Tree Profiles: Kousa Dogwood Cultivars, Part 1 (Cornus Kousa)


Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa), also referred to as Benthamia kousa, Cynoxylon kousa, Chinese dogwood, Kousa, Korean dogwood, and Japanese dogwood is a popular ornamental tree or shrub that is commonly selected for planting in various settings. Over time, many varieties of Kousa dogwood have been introduced, with each one exhibiting characteristic traits. The following describes some of the most unique Kousa dogwood cultivars, including ‘Beni Fuji’, ‘Champion’s Gold’, ‘Elizabeth Lustgarten’, ‘Gold Star’, and ‘Heart Throb’.

‘Beni Fuji’: ‘Beni Fuji’ dogwood is a small tree or large shrub that is renown for its deep pink-red foliage. It grows at a slow rate, reaching up 5 to 15 feet tall and wide. When young, ‘Beni Fuji’ dogwood is vase-shaped. As the plant matures, it becomes more rounded. In spring, ‘Beni Fuji’ dogwood produces glossy green leaves that are complemented by red veins and petioles. The leaves turn a lush purple-red in fall. ‘Beni Fuji’ dogwood forms a profusion of dark red flowers in early summer, which present an enticing floral display.

‘Champion’s Gold’: ‘Champion’s Gold’ dogwood is a small tree with foliage that, when exposed to direct sunlight, assumes a distinct golden-yellow hue. It reaches heights of 15 to 20 feet, with a 15 to 20 foot spread. ‘Champion’s Gold’ dogwood is vase-shaped when younger, but develops a rounded form as it matures. Its leaves are initially green, before turning their characteristic golden color. By mid-summer, the yellow tones become more prevalent, and intensify. By fall, the leaves turn a fiery orange-red.

‘Elizabeth Lustgarten’: ‘Elizabeth Lustgarten’ dogwood is a small tree or large shrub with a weeping habit, and a dense, rounded crown. It can grow 6 to 20 feet, and 3 to 15 feet wide. In spring, this cultivar displays attractive green foliage. The leaves turn red in fall. ‘Elizabeth Lustgarten’ is celebrated for its large white blooms, which mature by mid-summer.

‘Gold Star’: ‘Gold Star’ dogwood is a small tree that features dark green foliage, with distinct gold markings in the center of the leaves. The stunning leaves are accompanied by the appearance of white floewrs in spring. By autumn, the leaves turn several different shades of red. ‘Gold Star’ dogwood can reach heights of 15 to 20 feet, with a 12 to 15 foot spread. This particular cultivar is resistant to verticillium wilt, a serious root disease that afflicts many ornamental trees and shrubs.

‘Heart Throb’: ‘Heart Throb’ dogwood is a small deciduous tree that is notable for its horizontally-tiered branching pattern, and brilliant floral display. It has an upright growth habit, and can reach heights of 15 to 30 feet, with an 8 to 10 foot spread. In fall, this cultivar develops clusters of deep rosy pink blooms. The resplendent blooms give way to large, red fruits, which birds often feed on. The leaves are blue-green, and turn dark red in fall. As this cultivar matures, it develops mottled, exfoliating bark.

Photo courtesy of Megan Hansen CC-by-2.0