlet dyes.

Our favourite variety is Cornus florida 'Rainbow'. It is a stunning cultivar with beautiful white flowers in April/May. However its main quality is the incredible autumn colour! During spring and summer the leaves are green with yellow margins and then in autumn they turn to all shades of orange and red.

Cornus kousa


Cornus kousa is a small deciduous tree up to 7 metres in height, with oval leaves that turn red – purple in autumn. The spring flowers are small and greenish and are surrounded by dramatic bracts, these are followed by a pink strawberry like fruit, much loved by birds. As with all Cornus, kousa prefers an acid to neutral moist well drained soil. Originates from Japan, Korea and China. Can cope with most aspects in sun or dappled shade.

We highly recommend Cornus kousa 'Satomi'. It is different to other Cornuses because of its distinctive dark pink petal-like bracts. It produces masses of flowers in June and it looks absolutely stunning.

Cornus controversa


Cornus controversa is often called the Wedding Cake Tree due to the tiered growing habit which makes this a beautiful tree in maturity, especially the variegated form. The tree grows to a height of 5-8 meters with a spread to match. Leaves turn yellow in autumn. Flowers appear in mid spring and are flat heads of small white flowers 15cm across, these are followed by blue/black berries. Native to Eastern Asia Can cope with most aspects and full sun or partial shade. They like moist well drained soil, neutral to acid.

There is one variety which we particularly love - Cornus controversa 'Variegata'. This tree will create a great focal point if you have small or medium size garden. It has very unusual shape and the creamy variegated foliage will brighten every spot. 

Cornus mas


Cornus mas, also known as the Cornelian cherry is the earliest flowering Cornus. Masses of small yellow flowers appear in February on bare stems. It is a small deciduous and very dense tree growing up to 6 m height. During spring and summer the leaves are green but in autumn they turn bright yellow, orange and red. It also produces cherry-like edible (when ripe) bright red fruits. They are quite sour so are usually made into preserves.  

Cornus alternifolia


Cornus alternifolia is also known as Pagoda Dogwood. It's a small deciduous tree – up to 8 metres. Branches grow in horizontal layers creating an elegant shaped tree. Leaves golden with a green central splash. New leaves are often flushed orange. Cluster of cream coloured flowers, mid – late spring followed by bluish black berries Indigenous to Eastern North America Ideal growing conditions Moist but well drained acidic to neutral soils. Grows on wood land margins. Does well in dappled shade.

Our favourite is Cornus alternifolia 'Golden Shadows'. It is a beautiful small tree with a very elegant shape and fabulous foliage colour. The leaves are green with vibrant lime green margins. You really need this variety if you wish to brighten up your garden.

May 2018