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Giant Dogwood


Picture of the giant dogwood Image by westher via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution license


I think the giant dogwood would be a perfect tree to plant in commemoration of getting married. The branches are set out in distinct layers and when they burst into bloom each year, it is quite like a wedding cake.

Latin Name:

This tree is classified as Cornus controversa and is part of the Cornaceae family. You may also see Swida controversa used by those who classify the subgenera into their own species.

Common Names:

One common name is giant dogwood since it is one of the larger species.

Another name is the wedding cake tree since the branches form in distinct tiers that can be covered with white blossoms.

Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones:

Gardeners in USDA Zones 5-8 can plant this dogwood in their garden. It is native to China, the Himalayas, Japan and Taiwan.

Size & Shape:

This tree will be 20-50' tall and 20-40' tall at maturity. It forms into a round shape.


Choose a planting location that offers full sun to part shade.


The ovate leaves are 3-8" long and dark green. In the fall the leaves will change to purple, yellow or light green before they fall off.

The flowers come at the end of spring (usually May to June). They appear in flattened clusters called cymes and attract butterflies.

After pollination, small drupes that are reddish-purple or bluish-black appear. They are favored by birds.

Design Tips:

'Variegata' is a beautiful variety that showcases creamy variegated leaves.

Growing Tips:

For best results, grow this in a location that has acidic or neutral soil. You can make your soil more acidic as needed. You want soil that has some moisture but still drains in a timely manner.

Propagation is best performed by taking cuttings, especially if it is a cultivar. Seeds will not retain the distinguishing characteristics.


This tree forms its layers naturally and should not need much pruning unless there are parts that are dead, diseased or damaged. The Royal Horticultural Society suggests that you create a central leader and also prune the bottom branches away when the tree is dormant to improve the appearance of the trunk.

Pests & Diseases:

Diseases You May Notice:

  • Cankers
  • Discula blight
  • Dogwood blight
  • Leaf spots
  • Powdery mildew
  • Root rots

Pests That May Show Up:

  • Aphids
  • Borers
  • Horse chestnut scale
  • Leafhoppers
  • Leaf miners
  • Root knot nematodes
  • Sawflies
  • Scales
  • Thrips
  • Weevils
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