Pink Flowering Dogwood: Cornus florida ‘Rubra’ Care Guide

The dogwood tree is famous for its abundant blooms during the spring season and its distinctive layered branches. While many believe that all dogwood trees have white flowers, this is not always true.

There are many varieties with gorgeous pink blossoms in various shades and intensities. The most popular is the pink flowering dogwood.

If you’re looking for a tree to add year-round interest to your yard with minimal care needed, this variety might be the perfect answer.

Do pink dogwood trees like sun or shade? Pink dogwood trees prefer partial shade or filtered sunlight. Their natural habitat is in the understory of forests where they don’t receive full sun. The intensity of direct sunlight will actually damage the tree’s leaves and bark, so choose a location with dappled sunlight. 

A lot of flowering trees don’t do well in shady conditions, but a dogwood does.

Read on to understand the care basics of the pink flowering dogwood as well as tips and insight on common pests and diseases and suggestions for where to buy one! 

You’ll be amazed by all the different types of dogwood trees available! Learn about the most popular in my article, The Best Dogwood Varieties.

Pink Flowering Dogwood

The pink flowering dogwood is a small tree that won’t grow very large. You’ll love it for its ornamental characteristics as well as its ease of growing!

While it has a shorter life span than many tree species, it is worth planting for its amazing flower set in the spring. See more specifics below on the pink flowering dogwood. 

Botanical nameCornus florida var. rubra
Mature height15 to 30 feet tall
Mature width15 to 30 feet wide 
Growth rateMedium
Light preferencesPartial sun
Ideal soilMoist, loamy, well-draining
Watering needsMinimal water in dormancy, 1 to 2 inches per week during the growing season
Bloom timeSpring
Bloom color & fragrancePink with a strong floral scent similar to honeysuckle
Fall foliageBright red and orange

General Appearance

This small deciduous tree will bloom with flowers before it flushes out with leaves. It’s rounded crown is filled with horizontal branches in a tiered structure.

Pink flowering dogwoods are often wider than they are tall.

Although it is dormant in the winter, it will impress with its springtime display of blooms that are followed by dark-green oval leaves in the summertime. 

Seasonal Color

In its dormancy period of the late fall and winter, the pink flowering dogwood’s trunk is a simple light brown or gray.

In spring, it will bloom with medium-sized pink flowers that are followed by lush green foliage.

Once the weather begins to cool in the fall, red berries will form at the end of the branches while the leaves will change to a crimson red and orange before dropping to the ground. 

Growth Rate & Mature Size

Growing at a medium rate, pink dogwoods will reach their mature size rather quickly since they are small trees.

Averaging about 1 to 2 feet of growth per year, you can expect it to reach its mature size of 15 to 30 feet tall and wide in about 10 to 15 years.

Many times, the canopy of a dogwood will be wider than it is tall.

Blooms

Blooming from dormant buds from the previous season, the canopy will be covered in bright pink flowers before any leaves grow.

The flowers have four identical bracts that resemble petals but are not actually petals.

They are pink and fade to white at the center where the anthers with yellow pollen await pollinators to visit! 

Fall Foliage

You’ll be impressed with its intense crimson-red leaves in fall. They may spread into the realm of orange as well depending on how quickly the temperatures change. 

Hardiness

Dogwoods are not a very hardy species and are easily affected by high heat, sun, and low temperatures with frost.

Be sure to plant it in a protected area to prevent it from being damaged by extreme conditions. 

A close look at the flowers of a pink dogwood in full bloom.

Pink Flowering Dogwood Growing Conditions

Dogwoods are understory trees in nature. They grow close to the forest floor under the sheltering tall canopies of other species.

If your dogwood is planted in an area unlike its natural environment, it will suffer. 

Grow Zones

Cornus florida does best growing in USDA Zones 3 through 8, but it may do well in Zones 9 and 10 if planted in shaded areas and protected from high temperatures.

