Cornus controversa 'Variegata'

wedding cake tree

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  • Position: full sun to part shade
  • Soil: deep, fertile, moisture-retentive soil
  • Rate of growth: slow-growing to average
  • Flowering period: June
  • Hardiness: fully hardy

    Known as the wedding-cake tree, because of its distinctive, horizontal, tiered habit, this tree makes a lovely focal point for a small to medium-sized garden. It has bright green leaves with bold, creamy-white margins, which turn red-purple in autumn and produces clusters of white flowers in June. Although it tolerates dappled shade, it performs best in fertile, moisture-retentive soil in full sun.

  • Garden care: Incorporate a quantity of well-rotted garden compost or horse manure in the planting hole to improve the moisture-retentive qualities of the soil. The tree requires no regular pruning, since this would interfere with its graceful, tiered habit.

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33 Questions | 33 Answers
Displaying questions 1-10Previous | Next »
  • Q:

    My cornus contraversa variegata looks fabulous in full leaf but has not one flower this year. Can you tell me why? I am paying attentions now to when it is best pruned as it is growing over a pathway so needs a little pruning. I understand it is to be pruned in late winter or early spring. It is about six years old.
    Asked on 16/6/2015 by upsydaisy from Essex

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello there
      There are a number of reasons why plants don't flower including too much shade or not enough water or nutrients. I am not really sure why yours has not produced flowers this year, but given time and the right conditions, there is no reason why it shouldn't flower again. You can often give them a bit of a push by making sure it is kept well watered and feed it during the growing season with a high potash fertiliser.
      Regarding pruning these plants don't like hard pruning , so if you want to remove a couple of branches it is important that that you take it slowly, tackling perhaps one branch each year - any pruning should be undertaken from autumn to early spring.
      Hope this helps.

      Answered on 18/6/2015 by Anonymous from crocus
  • Q:

    Upon delivery of a 2 year old Cornus Controversa in a large plastic tub, I watered it well with couple of gallons of fresh under ground water from a bore hole. A few days later I noticed its leaves really drooping badly so watered it again. Now, 10 days later and in the ground with a good application of compost and a further watering in, it looks even worse and I fear I have overwatered it to near death.. Can this be possible as the tub had drainage holes? Help please?!
    Asked on 11/6/2015 by momo from Surrey

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello,

      It is indeed possible to give a plant too much water, so only water it when the compost is getting quite dry. Also, do keep in mind that these plants do have naturally pendent foliage, so it can be mistaken for looking a little droopy.

      Answered on 15/6/2015 by Helen from crocus
  • Q:

    We recently got this plant (35lts) from nursery and planted in our garden (around a month ago). Based on my reading the flowering time is between May & early June. However, our plant does not show any sign of flowering. Is there a particular reason why we haven't seen any flowers? Any particular food / compost that we should be providing? Appreciate your help / advice on this.
    Asked on 11/6/2015 by John H from Shinfield

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello,

      These plants often take a few years to start flowering, so you may need to be patient, but it is also worth keeping in mind that even older shrubs will often focus their energies into producing root growth rather than flowers when they are newly planted. I would just feed it (following manufacturers instructions) with a general purpose fertiliser such as Vitax Q4, keep it well watered and make sure it gets lots of sun and in time it will start to flower.

      Answered on 15/6/2015 by Helen from crocus
  • Q:

    I think I may have over fertilised my recently planted wedding cake tree, if this is the cause of the problem will it recover? or can you advise me as to what action I should take, thanking you in anticipation.
    Asked on 10/6/2015 by greenfingers from ireland

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello,

      You can do a lot of damage to a plant if you use too much fertiliser. If you think you have over-fed yours, then the best course of action would be to leave the hose running on the soil as this may leach some of it through.

      Answered on 15/6/2015 by Helen from crocus
  • Q:

    We have six year old what we thought was a Wedding Cake tree - but it is definitely a shrub! This is slightly disappointing although it is healthy and colourful. We have given it enough time to shape but unfortunately it is just a normal shrub shape. Can we hard prune it ? It is approx 6 foot high but at least 10-12 foot wide ( round) standing in its own lawn space. Any advice welcome.
    Asked on 26/5/2015 by Happy gardener from Leicestershire

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello,

      It is difficult to give advice without first knowing what plant you do have. Perhaps then you could send some photos in to our customer services team and we can have a look. I would say however that these plants do have a spreading habit, which is created by the tiered branching.

      Answered on 27/5/2015 by Helen from crocus
  • Q:

    I have planted one of these a little while ago, about a month now, and it's leaves seem to be a bit floppy as though it isn't happy. It is in a nice position as all information about the tree suggests re siting. I have many different shrubs in my garden and i think the soil is therefore varied; rhododendrons, viburnums, birches, hazel...It isn't suffering from being too dry and i don't believe too damp either. What could be causing this please?

    thank you. Madeleine
    Asked on 16/5/2015 by dibsey from bexhill

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello Madeline,

      It is a natural feature of these plants for the leaves to hang down from the stems, so unless they start dropping off, I would not be too concerned.

      Answered on 21/5/2015 by Helen from crocus
  • Q:

    I have a cornus controversa which was planted about five years ago. This year there seems to be only one branch budding and the rest of the tree has died back. Any ideas what might have caused this?
    Asked on 6/4/2015 by Lynnie from South nottinghamhsire

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello,

      This is such a shame but it is difficult to know exactly what could have caused it from your description. If they were kept well fed and watered, then they may have succumbed to a disease as they are prone to a couple that can cause severe dieback. The first is dogwood anthracnose, which causes spots on the leaves and flower bracts and phytopthora, which is seen as rotting at the roots and collar of the plant.

      Answered on 8/4/2015 by Anonymous from crocus
  • Q:

    I have a 10 year old Cornus controvera 'Variegata', which has developed a nice shape, and has reached about 10-12 foot tall. This spring I've noticed a new shoot has appeared from near the base of the trunk. It has already reached about 3 feet, and has begun to send out a horizontal tier. I'm worried this will compete with the main stem and spoil the shape of the tree. Should I remove it at its base?
    Asked on 25/3/2015 by Grumpyoldwoman from Manchester

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello,

      These plants generally require little pruning, however if this is going to ruin the shape of the tree, or if this new shoot is emerging from below the graft union, it should be removed as soon as possible.

      Answered on 2/4/2015 by Anonymous from crocus
  • Q:

    A friend of mine has a wedding cake tree that a gardener pruned thinking it needed shaping.. however, he cut several branches from the lower part of the tree... My friend is devastated.. as it has lost the wedding cake shape... Can the damage be remedied?
    Asked on 17/2/2015 by lizzie from Tunbridge Wells Kent

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello there
      What a shame, but unfortunately the lower branches won't regrow.

      Answered on 4/3/2015 by Anonymous from crocus
  • Q:

    Hello, Do you do larger wedding cake tree's? if so what height, and will acid soil be ok? I always put a lot of manure into my garden so I guess that will be alright.
    I was hoping to put a tree in at about 6 to 10 feet high.
    look forward to hearing from you.
    thank-you Ann
    Asked on 7/12/2014 by Ann from United Kingdom

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello there

      Unfortunately we only have one Cornus controversa 'Variegata' which comes in a 3lt pot. Although the height of these can vary, usually they are about 30cm tall and will grow well in an acidic soil. Hope this helps.

      Answered on 8/12/2014 by Anonymous from crocus
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