Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

How to Grow Japanese Kousa Dogwoods in Your Yard

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Japanese Kousa dogwood blooms are like a starry night sky.

If you’re looking for a perfectly shaped tree with year-round interest, try planting a Kousa dogwood in your yard! Also called Japanese or Chinese dogwood, these Asian cousins of the familiar native flowering dogwood offer a unique look, and they’re resistant to many of the diseases that frequently plague flowering dogwoods.

Here’s what you need to know to grow Kousa dogwoods in your landscape.


Beautiful exfoliating bark on Japanese Kousa dogwood provide winter interest.

About Japanese Kousa Dogwoods

Japanese Kousa dogwoods (Cornus kousa) are small deciduous trees that reach about 15-30 feet tall and wide, depending on the variety. They naturally grow in a pleasing umbrella shape that works well as a specimen or border tree.

Like other types of dogwoods, the spring blossoms are fairly insignificant – it’s the large, creamy leaf bracts around the blossoms that are so distinctive. Kousa dogwoods have creamy-white to pink, pointed bracts that arrive after the tree has leafed out, giving a deep green backdrop to the star-like blooms.

Japanese Kousa dogwoods offer beauty during all seasons:


    Creamy bracts in spring.

  • Spring: Kousa dogwoods bloom in the spring about a month after flowering dogwoods. The blooms last about six weeks and gradually fade to pink, giving a long season of color.
  • Summer: The deep forest-green foliage and elegant arching and horizontal branches make Kousa dogwood a favorite for outdoor seating areas, large containers, and border plantings.
  • Fall: Foliage turns a brilliant reddish-purple, and the branches become laden with unique red fruits. The fruits are edible, but the birds find them more palatable than we do!
  • Winter: Kousa dogwoods show off their naturally pleasing shape, along with showy exfoliating bark that peels back to show rich grays and browns. They make a dramatic silhouette in the winter landscape.

Japanese Kousa Dogwood Growing Conditions


    Low-maintenance shape.

  • Hardiness: Kousa dogwoods are hardy to zone 5.
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil: Kousa dogwoods do best in well-draining, moist rich soil that’s not too heavy.
  • Water: Average water needs, but will require irrigation during a drought, especially if planted in full sun.
  • Environment: Kousa dogwoods aren’t known for being particularly drought or heat tolerant and can become stressed in constricted or harsh urban settings. Give your Kousa dogwood plenty of space and good soil in which to grow.


Berries in late summer grace Japanese Kousa dogwood.

Japanese Kousa Dogwood Growing Tips

Overall, you’ll find the slow growing Kousa dogwood pretty carefree, boasting:

  • Resistance to anthracnose and powdery mildew, two diseases that often plague flowering dogwoods.
  • Low risk of breakage.
  • Minimal litter, other than the fall leaf drop.

For best results, follow these tips to grow Japanese Kousa dogwood in your yard:


    Fall fruits from Kousa dogwood.

  • Mulching: Kousa dogwood benefit from a layer of mulch to hold in moisture.
  • Watering: Irrigate your Kousa dogwood during drought.
  • Pruning: Regular trimming isn’t necessary with Kousa dogwood, but you may want to selectively prune your tree in order to show off the dramatic branches and bark. If the tree is planted near a walkway, you’ll probably need to remove some lower branches in order to walk underneath it.
  • Show off: Kousa dogwoods are showpieces, so let them shine! Try landscape lighting to highlight the branches at night, and place them strategically within the landscape for maximum enjoyment.

Further Information



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20 Comments on “How to Grow Japanese Kousa Dogwoods in Your Yard”

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  1. Joe Petner Says:
    July 24th, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    planted a large caliper Kousa (2.5 inches) in last fall. It has done well through the Spring and early summer. However, it is showing signs of some leaf browning especially at the top of the tree. I have watered it during the recent heat wave in Boston, but did not water it over the last week of really hot weather since I was away. My wife thinks it may have a fungus or something, but I am not sure it is other than the extreme heat. Please advise about caring for the tree and whether it may be more than heat for a newly planted tree and what to do if it has a fungus. Thanks, Joe

  2. Diane Says:
    August 21st, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    I have a five year old Kousa Dogwood. It is about 10 feet tall and is now covered with red fruits. Can these fruits be planted and will they make more trees? Inquiring minds need to know. Thanks,
    Diane

  3. margie Says:
    September 13th, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    I have a kousa dogwood that I took with me when I moved. I had it in a container. I would like to plant it but where? I had it in full sun and it showed signs of leaf burn. I live in southern calif. zone 9. Can I plant in full sun?
    Thanks

  4. Diane Says:
    September 14th, 2012 at 8:34 am

    In East Tennessee we have many native dogwoods, not Kousa’s, however. I wrote earlier about possibly planting the seeds to propagate more. Here, our native dogwoods grow under larger trees, in filtered light. I think maybe the Kousa’s should be grown that way, too. Mine also looks like it suffered from heat even though the sprinkler system watered it well. It bloomed heavily in the spring. And two weeks ago, it bloomed one more big bloom.

