Would the climate on a Maine island be suitable for planting a dogwood?


I live on an island and would like to plant a dogwood. I have read that they hold up well to wind. Would one suffer from the southwest breeze/wind that we get off the ocean? If it would be okay in that spot, is there a problem in this area with the Pagoda being infected as others in the state? As far as I know there are no other dogwoods on the island. If there would be a problem with that, would a Kousa work? If there are reasons a dogwood would not work in this spot, could you recommend another ornamental tree with nice blossoms and fall color?


Jonathan Foster, Home Horticulture Outreach Professional

First, we have recently received information that the State of Maine will be adding the Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) to our Do Not Sell list in 2024, meaning there are serious concerns about its potential to be, or become, invasive. As a result, the Cooperative Extension does not recommend it.

Second, your proposed planting of the Pagoda dogwood (Cornus or Swida alternifolia) will depend on how exactly it’s situated on your property. It’s a lovely native plant, but it can suffer from wind and ice damage, and doesn’t tolerate salt very well (see the NC State Extension page on the species here). That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t do well for you, but I would keep it out of any constant or heavy wind, as well as any possibility of sea spray–in a somewhat sheltered spot in your yard, it could thrive.

If those parameters don’t seem workable for your property, we can consider other options. If you like dogwoods and you don’t mind moving down slightly to shrubs (~5-10′), the native Red-osier dogwood (Swida sericea) has red-purple fall foliage and fantastic bright red stems through winter. If that is too small for your needs, you could also consider planting a Gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa), a slightly less showy, but still pretty dogwood with decent red-purple fall foliage and gorgeous white fruits with red pedicels during and after bloom. Both are more tolerant of wind and salt than the Pagoda, and you can see pictures in this nice Penn State Extension page on dogwoods for the home landscape.

For other options, please also visit our UMaine Cooperative Extension Bulletin #2500, Gardening to Conserve Maine’s Native Landscape, where you will find a helpful list of trees, shrubs, and smaller plants that fit our native climate, as well as information on their points of interest and tolerances. If the dogwoods don’t strike your fancy, and you’d like to talk more about these other trees and shrubs, please let me know.