Dogwoods are prized by many homeowners for their spring blooms, long-lasting color and easy maintenance. Once a dogwood is planted in rich, deep soil in an area where it has some shelter from other trees, there's little to do but watch it grow. At one time, dogwoods came in only three basic varieties: red, white and pink. Today, there are close to 50 varieties, of various shapes and colors, from the shrub-like Red Pygmy to the 60-foot Pacific dogwood with many variations of color and shape in between.
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is the most common type of dogwood tree. It's the state flower of North Carolina, even though it grows almost everywhere in North America. Flowering dominates the tree in spring before the leaves do, an stunning bursts of pink, white, red or variegated blooms. Jersey Star with its variegated pink and purple leaves is a newer variety, as as is the whitish-yellow starburst Constellation. Flowering dogwoods tend to have a height and spread of 15 to 20 feet.
Kousa dogwoods (Cornus kousa) are not quite as common as flowering dogwoods, and not quite as showy, either. However, they have a beauty all their own, with a slender, horizontal branching habit, and small, long-lasting blooms that continue into early June. Their bracts, or petals are slender and pointed instead of blunt, and their yellowish-green color changes to a luminescent white that seems to glow after sunset. Newer cultivars include the creamy-colored Hyperion, and the clustered Saturn, which almost looks like hydrangea.
Weeping dogwood (Cornus pendula) is one of the more rare types of dogwood. The weeping part of the tree is grafted onto kousa rootstock. There are only a few cultivars of weeping dogwood, with Lustgarten and Kristin Lipka having a strong weeping habit and topping out as high as 15 feet. Flowering in late spring, the Kristin Lipka cultivar has uniquely variegated green and white leaves that are very rare for dogwood.