Disease-Resistant Dogwoods

The flowering dogwood tree is plagued with a number of diseases. Here's how to increase your chances of raising a healthy tree.
By: Marie Hofer
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The poor dogwood — perennially beset with problems. Dogwood borers and leaf spots have always been regulars. But then there's dogwood anthracnose, a deadly fungus that decimated many native flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida). Powdery mildew, an unsightly fungal infection, doesn't usually kill the tree but probably weakens it until another pest comes along and delivers the final blow.

To increase your chances of enjoying a healthy dogwood, choose a cultivar with disease resistance to both anthracnose and powdery mildew; developed by Rutgers, the Stellar series, including 'Stellar Pink', 'Constellation', 'Celestial' and 'Aurora', show some resistance against anthracnose and powdery mildew and a high degree of resistance against dogwood borer. 'Appalachian Spring' is extremely resistant to anthracnose.

Dogwood Tree Varieties

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Cornus florida 'Barton', with its lovely white blooms, would make a nice addition to a woodland garden in zones 5b-8a. It grows up to 25 feet tall, and can spread up to 30 feet wide. Its blooms can appear in early through late spring. Like other dogwoods, 'Barton' appreciates well-drained soil.

'Sweetwater Red'

The lovely red blooms of Cornus florida 'Sweetwater Red' appear in early to late spring. 'Sweetwater Red' is hardy in zones 5a-7a, can grow up to 25 feet tall and spread just as wide. This North American native attracts birds and butterflies.


Cornus florida 'Welchii' features variegated leaves of green, creamy white and pink. Its white blooms can appear from early to late spring. 'Welchii' is hardy in zones 5a-9a. This cultivar can grow up to 25 feet tall and spread up to 30 feet. Consider using in a woodland garden or as a specimen tree.

Japanese Dogwood

The deciduous Japanese dogwood tree or shrub offers masses of dark pink flower bracts in late spring to early summer. Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’ offers masses of dark pink flower bracts in late spring or early summer. It can grow to a height of 22 feet with a spread of 15 feet.

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Pink Flowering Dogwood

Cornus florida f. rubra is hardy in zones 5a-8a. Its lovely pink blooms appear from early to late spring. Like other dogwoods, plant this handsome tree in well-drained soil.

'Cherokee Chief'

Cornus florida 'Cherokee Chief' is hardy in zones 5a-8a. Its red blooms can appear from early to late spring. 'Cherokee Chief' can grow up to 25 feet tall. Plant in well-drained soil.

'Cherokee Princess'

Cornus florida 'Cherokee Princess' is hardy in zones 5a-8a, and its white blooms will be in full flower from early to late spring. This native to North America attracts butterflies and can grow up to 25 feet tall.

'First Lady'

Cornus florida 'First Lady' is hardy in zones 6a-8a, where it thrives in well-drained soil. It blooms in white, and its lovely flowers can appear in early to late spring. 'First Lady' can be used as a specimen tree, and features variegated leaves of yellow and light green.


Cornus florida 'Poinsett' grows from 15 to 20 feet tall, and can spread up to 30 feet. It's hardy in zones 5a-8a, and its white blossoms can appear in early to late spring.


This flowering dogwood cultivar grows between 6 and 10 feet tall, and can spread up to 12 feet. Its white blooms can appear in early to late spring. 'Pygmaea' is hardy in zones 5a-8a.

'Cloud 9'

The showy white blooms of Cornus florida 'Cloud 9' arrive in early spring. This cultivar can grow to 30 feet and spread just as wide, but grows a bit more slowly than other dogwoods. Use it to attract birds and butterflies to your garden.


Consider Cornus florida 'Wonderberry' for a woodland setting. Expect this vigorous cultivar with dark green leaves to grow up to 25 feet high, with an equally impressive width. It bears larger-than-normal fruit.


Cornus florida 'Rainbow' features white blooms and is favored for its variegated foliage. Leaves are a brilliant yellow and green in spring and summer, then turn to shades of pink, red and blue-lavender in the fall. 'Rainbow' can grow as tall as 25 feet, with an even wider spread.

'Red Beauty'

The small-to-medium Cornus florida 'Red Beauty' can grow 15 to 20 feet in height, and features an abundance of beautiful red blooms. Like other dogwoods, 'Red Beauty' will work well in a woodland setting or as a specimen tree. Consider 'Red Beauty' for small garden spaces.



In the meantime, however, a better option might be the Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa), which has better resistance to anthracnose and moderate resistance to powdery mildew. Unlike C. florida, Kousa dogwood "flowers" after the leaves appear, so you don't get that fairyland burst of white that's so welcome on an early spring day. But getting a leg up over two devastating diseases is pretty nice too.

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