How to Grow Cornus kousa Plants in your Garden

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Kousa Dogwood / Japanese Kousa

The Cornus kousa plant is a small tree or bush that goes by the common name of Kousa Dogwood. It is a native of Eastern Asia and thus is often referred to as Korean, Japanese, or Chinese Kousa.

Kousa Dogwood
Kousa Dogwood photograph by Michele Dorsey Walfred, CC.

This is a very attractive shrubby tree that can look great in the garden.

It has showy white (sometimes pink or red depending on the cultivar) bracts that can reach about 5 inches (12 cm) in diameter in the spring and early summer.

This shrub also brings colour into the garden in the autumn, when its dark green oval leaves turn to a reddish purple color.

Some varieties also bring interest to the garden in the winter as they have attractive stems; unfortunately these cultivars do not tend to have comparable showy attractive bracts as other common Cornus kousa cultivars come the spring.

It is also a great plant to grow to attract birds into your garden, though you may prefer to eat the Kousa dogwood fruit yourself as opposed to letting our feathered friends have the joy of eating them all.

The flowers are very showy making this a great ornamental plant to grow in the garden, especially for those who are also into making unusual jams from fruits that are more often left for birds and other animals to consume.

The fruits are spherical and are an oft eaten wild berry (See Dogwood Jam recipe (in Miscellaneous) for further details. It is usual to discard the rind (bitter tasting) and seeds.

Cornus kousa Video Growing Guide

Cornus kousa Growing and Care Guide

  • Scientific Name: Cornus kousa
  • Common Name (s): Kousa Dogwood, Japanese Kousa, Chinese Kousa, Korean Kousa, Kousa
  • Growing Zone (USA / UK Hardiness): 5 to 8 / H6

Plant Details

  • Life Cycle / Plant Type: Deciduous, bushy tree.
  • Plant Height: 13 to 30 feet (4 to 9 m).
  • Plant Spread: 13 to 27 feet (4 to 8 m).
  • Blooms: Late spring and early summer.
  • Flower Details: Showy. Four or five white to pink bracts surrounding inconspicuous true flowers (yellow/green). Bracts of cultivars may also be red or pink.
  • Leaf Foliages: Oval. Opposite. Pointed. Spring and Summer: Dark Green. Autumn colour: Red-purple.
  • Fruit: Berry. Strawberry-like. Pink to red. Spherical. Clusters. Edible. to 1 1/2 inches (4 cm).

Growing Conditions

  • Best Light Conditions: Full sunlight and partial shade.
  • Suitable Soil Types: Good Drainage. Most soils are fine but performs best in sandy loams.
  • Suitable Soil pH: Most soil acidities are fine.
  • Soil Soil Moisture: Medium

  • Sowing, planting, and Propagation: Can be propagated from hardwood cuttings from the middle of autumn, from semi-ripe cuttings from the late summer until the start of autumn. Or graft plants onto a Cornus Florida stock early in the spring or in autumn if you want to try something a little more challenging. Can be grown from seed but T-budding usually results in a greater chance of success. Seeds should be first rubbed with sandpaper to weaken the shell. Next cold stratify them for about three months. Sow into pots (keep moist) in a sunny location with filtered light. Germination can take up to 18 months. Transplant out of pots to the final location well after the last chance of frost in spring.
  • Care: Low maintenance plant. Light pruning to remove decayed and diseased plant tissues towards the end of winter.

Further Information

  • Best used for: Ornamental. Wildlife and Bird Gardens, Autumn colour, Borders and beds. Next to a lawn. Wildlife garden: attracts butterflies and birds.
  • Miscellaneous: Thought to be one of the tastiest wild berries; makes a very good jam (See here for Kousa Dogwood Fruit Jam Recipe). Often grown in place of Flowering Dogwood in colder areas and in areas where the disease anthracnose is an issue. Tolerant to deers. Strong wood.
  • Cultivars : Beni Fuji: red-pink bracts; Gold Star: white bracts, leaf has gold band; Milky Way: white, abundant flowers; Wolf Eyes: variegated leaves; Variegata: yellow or white variegated leaves.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Cornus kousa plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ tree growing guides: How to grow Blue jacaranda and Holly Oak trees.