Kousa Flowering Dogwood
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Kousa, Japanese for “dogwood,” blooms later and is more anthracnose resistant and sun tolerant than the native type of that tree. Each 3 to 5-inch bloom actually is a set of four white leaf bracts with pointed tips surrounding the true greenish-yellow flowers at the center.
Hardy in USDA zones 5-8, this deciduous tree also can be grown as a flowering shrub. It may reach 15 to 30 feet in both height and width and blooms in late spring or early summer. Unlike most dogwoods, kousa puts out its foliage before its flowers. Those blooms age to pink and are succeeded by 1-inch berries which redden in late summer to attract birds and explain one of the tree’s nicknames: Japanese strawberry tree. The leaves follow the flowers and berries’ example by blushing a fiery red or maroon in autumn against peeling gray-brown bark.
Culture: Dogwoods prefer humus-rich, acidic, and well-drained soil. Give them 2 to 4 inches of mulch, keeping it away from their trunks, to ensure that their roots stay cool and moist. The trees may suffer from chlorosis in overly alkaline ground. Oriental varieties tolerate full sun, but most dogwoods prefer morning sun followed by afternoon shade. Because they flower on old wood, prune them shortly after that flowering to avoid cutting off potential blooms.
The trees generally are vase-shaped when young, but mature to a more rounded silhouette. Native varieties can be subject to anthracnose and other fungus diseases, so rake up and dispose of all their leaves in the fall and prune the tree only when it is dry to avoid spreading spores.