Dogwoods are symbolic of two things – the South and springtime. Their light and fanciful white, pink and purple flowers are a welcome sign that warm weather is on its way. By adding dwarf dogwoods to your landscape design, you can enjoy the look and beauty of dogwoods from the ground all the way up to the crown of a shrub.
Dogwood ground covers are the best option for enjoying dogwoods while keeping plants short. You can use a dogwood ground cover variety to add color to your landscape, versus sticking to a common green ground cover, such as ivy. Two particular varieties you should consider are bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) and Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii). Bunchberry is a real shorty: Its maximum height is 8 inches, but some plants grow only as tall as 2 inches. It blooms with pale purplish-white and deep purple flowers to make a lovely statement along pathways and on the edges of a perennial garden. Pacific dogwood blooms with very showy white flowers. Both bunchberry and Pacific dogwood bloom from late spring to early summer. Bunchberry gives you the added enjoyment of leaves that turn to a deep red color in fall.
Cornus sericea "Kelseyi" cultivar grows only to 30 inches or less. Its common name is Kelsey's dwarf red osier dogwood. The height works well for several gardening and landscaping situations. Small white flowers bloom on this handsome dwarf dogwood in spring. You can plant red osier to hide the bases of taller background shrubs, use it as a dwarf hedge for short perennials or ground covers, or along fences, driveways or walking paths.
A dogwood shrub is a good choice to use as a border plant to decorate the perimeter of a home, along a fence or a property line. A popular choice is red twig dogwood, which grows no more than 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. From spring to early summer, red twig sports white flowers set amidst dark green foliage. Red twig dogwoods add variety and winter interest to landscapes. When the plant sheds its foliage and the branches are bare, they reveal the plant's deep red namesake coloration and look quite artistic in the landscape. The exposed red branches coordinate well with rustic, contemporary and Asian-theme landscape treatments.
The next step up in dwarf shrub height is approximately 6 feet. Within this category is the Cornus alba "Bailhalo" dogwood that goes by the common name of tatarian dogwood. It reaches 4 to 6 feet in height and bears creamy, yellowish-white flowers from late spring to early summer. Even though it maintains dwarf characteristics and does not require pruning, some gardeners prefer to prune 20 to 25 percent of old stems to encourage bushy growth and the production of new stems.
Cheryl Munson has been writing since 1990, with experience as a writer and creative director in the advertising industry. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a focus on advertising from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.