Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)

Pagoda Dogwood

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!

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. 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.

How many butterflies will come visit your yard? You’ll be amazed when 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.

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 and 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. Hardy throughout USDA growing zones 4 to 8, these are fantastically easy to grow.

Planting and Application:

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!

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.

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. 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. We recommend allowing it to grow naturally as an untrimmed hedge for a picturesque effect.

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.

  • Fragrant Pale Yellow Flowers in Spring
  • Coral Red Fruit Stalks & Attractive Bluish Black Berries
  • Reddish Purple Fall Color & Wonderfully Textured Bark
  • 4 Seasons of Interest
  • Incredible Horizontal Branching Structure Looks Amazing in Snowfall
  • Use as a Shrub or Small Tree

Tips for Care:

Pagoda Dogwood prefers cool, moist, acidic soils. Partial shade conditions where it will receive at least 4 hours of sunlight a day are 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 poorly 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 of arborist bark chips that is 3-4 inches deep. Spread mulch out 3 feet from the outside of the canopy to keep the root zone cool and the moisture level even. Prune is required in the trees early years to shape and direct limb growth. Every 3-5 years, perform a renewal pruning, by cutting out a few of the oldest, thickest stems to the ground. 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.

  • Thrives in Cold Weather & Part Shade
  • Tolerates Average to Wet Well-Drained Soils
  • Prune Late Winter/Eary Spring
  • Easy to Grow and Maintain
  • Deer Don’t Prefer the Taste
  • Tolerates Black Walnut Juglone

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! You’ll fall in love with this wonderful selection.

Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) Details

Common name Pagoda Dogwood
Botanical name Cornus alternifolia
Plant type Deciduous
Hardiness zone 4-8
Growth rate Fast
Height 15 - 20 ft.
Width 20 - 25 ft.
Sunlight Partial Shade
Moisture Medium
Soil condition Well Drained
Pollinator-friendly Yes
Pruning time Late Winter
Flower color Yellow