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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22 Questions | 22 Answers
Displaying questions 1-10Previous | Next »
  • Q:

    My wife bought one of these trees from you, and the plant is showing a good "wedding tree" shape where the new growth is taking place. The older growth near the bottom isn't quite as attractive and spoils the overall shape. Can I prune it just by removing these and clearing the trunk? If so, when? And how close to the main stem should I go?
    Asked on 8/16/2014 by bronrug from North Wales

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello,

      These trees resent 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. The first thing you should do is (using a sharp saw) make a cut about a third of the way through the branch from the bottom side of the stem, working upwards. This cut should be around 30cm away from the main trunk. The second cut should be from the top side of the branch around 5cm further away from the trunk. The branch will fall away as you make this cut, leaving you with a 30cm long stump. This removes the weight of the branch and avoids the risk of the branch tearing off lots of bark and leaving a big wound. Finaslly, you can then make a neat cut, removing the stump to a point just past the 'collar' (ie the swollen bit where it meets the main stem).

      Answered on 8/18/2014 by helen from crocus
  • Q:

    Hello I was wondering if you could help me, I recently planted a wedding cake tree in my garden with fertilizer and flooded the hole, I have watered it three times a week since planting but the leaves seem to be curling and look as though they are drying up, can you tell me where I am going wrong
    Asked on 7/30/2014 by Carol from Channel islands

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello,

      This could be caused by a number of things. It may be that too much fertiliser was applied, and this could cause scorching, or the plants foliage may be getting scorched by the wind. Also, it is possible that the plant is getting too much water. The ideal is to thoroughly soak the surrounding soil, then wait until the soil gets reasonably dry before repeating the process.

      Answered on 8/4/2014 by helen from crocus
  • Q:

    Is this tree unsuitable to grow as a border specimen next to a fence? I'm guessing so due to it's layering appearance. Would the stem be ok close to the fence with just the upper branches over the fence? How far from a fence should it be planted? Thank you.
    Asked on 7/24/2014 by DizzyDahlia from Yorkshire

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello,

      Ideally this should be planted in an open space where it can spread as its tiered branches are one of its best features. If however there is nowhere else for it, then I would plant it at least 1m away from the fence. Keep in mind that as the tree will spread to around 8m across, it will encroach onto your neighbours property.

      Answered on 7/28/2014 by helen from crocus
  • Q:

    How would I take a cutting off my wedding cake tree...??? or make another thank .........maggie
    Asked on 7/8/2014 by Maggie from Doncaster

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello,

      These plants are mainly propagated by grafting, which is quite a specialised skill that does take some time to master. I would not really advise attempting it unless you have a bit of prior experience.

      Answered on 7/8/2014 by helen from crocus
  • Q:

    Hi.

    I was wondering if this tree would be possible to grow in a large bespoke pot... and if so any advice on the minimum this pot size could be in order to give the tree the best possible chance of flourishing.
    Asked on 6/30/2014 by curlsrock from south west

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello,

      Ideally this would be much happier planted out in the ground, however it is possible to keep it in a pot for a few years provided it is kept well fed and watered. It is currently in quite a small pot, but ideally it should be potted up into something at least 30 cm in diameter (45cm would be better). In a year or two you can then move it up to something around 60cm.

      Answered on 6/30/2014 by helen from crocus
  • Q:

    when is the best time of the year to buy and plant a Cornus contriversa variegata?

    Thanks
    Asked on 6/12/2014 by Ricardo from Penn

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello,

      The best time to plant is autumn or spring, but in theory you can plant at any time of the year provided the ground is not frozen or waterlogged. If you plant during the warmer months, then it is crucial to keep them well watered.

      Answered on 6/13/2014 by helen from crocus
  • Q:

    I've seen one of these stunning trees in a friend's new garden and am considering purchasing one to replace an old acer which,unfortunately died a year or two ago. When is the best time to purchase and plant one?
    Your advice would be much appreciated.
    Asked on 6/11/2014 by Ricado from Penn, Bucks

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello,

      In theory, the best time to plant is autumn or spring, however you can plant at any time of the year provided the soil is not frozen or waterlogged. If you do plant in summer, make sure it is kept really well watered.

      Answered on 6/12/2014 by helen from crocus
  • Q:

    How much growth may be expected each year.?
    Asked on 5/31/2014 by Red squirrel from East anglia

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello,

      This is such a hard question to answer as the growth rate will largely be determined by external factors such as soil type and available water, light and nutrients. Age will play a part too as well established plants tend to put on more growth that younger ones.

      Answered on 6/2/2014 by helen from crocus
  • Q:

    I have a much loved acer (Sango Kaku, I think) which is suffering from some form of die-back. I think it is probably verticillium wilt. I am contemplating removing it and think this might be a suitable replacement candidate for my small, town garden. Would it resist the wilt that is affecting my acer please?
    Asked on 5/24/2014 by Pompey Girl from Portsmouth

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello,

      What a shame to lose your beloved Acer. The good news is that Cornus tend to show good resistance to Verticillium Wilt, so it would make an excellent replacement.

      Answered on 5/30/2014 by helen from crocus
  • Q:

    Our Cornus controversa 'Variegata' has grown to three metres and is a perfect wedding cake shape. We bought it at just one metre tall about 5 years ago and it has flowered spectacularly every year in late May/early June. It is positioned in the middle of a large lawn to get full sun, dawn to dusk and we feed it every Spring. There is no competition from other trees. This year we have seen another growth spurt and full leaf foliage but NO flowers! Any ideas why no flowers this year?
    Worried
    Asked on 5/8/2014 by no nickname from Oxted, Surrey

    1 answer

    • Plant Doctor

      A:

      Hello,

      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 buds, but given time and the right conditions, there is no reason why it wont 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.

      Answered on 5/16/2014 by helen from crocus
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