Sun Requirements

A dogwood will thrive if given 6-8 hours of partial sun. If exposed to full sun, the intensity will scorch the bark and leaves, causing the tree to decline and wounding it beyond repair. 

Soil Preferences

As an understory species, the dogwood prefers soil high in organic matter with moisture always present.

While it prefers consistent moisture, overly saturated soil is never good and can lead to root rot along with other diseases.

A loamy, well-draining soil with a pH range of 5.6 to 6.5 is ideal to get the most out of the tree. 

Pink Flowering Dogwood Maintenance and Care

Besides some supplemental fertilization, watering, and pruning, dogwoods do not need much to thrive.

See details below on how giving a dogwood more than it needs can help to get the most out of this beautiful species! 

Watering

While dormant in the winter, a pink flowering dogwood won’t need much watering.

However, in the summer, it prefers moisture and cooler soil temperatures, which are brought about by water moisture.

Aim to give the tree 1 to 2 inches of water per week in the growing months — more if the soil is dry and less if the soil is already wet. 

Fertilization

While fertilization isn’t always necessary, you can get even more blooms if you feed the tree supplemental nutrients.

Applying a well-balanced fertilizer designed for flowering trees and shrubs will help them bloom bountifully.

A slow-release option with an NPK of 10-10-10 would be ideal. I use this fertilizer for all my dogwoods and always have bountiful blooms and healthy growth.

Pruning

Your pink flowering dogwood will only need pruning if you hope to shape it a certain way. It is always good to prune away any dead, diseased, or damaged branches (the 3 Ds) to help keep the tree healthy.

Generally, late winter or early spring is best for pruning. Any late-season pruning should be done after the tree flowers in the spring for the best results and to avoid trimming off any buds for the following season. 

A pink dogwood tree in full bloom on a spring day.

Pests & Diseases 

Dogwoods are moderately susceptible to pests and diseases, so be sure to avoid overly wet soil and inspect the tree often for problems.

Use treatments like neem oil (I use this one) or insecticidal soap at the first sight of pest infestation, and consider consulting with an arborist if you suspect a disease.

Diseases

  • Anthracnose – A fungal disease that causes a slow decline in the tree. 
  • Armillaria root rot – A crippling disease caused by overly saturated soil and rotting roots. 
  • Botrytis blight – A fungal disease that will causes spotting on the leaves, leading to tree decline. 
  • Canker – A bacterial or fungal disease that causes large open wounds on the tree. 
  • Fungal leaf spot – A fungal disease that prevents the tree from photosynthesizing, leading to decline. 
  • Powdery mildew – A white powdery fungus that is caused by moisture on the leaves. 

Pests

  • Dogwood borer – A beetle that will bore into the trunk and suck on the tree’s nutrients. 
  • Dogwood club gall midge – A pest that will create galls on the tree’s twigs and branches, leading to dieback. 
  • Scale – Small white pests that affix to the tree and suck on the tree’s nutrients. 

Landscape Uses & Wildlife Value

Although the pink flowering dogwood is most commonly planted as an ornamental specimen tree in landscapes, it can be planted almost anywhere due to its shade-loving nature.

Its flowers are some of the first to open in the spring so the bees and other pollinators benefit greatly from their earliness. Numerous bird species are attracted by the berries in summer and fall.

Companion Plants

Other species of plants that thrive in the same environment as dogwoods are rhododendron, geranium, azalea, Christmas fern, mapleleaf viburnum, hosta, and mountain laurel. 

Where To Buy

Dogwoods are a common nursery species due to their ability to be planted in so many landscapes. Check your local nursery or garden center, but also look online. A few online nurseries I personally recommend are:

Conclusion 

Dogwoods are beautiful trees, and the display of flowers, floral fragrance, and ease of care make them a sure winner to plant in your landscape!

If you’re having trouble deciding between a white and a pink dogwood, why not get both? They have the same care needs and will complement each other beautifully. That’s a win-win!

Still undecided about which dogwood tree is right for you? Check out these popular options: