Silky Dogwood Information: Growing Silky Dogwood Shrubs
The silky dogwood (Silybum marianum) is one of the most popular ornamental trees in many parts of the world. It grows up to 10 feet tall and produces large, shiny green leaves with purple tips. These leaves are used in making shampoos, soaps, candles, and other products. They have been known to make hair brushes too!
In fact, the leaves are edible when cooked properly. There are two species of silky dogwood; Silybum marianum and Silybum virginiana. Both species grow wild throughout much of North America, but they do not grow well in Florida due to cold winters and hot summers. The best time to plant them is early spring or fall when temperatures drop and summer heat increases.
There are several varieties of silky dogwood. Some are deciduous, some evergreen, and others hybrid. Deciduous varieties require less care than evergreens because they don’t need to bear fruit all year round. Evergreen varieties will produce flowers from late winter through spring each year. Hybrid varieties produce both types of fruits every year, but only the evergreen variety bears leaves while the deciduous variety does not.
Deciduous trees do not have to be pruned in the summer months.
Silky dogwoods are best grown in full sun and well-drained soil. They flower between April and May and produce fruits between July and September, but this can vary depending on which climate they are planted in. When planting a deciduous tree, you need to place it at the same depth it was planted in the nursery. Evergreen trees should be placed at double their original depth. If you want to grow the tree from seed, plant them in early spring as soon as they are ripe.
It is best to prune your silky dogwood tree during its off-season in late winter or very early spring before new leaves appear. Always prune dead, diseased, or damaged wood first before pruning live wood. If you want to prune live wood, shorten new growth by 1/3 and remove dead branches. Always seal the pruned area with tree sealant to prevent disease and decay.
The plant gallery has more information about growing a silky dogwood tree.
How to Identify the Silky Dogwood
The silky dogwood is a deciduous tree that grows between 6 and 15 feet tall. It has oval-shaped leaves that are 2 to 5 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide and have long stems. The leaves contain 5 to 9 pointed lobes and their edges are finely toothed. They also contain a light green to yellowish color on top and a light green underneath. The flowers bloom in late April to May and are white or pink and grow in clusters of 3 to 5 around the branch tips.
The fruits, which grow between July and September, are red and contain three to five compartments. The berries are dry and have a hard shell.
The silky dogwood is similar to the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida),a deciduous tree that grows between 15 and 25 feet tall. The flowering dogwood contains flowers that are white and pink or red. The fruits are dry and contain 5 to 15 compartments.
Uses for the Silky Dogwood
The silky dogwood’s fruit is edible when cooked and has a taste similar to that of the hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata). It contains small seeds surrounded by a hard shell. The fruit was made into jellies, jams, and pies by Native Americans. It can also be used to make wine.
The tree produces a yellow dye that can be used to color wool, yarn, paper, and feathers.
The bark, roots, and sapwood of the tree contain tannins and gallotannins which are astringent and help to harden leather. The Native Americans used the tannins contained in the silky dogwood to help cure animal hides.
The tree’s wood does not contain commercial value, but is coarse and brittle. Native Americans used it to make arrowheads and hunting tools.
The Dogwood Festival and Race
The city of Asheville, North Carolina, holds an annual festival every April to celebrate the region’s dogwoods. It features a race to find the city’s first blooming dogwood tree. The tree is selected by an official from the American Dogwood Association and is announced on the festival’s website and social media pages. Many people turn out every year to see if they can be among the first to spot the tree and win a gift basket. In recent years, the winning tree was found on York Road and the entrance to Booth Farm.
The dogwood is also the official state tree of Virginia. In fact, the state’s nickname is “The Old Dominion.” The city of Salem also holds an annual festival to celebrate its own dogwood trees. The city’s official website features an interactive map that shows the location of each of the city’s dogwoods. The tree is also the official state flower of Mississippi.