The dogwoods form a medium-sized genus of deciduous shrubs and trees. Many originate from the eastern United States. They are grown either for their flowers, foliage or for the colour of their bark.
Some eventually form large trees, but this may take many years. The smaller ones are suitable for small gardens, especially the shrubs which can be easily pruned back. Indeed, those that are grown for the colour of their winter bark should be cut back to the ground every spring.
The flowers are curious as they have no petals. In the case of Cornus mas they appear just as tufts, but in the majority the flowers are surrounded by white or pink bracts (modified leaves) which give the impression of ordinary petalled flowers. These bracts do not fade as quickly as petals and so they are in flower for a long time.
Many dogwoods are selected because of their foliage. In spring and summer these may have variegated or otherwise coloured foliage and in autumn many taken on wonderfully rich colours.
The majority of trees prefer acid soils, while most of the shrubs will grow happily in most soils. A light shade is preferred by most of the trees, but most shrubs will grow in more open situations. They often grow into a fine shape and so make good plants for a prominent individual position. They are also very good plants for a woodland or semi-shaded setting.