  5. cathy Says:
    November 8th, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    my 5 year old kousa dogwood was attacked by storm athena. i awoke this moring to see it totally filled with snow and the branches were as far bent to the ground as it could be………i went out and gently removed the snow and helped lift the tree back up. the tree is about 10 feet tall and fairly round and full. to my horror i saw a crack in the center, it looks like a 5 inch gash straight down. if i chop off that section, it would be at least a third of the tree. this sounds crazy….bu, i want to tape the base for support. i am in new jersey…..life has been wacky ….helpful ideas are appreciated. thank you

  6. cathy Says:
    November 10th, 2012 at 7:37 am

    hi…..is anyone there………i asked a question above……….please help thank you

  7. Diane Says:
    November 10th, 2012 at 7:44 am

    I have a Kousa that is 6 years old. It was lovely this spring and even had more blooms on it in late September. I am trying to picture your tree after the snow and from what I see in my mind, I somehow doubt that taping it will work long time. Perhaps if you do trim away the part that is affected, it will fill in on it’s own over a year or so. Good luck. My tree was given to me when my mother died and when it blooms I always think she is sending me a Hell-o message. Good luck after all you have been thru in NJ. I am in East Tennessee.

  8. cathy Says:
    November 10th, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    thank you dianne………i am sure your mom is always saying hello…
    my tree is standing tall now and still has most it’s leaves . but, i think you are correct and will have to chop………..so much hardship in this area and this is minor i know. i just love that tree. i will let you know what happens. cathy

  9. Diane Says:
    November 11th, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Thank you, Cathy. Please do let me know how the little tree does after you prune it. I’ll bet it will surprise you and turn out just as beautiful as it was before the storm. Hang in there………..things will get better. And when your little tree blooms again next spring, it will remind you to stay strong in the face of adversity.

  10. cathy Says:
    November 11th, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Dianne, the tree is trying so hard …….there is a crack.it was at least 6 inches wide and now it is about 2 inches……will keep you updated. i am asking the Angels to help all of us. Thank you again for your kind words. Cathy

  11. Lenor Says:
    May 4th, 2013 at 11:00 am

    We planted a Kousa Dogwood about 5 years ago. It is a beautiful tree but rarely blooms. I have 3 green flowers this year. One year it had about a dozen white flowers, but it has never bloomed like the pictures I see of a tree in bloom. Is there something I need to do to get it to bloom?

  12. Diane Says:
    May 5th, 2013 at 6:45 am

    Lenor, the blooms always start out greenish colored, then turn white and sort of pink before the petals fall. Was the tree terribly stressed for any reason last fall. Drought? I know here in East Tennessee where we are known for native dogwoods, some years they are covered with blooms and some years they just have a few. My tree looks very healthy and in full leaf but so far not a bloom. The native trees have just stopped blooming and the Kouss blooms after they do. I will let you know if I have a good bloom or not. IN what area of the country are you located?

  13. Diane Says:
    May 5th, 2013 at 6:47 am

    Cathy, how is your Kousa doing this year? Mine is lush and lovely but has not bloomed so far. But I think it will. I wondered if your tree made it where it split or if you had to prune that part away? Hope all is well in NJ!

  14. cathy Says:
    May 5th, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Thank you so much for remembering me and my pretty tree. So far so good. I supported the two limbs that had the split with stretch wrap…..i made a figure 8 around the limbs to give it strength. i always fertilize in spring and fall. the tree is covered in leaves but is always one of the last trees to bloom. Yours will be stunning in a few weeks….as will mine. Please stay in touch, thanks again.

  15. Lenor Says:
    May 5th, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Diane, I live in East TN. Our Kousa looks great but no blooms yet. I will keep watching as I may be expecting blooms too early especially since we have had a particularly wet and cold Spring this year.

  16. Geri Says:
    June 9th, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    I have a 3 year old over 6 foot kousa with 5 branches/bush. It started bending over this winter with the weight of the snow but came back upright on thaw. But now with every heavy rain it is bending over to the ground and not returning upright less and less. Can I support it some way or remedy the situation?
    THanks

  17. Diane Says:
    June 9th, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    I am certainly no expert on Kousa Dogwoods but I am wondering if maybe some light pruning might help. Also have you checked to see if the tree cracked/split anywhere from the weight of the snow. If it has cracked or split, you might be able to wrap something around it at the split (fabric) and then wrap wire/rope around that for a while to see if it mends. I hope this might be helpful to you. Mine was in full bloom a month ago and was quite lovely. We had several days near 90 degrees and the blooms all dried up and were history. They do not like heat. The leaves on mine curl up here in the East Tennessee summer heat. But the tree hangs on and blooms again the next year. Good luck with yours.

  18. cathy Says:
    June 9th, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    hello, my kousa is looking great…….still has many blloms left and the tree looks fuller and taller. the split is still a concern to me but the tree has not suffered as of yet. thanks for your idea dianne about using fabric to bind cut….may give it a try as summer ends…….at the moment the supports seem to be working……enjoy the week

  19. Lenor Says:
    June 9th, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    I wrote in early May that my Kousa didn’t show evidence of blooming. It is a beautiful tree but probably only had a dozen flowers. It has never had a lot of flowers. Any thoughts? Does it need pruning or fertilizer? When to prune?

  20. cathy Says:
    June 10th, 2013 at 5:13 am

    i fertilize in spring and fall. really believe it helps, they sell fertilizer for dogwood trees……worth a try. the nursery we bought the tree from said it would be helpful to do this for our tree. good luck.

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