What Is a Silky Dogwood?

L. Whitaker

The silky dogwood, or Cornus amomum, is an ornamental shrub featuring flat white flowers that are unlike the showy blooms of the flowering dogwood. This deciduous plant grows in the United States as far south as Florida and up to Michigan, with specimens also found in Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Ohio. It can grow to be up to 10 feet (3 m) in height and spread, making it a common choice as a windbreak for farming areas. The spreading behavior of the silky dogwood creates a thicket when the plants are grown together. For this reason, it is sometimes used to improve wildlife habitats or help avoid soil erosion.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Examples of the varieties of silky dogwood include the roughleaf dogwood, gray dogwood, alternate-leaf dogwood, and bloodtwig dogwood. Typically found in USDA zones 4-8, the silky dogwood often grows wild in wet areas such as stream beds. This shrub has a tall but rounded shape at full growth. Its leaves are dark green pointed ovals, featuring prominent veining that curves toward the point of the leaf. In autumn, the leaves might turn to a reddish or purplish hue.

The silky dogwood produces yellowish-white blooms in June and small blue fruits in September. Its flowers attract some types of butterflies, such as the silver-spotted skipper. The fruit of the silky dogwood, which is initially white but becomes a lavender or blue color in maturity, is enjoyed by squirrels, birds, and other wildlife.

This plant will tolerate shady conditions but performs poorly in drought. It will do well in full sun or partial shade. Frequently watering the silky dogwood will help to ensure its survival. The ideal soil pH for a silky dogwood is between 5.0 and 7.0.

Silky dogwoods tend to grow at a rate of up to 24 inches (61 cm) per year. If spread control is desired, the plant can be pruned after it blooms. Any dead leaves should be trimmed away immediately.

It is best to plant this shrub after the last frost has occurred in the spring. When planting several silky dogwoods together, it can be helpful to use fencing or landscaping rocks to protect the plants. Otherwise, they could be damaged by grazing wildlife before they are fully established. This shrub tends not to be seriously affected by disease or insects. It is possible for the dogwood's growth rate to be slowed somewhat by the presence of conditions like twig blight or by insect damage.

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