Creeping dogwood – info, planting, care and tips

Creeping dogwood (Cornus canadensis)

The creeping dogwood is suitable as a ground cover plant. This is how to plant and care for the dogwood.

Profile of creeping dogwood:

Scientific name: Cornus canadensis

Plant family: dogwood family (Cornaceae)

Other names: Canadian dwarf cornel, Canadian bunchberry, quatre-temps, crackerberry

Sowing time: autumn

Planting time: spring to autumn

Flowering period: May to June

Location: partially shady

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, sensitive to lime, moderately nutritious, humus rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower beds, ground cover, underplanting, borders, flower garden, heather garden, rhododendron garden, forest garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 2 (-43 °C / -45 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of creeping dogwood

Plant order, origin and occurrence of creeping dogwood

The creeping dogwood (Cornus canadensis) occupies a special position within the dogwood genus: Unlike most other species, it is not a woody plant but a perennial. From a botanical point of view, however, it also belongs to the large dogwood family (Cornaceae). It is native to the deciduous and coniferous forests of North America, Greenland and Alaska, but can also be found in California and Japan. In the home garden it can be used as a versatile and above all varied ground cover plant.

Characteristics of creeping dogwood


As a perfect groundcover, the creeping dogwood grows only 10 to 20 centimeters (4 to 8 in) tall. It spreads rapidly by underground root runners and grows flat creeping.


Depending on the weather, Canadian dwarf cornel is deciduous or evergreen – in mild regions, the latter is usually the case. The leaves are opposite and arranged in dense whorls at the shoot ends. Their shape is ovate to elongated oval, the leaf blade is crossed by two to three veins. In autumn, the foliage of the creeping dogwood takes on a bright orange-red color.


The flowers of the creeping dogwood appear from the end of May to the end of June. They consist of small greenish heads, each surrounded by four bright white bracts.


In the fall, the Canadian dwarf cornel forms numerous bright red berry-like drupes. They stand together in small groups and form a nice contrast to the green foliage.

Creeping dogwood – cultivation and care


The creeping dogwood grows best in partially shady places. The more light it gets, the more it needs to be watered.


In its natural habitats, the Canadian bunchberry grows on coniferous humus, deciduous or boggy soils. Similar conditions should also prevail at the planting site in the home garden. The perennial grows very well in moist, neutral to slightly acidic soil with a high humus content, but with as low a lime content as possible. It does not thrive in heavy, compacted soils. These must be deeply loosened and enriched with plenty of sand before planting.


For an area-wide planting you need 10 to 15 plants per square meter (10 sq ft). Carefully place the shallow roots in the ground. A good planting space between plants is about 15 centimeters (6 in).


Creeping dogwood is very easy to care for. The only thing it can not do without is an adequate supply of water, its site is ideally always slightly moist. For watering make sure to use water with low lime content, such as rainwater. The perennial is sensitive to lime in all respects. When the creeping dogwood loses its foliage in the fall, you should leave it on the spot. On the one hand, it protects the root area from cold and dehydration, and on the other hand, nutrients are released when it rots, which are directly returned to the plant in this way.


To propagate, you can divide the rootstocks of Cornus canadensis. In addition to rhizome division, sowing creeping dogwood is also possible. The best time for sowing is autumn, as the seed need cold to germn.

Diseases and pests

Creeping dogwood is relatively insensitive to plant diseases and pests. Occasionally, mealybugs or powdery mildew occur.


Winter protection is not necessary, Cornus canadensis is absolutely frost hardy.

Use in the garden

As a ground cover, the creeping dogwood really lives up to its name. It forms a dense green carpet within a very short time and thus beautifies partially shady areas in the garden. Cornus canadensis grows particularly well under rhododendrons, with which it shares a preference for acidic soils. It can also be combined nicely with ferns and shade-tolerant grasses. Whether for underplanting, at the edges of a wood, or in the front of a bed, creeping dogwood is a versatile perennial for many different garden situations. One often sees the Canadian dwarf cornel in heather gardens or in gardens with many woody plants and trees.

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