How to Grow Japanese Kousa Dogwoods in Your Yard
By: Julie Day
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:
- 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.
Creamy bracts in spring.
Japanese Kousa Dogwood Growing Conditions
- 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:
- 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.
Fall fruits from Kousa dogwood.
- Kousa Dogwood (U.S. Forest Service Fact Sheet)
- How To Plant Container Grown Trees and Shrubs
- How to Plant Balled and Burlapped Trees and Shrubs