Pagoda Dogwood Care: Learn About Growing Pagoda Dogwood Trees

By: Teo Spengler

If you’ve ever seen an elaborate Japanese pagoda, you know how the structure’s roof spreads out in symmetrical layers. The branches of pagoda dogwood are dense and layered too, and pagoda dogwood information says the trees get their common names from this branch structure. Despite its common name, the pagoda dogwood is actually a North American native shrub found in New Brunswick, the eastern parts of the United States, and west to Minnesota. For more pagoda dogwood information, including tips for pagoda dogwood care, read on.

Pagoda Dogwood Information

Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) is a large shrub or small tree for a garden or backyard. The pagoda dogwood is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 7.

It is also an attractive plant. When you are growing pagoda dogwood trees, you’ll see that the branches are tiered and horizontal, turning up slightly at the tips. Pagoda dogwood information suggests that the blossoms are also a nice addition to a landscape. Although they are small, the creamy flowers are very fragrant and bloom in 2- to 3-inch groupings in late spring.

These give way to berry-like drupes, the color of blueberries that appear on crimson stalks. The fruits mature in late summer. The long, oval leaves turn purple in autumn. This dogwood is of great benefit to wildlife. The flowers attract butterflies, and the dense foliage provides excellent nesting conditions for birds, while the drupes make meals for them too.

Pagoda Dogwood Growing Conditions

When you are growing pagodas, you’ll be particularly interested in tips about pagoda dogwood growing conditions. In fact, the trees have quite specific requirements.

Ideal pagoda dogwood growing conditions include a sunny planting site that gets some shade during the heat of the afternoon. You’ll want to find a spot with moist, fertile soil. The soil should also be acidic and well drained.

If you find a great planting location, growing pagoda dogwood trees requires less effort. That doesn’t mean that no pagoda dogwood care is required, however.

Pagoda dogwood information suggests that these plants require regular irrigation. This is especially important in areas that do not get precipitation in the summer. It also helps your pagoda dogwood if you mulch the root area regularly. This locks in the moisture and also stabilizes the soil temperature.

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Cornus Species, Alternate-Leaf Dogwood, Green Osier, Pagoda Dogwood


Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater

Sun Exposure:


Foliage Color:




USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 °C (-30 °F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 °C (-25 °F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone


Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

Seed Collecting:

Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen clean and dry seeds

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Hot Springs Village, Arkansas

Hendersonville, North Carolina

Bainbridge Island, Washington

Gardeners' Notes:

On Nov 8, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This tree's strongest ornamental feature is its layered horizontal branching pattern, which accounts for the common name "pagoda dogwood".

Unfortunately, as has been known for over a century, this species is highly susceptible to Cryptodiaporthe canker. Trees routinely succumb to the disease before attaining a trunk diameter of 4".

On Jan 9, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

It is a high quality, neat, clean shrubby tree with handsome foliage, good red fall color, purplish smooth twigs, plus branches, in a wishbone and roller coaster formation, nice white fuzzy flower clusters in May, and bears black fruit relished by birds. I see it growing wild in some spots in the forest of southeastern PA. Sold by most regular nurseries and native plant nurseries. Needs room to branch out in a wide way, like about 20 ft or more. Makes a fantastic specimen by itself. grows about 1 ft/yr and lives 100 to 150 yrs in nature. Should be used more.

On Apr 8, 2012, plant_it from Valparaiso, IN wrote:

Beautiful tree with such delicate-looking, arching branches. Native in my state of Indiana. This tree grows for me in what is almost full shade.

Pagoda Dogwood is also know as Green Osier and Alternate-Leaved Dogwood. A must have in any wildlife garden. Squirrels love to feed on its fruits and at least 11 species of birds including ruffed grouse eat it. The leaves and stems are eaten by white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbits, and beavers.

On Jan 24, 2010, VA_GARDEN from Hood, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

These little trees starting popping up in our wooded property after most of the Cornus florida were wiped out by anthracnose. The flowers are dainty and quite pretty, although not as showy as the flowering dogwood were. The blue berries are also lovely, at least until the birds find them. These trees are quite forgiving, very easy to transplant when small, and seem to thrive on neglect.

On Jan 30, 2006, JonthanJ from Logansport, IN wrote:

Native here in the Wabash Valley, this very large shrub responds well to serious pruning. Wild clumps lose tops regularly to flooding and brush cutting. The new shoots often rise up as much as 4' in the first year and display the multi-storied "pagoda" form handsomely 3-5 years on. These tops are short-lived, but, as with Redbuds, the roots can send up substantial new stems when the tops die or are pushed over or cut back.

On Jun 2, 2004, OhioBreezy from Dundee, OH (Zone 5b) wrote:

Very nice form to this Native Dogwood, which is what a botanist in Ohio here told me this was after searching forever trying to identify it, lovely clusters of white flowers in late spring, as they ripen they turn from a white berry to a gorgeous "metallic" looking blue berry. If you intend to collect seeds, here we have to bag the seedhead to get to them before the birds. They love wet feet. they actually flourish near my swamp.

UPDATE 4/2006, after the flood last year it was broken off to about a foot tall (Feb 2005) it's now coming back and those branches that had broken and were laying in soil have taken root, it's easily started from cuttings or just portions that lay in the soil, so could be invasive in a smaller garden setting, I however still love it and am del. read more ighted that it's coming along nicely

On Jan 3, 2003, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

This tree suffers considerable die-back in dry conditions, but more than makes up for that in its ability to produce healthy new branches that grow rapidly. A very beautiful tree.


When to plant:

Plant dogwoods in the spring, before tree growth starts and when the soil is moist.

Where to plant:

Native to the eastern U.S., the flowering dogwood thrives in both sun and shade, making it a great understory tree.

