Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’

variegated giant dogwood

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

Outstanding Qualities

Variegated giant dogwood (or wedding cake tree, as it is sometimes called) can be summed up in one word -spectacular! Although often awkward looking in youth, these ‘ugly ducklings’ become swans as they mature. The branches of this tree are held out in horizontal tiers with brightly variegated leaves, giving the appearance of snow-white frosting spread over the branches. In May, this dogwood produces delicate, lacy white flowers that are followed in late summer by deep black berries. The berries glisten against the variegated leaves and are a favorite of birds.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: spreading tree

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height: 15 ft. 0 in. (4.57 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 15 ft. 0 in. (4.57 meters)

Plant Height-Mature: 35 ft. 0 in. (10.67 meters)

Plant Width-Mature: 25 ft. 0 in. (7.62 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 to 8

Flower Color: white

Sun/Light Exposure: light to open shade

Water Requirements: regular watering in well drained soil, clay, or sandy soils

Wildlife Associations: bees, butterflies

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: dark green, white

Great Color Partners: silver, burgundy, bronze

Culture Notes
Plant this striking tree in a moist, well-drained soil with light or open shade. It can be adaptable to sandy soils and clay with regular watering during dry weather. As it is noted for its beautifully layered, low branches, it should be planted where it has plenty of room to spread. The lovely layered form can easily be ruined by pruning. Consult an experienced pruner or take local classes before attempting to prune.