As far as we’re concerned the Chinese evergreen dogwood is one durable plant. It’s been a surprise here in East Texas for over two decades. Given a little soil drainage and some protection from the western sun, it develops into a fine specimen small tree. The bloom show on a good sized tree can be stunning, a cloak of white flowers for several weeks in mid summer. The blooms are followed by interesting sweet red fruits which are edible. While not about to take over the grocery chains in the South, they are good. Extremely useful in a famine my friends in China would say. In our winters the foliage remains dark green with only the harshest winter turning foliage slightly purple. In particularly cold winters further North into Zone 7, the foliage might drop. We have offered this tree for years in our plant sale and most find the tree easy to grow and pest free. This is one of our favorite trees and we highly recommend growing one in your garden!
There is one variety we have in the collection, “Empress of China”. It was selected by the great plantsman John Elsley for exceptional bloom count, beautiful fruit and great garden vigor. It touts glossy, leathery bright green leaves. In theGayla Mize garden we have planted a long line of seedlings of this tree and there are differences here and there but they’re not dramatic. Some seedlings do seem to have better flowers and we’ll continue to see if anything is worth introducing. Right now, it strikes me that seedlings are solid and perform well.
For a mid summer show, this small tree is a surprise. While available, it’s yet to be a market mover in Texas. We think East Texas and across the Gulf South will make a fine home for this tough as nails ornamental.