Dogwoods do best in moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil that contains organic matter.

Planting tips:

  • Dig an extra wide hole to ensure the roots have room to grow outwards
  • Don’t plant too deeply, the root flare should be above ground level
  • For container grown dogwoods, loosen the root ball with a soil knife to prevent the roots from continuing to grow in the circular shape of the pot
  • For bare root dogwoods, soak the roots in a bucket of water prior to planting
  • Create a berm of soil around the outer edge of the root ball to hold water

Companion plants:

Pagoda Dogwood Information - What Are Pagoda Dogwood Growing Conditions - garden

A truly special plant for northern landscapes, valued for its almost "oriental" horizontal branching habit white flowers in spring, blue berries and purple fall color quite fussy, needs a cool, moist site with afternoon shade, also prefers acidic soil

Pagoda Dogwood has clusters of fragrant creamy white flowers held atop the branches in late spring. It has emerald green foliage throughout the season. The pointy leaves turn an outstanding burgundy in the fall. It produces navy blue berries in mid summer.

Pagoda Dogwood is an open multi-stemmed deciduous tree with a stunning habit of growth which features almost oriental horizontally-tiered branches. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.

This is a relatively low maintenance tree, and usually looks its best without pruning, although it will tolerate pruning. It is a good choice for attracting birds to your yard. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Pagoda Dogwood is recommended for the following landscape applications

  • Accent
  • General Garden Use
  • Naturalizing And Woodland Gardens

Pagoda Dogwood will grow to be about 20 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 25 feet. It has a low canopy with a typical clearance of 2 feet from the ground, and is suitable for planting under power lines. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 30 years.

This tree does best in full sun to partial shade. It requires an evenly moist well-drained soil for optimal growth, but will die in standing water. It is particular about its soil conditions, with a strong preference for rich, acidic soils. It is quite intolerant of urban pollution, therefore inner city or urban streetside plantings are best avoided, and will benefit from being planted in a relatively sheltered location. Consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone in winter to protect it in exposed locations or colder microclimates. This species is native to parts of North America.

Spring Landscape

The glorious spring blooms of a dogwood encourage surrounding the tree with spring-blooming bulbs and flowering shrubs. To make your dogwood the centerpiece of a spring-blooming landscape, factor root needs and canopy shade into your plans. Leaves rapidly follow the emergence of dogwood flowers, turning direct sun into dappled shade. Plant bulbs beyond the dripline and areas shaded by your tree to assure they get enough sun and do not disturb tree roots. Avoid placing fast-growing or rapidly-spreading woody shrubs close to the dripline, so that necessary digging and root growth do not damage delicate dogwood roots. Choose woodland-origin, shallow-rooted spring-blooming perennials, like cranesbill (Geranium maculatum), sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), dead nettle (Lamium maculatum) and astilbe (Astilbe x arendsii), rather than more aggressive woody shrubs to add more flowers when your dogwood is in bloom. All are hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8.

Pagoda Dogwood

An excellent landscape shrub, Pagoda Dogwood is a deciduous shrub or small understory tree. It prefers partial sun, a moist well-drained site, and a rich soil that is somewhat acidic. Fragrant white flower clusters in spring are followed by …

Cultural Details
Soil Type Loam
Soil Moisture Medium, Moist
Sun Exposure Partial, Shade
Height 15' - 25'
Bloom Color White
Bloom Time May, June
Spacing 15' - 20'
Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Root Type Fibrous
Benefits Birds, Pollinators, Hummingbirds

An excellent landscape shrub, Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) is a deciduous shrub or small understory tree. It prefers partial sun, a moist well-drained site, and a rich soil that is somewhat acidic. Fragrant white flower clusters in spring are followed by dark blue berries on red stems. The leaves turn a soft maroon color in the fall. Pagoda Dogwood is a wildlife favorite that supports an array of pollinators, moths and other insects, while the berries are very popular with birds.

Named for its decidedly horizontal tiered branches, it is also known as Alternate Leaf Dogwood, as it is the only Dogwood with alternate rather than opposite leaves.

Native plants can be grown outside of their native range in the appropriate growing conditions. This map shows the native range, as well as the introduced range, of this species.

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Pagoda Dogwood comes in a #1 container. Also known 1 Gal pot, it is approximately 6.5" wide by 7.25" high. The height of the shrub is around 2 feet.

The growth rate will depend upon how much light it gets. Ideal light conditions are sun during the first half of the day, and shade during the hottest part of the day. In partial sunlight conditions you an expect 24" (2 ft) per year.

6 Varieties of Dogwood to Use In Your Landscape

In garden design, flowering shrubs and trees provide a unique role as specimens that provide both structure and ornament. As a structural element, they help form the garden's "bones," serving as a backdrop and frame when the garden is alive with other flowering plants. But flowering shrubs and trees also take center stage at certain times of the year, usually in spring. Especially in northern climates, flowering shrubs and trees serve an essential function as the first sources of color as winter transitions into spring.

The various dogwoods (Cornus spp.) are among the most important flowering woody plants, bridging the line from shrubs to small trees. Some of the dogwoods are generally used as large multi-stemmed shrubs, but others look more like small trees. Other types are regarded as small trees, but they spend their early years looking quite shrub-like. There are even dogwoods that serve more as ground cover plants. And unlike many flowering woody plants, all dogwoods are well-suited to shady conditions.

Here are six varieties of dogwoods to help you pick from the impressive diversity of this genus.

Few flowering shrubs are better for bird-lovers than the dogwoods. Many song-birds and game birds are drawn to the vitamin-C-rich berries that follow the flowers and often persist into the winter. However, the berries are bitter to humans.

Watch the video: Cornus alternifolia - pagoda dogwood

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