Silky Dogwood

Cornus amomum

Description & Overview

Native to Wisconsin’s streambeds and swamps, Silky Dogwood plays an important role in local ecosystems. A great choice for moist or wet areas. This large-to-medium sized lowland shrub produces spectacular porcelain-blue fruit clusters in late summer which are a favorite of local wildlife. Silky Dogwood is a terrific choice in wet-site native restoration projects and for fighting wetland invasive species.


Core Characteristics

Mature Height: 8-10 feet
Mature Spread: 8 feet
Growth Rate: Moderate
Growth Form: Upright, rounded. Spreading
Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Site Requirements: Moist, average soils. Prefers slightly acidic
Flower: Small, white, in flat-topped clusters
Bloom Period: May-June
Foliage: Green
Fall Color: Occasionally purple
Fruit Notes: Porcelain-blue berry like drupes appear in flat-top clusters which ripe in late summer

Suggested Uses:

Silky Dogwood is a medium-to-large sized deciduous shrub that proves versatile in planting locations and uses. This species of dogwood makes a great farmstead windbreak or wildlife border. It also pairs well with Willows for streambank protection. Some other beneficial uses are slope stabilization, fish, and wildlife habitat improvement or even as an ornamental feature in a landscape.

Commonly found in moist lowland areas, swamp borders, floodplains, wetlands and even along streams and ponds in Eastern North America. Its native range stretches as far north as New Foundland, and even as far south as Florida. While this shrub is adaptable to many sites, it preforms best in soils that are moist, slightly acidic, and with somewhat poor drainage.

We commonly see Silky Dogwood being used in wet-site native restoration projects and for fighting wetland invasive species. Given it’s tendency to colonize, it’s a terrific plant for combatting Glossy Buckthorn, Reed Canary Grass, and Phragmites.

Salable #5 Container Silky Dogwood. Left pictures taken late August, Right picture taken mid-October.

Porcelain-blue fruit clusters in late summer a favorite of local wildlife.

Wildlife Value:

The primary value to wildlife of Cornus amomum is the attractive, porcelain-blue fruit, which begins in summer and ripens near September. Songbirds, insects, rodents, and even other animals like White-tailed deer will feast on the fruit. The berries contain high amounts of fat, which makes an excellent meal for migratory birds that need extra fat to sustain them during migration.

Maintenance Tips:

Water your young shrubs regularly until the roots establish. Once they are settled in, Silky Dogwood is low maintenance. Roots often form where stems are in contact with the ground. Known to produce suckers; remove them if you want to limit growth. Or, simply allow the shrub to grow unrestrained for a naturalized screen or thicket.

This shrub is adaptable to different soil conditions and light levels. While it may be tolerant of dry sites, it prefers a moist area with well-drained to somewhat poorly drained soils. This plant can withstand alkaline soils, but it’s better-suited to slightly acidic conditions. Silky Dogwood will thrive in full sun to part shade, but it has been known to tolerate close-to-full shade. It’s intolerant of droughty conditions.

Fall color may be variable, but occasionally purple-ish.

Pests/Problems:

Silky Dogwood has few problems with disease or insect pests. Webworm and scurfy scale have been observed on the shrub although no serious issues have been associated with them. Like most plants, it may be susceptible to rainy season fungal diseases such as leaf spot and powdery mildew. However, these are purely cosmetic diseases and only affect the shrubs appearance, not its overall well-being.

Leaf Lore:

Cornus amomum is named Silky Dogwood for the silky gray hairs that cover the undersides of leaves and twigs which turn a slight purple color in spring and a reddish-brown in autumn. It’s these silky hairs that make Silky Dogwood identification fairy easy.

Cornus in Latin means “horn”, describing the dogwoods hard wood. The specific epithet amomum means “Eastern spice”.

Silky Dogwood also goes by the name Swamp Dogwood referring to its natural habitat. It’s also occasionally referred to as Kinnikinnik, which refers to how the bark was used by Native Americans as an ingredient in smoking blends.

Companion Plants:

This shrub is commonly used in native restoration projects. While Gray Dogwood is commonly used to choke out Common Buckthorn in dry sites, Silky Dogwood is particularly useful to choke out Glossy Buckthorn in wet sites. Being a wetland lover, Silky Dogwood is also a great choice to combat Reed Canary Grass or Phragmites. Go team Dogwood!

As Silky Dogwood thrives in wet soil conditions, it pairs well with other plants that share its love for moist soils. Such companions include Willows, Musclewood, River Birch, Glossy Black Chokeberry, Joe-Pye Weed or Iris. Other worthy companion plants are ones that would fit well into a more naturalized landscape, like other Dogwood species such as Pagoda Dogwood, Gray Dogwood, and Irish Setter™ Dogwood. Also consider Red Feather® Arrowwood Viburnum, Big Bluestem, Red Milkweed or Common Ninebark.