last updated 06/02/2022

Cornus florida
and its cultivars

This species originates from the Eastern United States and indeed many of the modern cultivars have come from the U.S.A. The Cherokee group is an example of this. In America, Cornus florida is an incredibly common species occurring naturally and disease is becoming a problem (particularly anthracnose). The Cherokee group has been bred in part for its disease resistance, which is very relevant in the States. Fortunately it is not a problem in this country. They form large shrubs or small bushy trees to approx 5m depending on the cultivar and conditions; some are quite upright, others more rounded.

The bracts are typically at their best in May (after the nuttalliis but before the kousas) and are white in the species. Several selections of the variable C. florida var. rubra have been made, giving shades of pink and red.

Although it is possible to grow these trees in this country, particular in southern gardens, they are not particularly well adapted to the often grey and damp British climate and seldom thrive. It is difficult to achieve the perfect combination of soil which doesn't dry out too much in summer, whilst being adequately free draining in winter. They benefit from full sun to ripen the wood for flower production and adequate air movement in winter to minimise fungal problems; yet too exposed a site can put the foliage under stress in summer. Certainly they are unlikely to attain the same grandeur that can be seen in the US. Since they are difficult to please in our climate and therefore seldom live up to expectations, we propagate them only rarely. As a general rule, unless you are very determined to try one of these, I would recommend almost any other Cornus in the bracted group in preference! These start on the next page with the cultivars of Cornus kousa.

See also the hybrids of Cornus florida with Cornus nuttallii
and the hybrids of Cornus florida with Cornus kousa 

Cornus florida 'Cherokee Brave'
This selection has deep rich pink bracts, highlighted by a pale pink centre.

Cornus florida 'Cherokee Chief'
One of the best pink bracted cultivars, though the exact colour will be determined by light levels. As with many of the floridas, the purplish bark is covered with a lovely white bloom in winter.

Cornus florida 'Sweetwater Red'
Reddish pink bracts.

Cornus florida 'White Cloud'
White bracts.

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