How to Grow and Care for Pink Dogwood Trees

How to Grow Cornus Florida

pink dogwood tree

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The pink dogwood is notable for the many pastel flowers that it produces each spring for about two to four weeks. Like other dogwoods, the pink varieties are very good landscape trees for the rest of the year, too, with green foliage that turns purplish in fall, and reddish berries that draw butterflies and birds. At a growth rate of about 1 foot per year, the pink dogwood tree can quickly become a robust addition to the landscape.

Common Name Pink dogwood, pink flowering dogwood
Botanical Name Cornus florida f. rubra
Family Name Cornaceae
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 15 to 30 ft. tall, with a similar or somewhat greater spread
Sun Exposure Partial shade
Soil Type Moist but well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Pink
Hardiness Zones 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Native Area North America
pink dogwood tree

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

closeup of pink dogwood tree

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

pink dogwood tree

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

pink dogwood tree

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Pink Dogwood Tree Care

Plant pink dogwood trees in well-drained, acidic soil. They are not heavy feeders, but you can improve performance by furnishing at least moderately fertile ground for them.

Since Cornus florida var. rubra is an understory tree in the wild, it is best to grow it in partial shade in the landscape (particularly in hot climates). But some homeowners do grow pink dogwood trees in full sun (especially in the North), and this can work as long as you supply the plants with enough water. Applying a few inches of mulch during the hottest part of summer will help protect the tree's root system and help the soil retain water. 


Pink flowering dogwoods thrive in partial shade but can handle full sun with appropriate mulching and watering.


Dogwoods thrive in rich, slightly acidic soil. By far the most important soil condition for pink flowering dogwoods is good drainage.


Water needs are average, but you should never allow your pink dogwood to dry out altogether. Water deeply during periods of drought or heat.

Temperature and Humidity

Flowering dogwoods thrive in shady, dark locations with plenty of rich, damp soil. While they can tolerate a fairly wide range of soil conditions and temperatures, they do not do well if they are too hot or dry.


If your soil is acidic, well-drained, and rich then there is no need for fertilizer. If it is not, you will need to apply soil amendments including compost both when planting and periodically thereafter. Apply a 4-to 6-inch layer of mulch around your pink dogwood.

Types of Dogwood Tree

Although Cornus florida var. rubra is one of the better pink dogwoods, it is not the only one. Cornus kousa Satomi is a form of pink Japanese dogwood. Other varieties, cultivars, and species also have their merits, including: 

  • Cherokee Chief (Cornus florida): This is a cultivar with red flowers that is otherwise similar to Cornus florida var. rubra.
  • Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas.): is a flowering dogwood relative that, in spring, bears small, yellow flowers in clusters.

Some types of dogwood trees are grown as much for their pretty leaves as for their flowers. Wolf Eyes dogwood (Cornus kousa Wolf Eyes) and Golden Shadows pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia Golden Shadows) have variegated leaves. There are also some shrubs commonly used in landscaping that are types of dogwoods, including yellow-twig Tatarian dogwood (Cornus servicea Flamiramea) and its red-barked cousin.


Since flowering dogwood is valued for its horizontal branching patterns, take care to prune away storm-damaged limbs that would mar the plant's appearance. Careful pruning can help return a storm-damaged tree to its attractive shape. Beyond this, little pruning should be necessary. Dead branches can be pruned off at any time. If you notice limbs rubbing against one another, you can prune to open up the canopy—the best time for this type of pruning is in late winter or early spring. 

Propagating Pink Dogwood

Taking cuttings of pink dogwood in early June is the best time to ensure the cutting will grow roots. Here's how to make a successful cutting:

  • Start with a moist mixture of perlite and peat moss in a 7-inch pot. Create a hole in the middle for the cutting. Make sure the pot has good drainage.
  • Choose a cutting that is healthy and straight. It should have new leaves at the top and be flexible, not the type of wood that snaps or breaks upon bending. Cut the stem at a 45-degree angle with very sharp shears. It should be cut 1/2 inch below a leaf node.
  • Using a very sharp blade, cut 1/2 inch up on either side of the cutting, coming up from the cut end.
  • Immediately dip the cutting in water and then in rooting hormone. Make sure the powdered hormone covers the first few inches of the stem. Insert it into the prepared hole in the pot.
  • Use a planting dome to cover the dogwood cutting. Make sure the wire dome and the bag over it are at least 1 inch away from the top of the dogwood cutting.
  • Mist the cutting with water before sealing the bag.
  • Place the plant, dome and all, under grow lights for 18 hours each day. The plant should be about 12 inches below the grow light.
  • After five weeks, open up the bag and test for roots by gently moving the cutting. If there is resistance, it has roots. If not, close up the bag and wait another three weeks.
  • When the cutting has grown roots, acclimate it by opening the bag for an hour at a time, increasing the intervals until the bag is removed. When the cutting starts shooting up new growth, it's ready to be planted outdoors.

How to Grow Pink Dogwood From Seed

Though it is possible to grow dogwood trees from seed, the odds are that they will not be pink dogwood trees, as the trees tend to produce seeds that result in white dogwoods. The best way to ensure a pink dogwood for your landscape is to propagate the cuttings from an existing dogwood tree.


Once a dogwood tree is established in the landscape and growing leaves, it will be able to handle winter as long as it's in the proper zones for growth. Help it along with thick mulch around the base.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Spot anthracnose disease is known to pose a problem flowering dogwood. Some cultivars of Cornus florida are more tolerant of it than others, so be sure to ask your local county extension office for recommendations on which cultivars to plant in your region, or how to treat the disease if your dogwood already has it. In areas where the tree is particularly susceptible, it may be best to take the path of least resistance and simply plant another type of tree. Powdery mildew is another common problem for flowering dogwood.

  • What are alternatives to pink dogwood trees?

    Cornius florida is the scientific name for all flowering dogwoods, not just pink flowering dogwoods. Most flowers from Cornius florida are white, some are pink, and a very small portion are yellow. They are all the same species and are not even different varieties. They are considered different forms. That's why the name is Conius florida f. rubra.

  • How long can a pink dogwood live?

    With good care, your tree could stick around for at least 80 years.

  • Can pink dogwood grow indoors?

    It must be grown indoors at first, as a cutting to become established as a new plant. However, after that, it needs to be outside so that it can spread out a robust root system.

Article Sources
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  1. Doubrava, Nancy et al. “Dogwood Diseases & Insect Pests.” Clemson University Extension Office. N.p., 17 Feb. 2021.