A beautiful large deciduous shrub, sometimes with a cluster of erect stems, sometimes a small tree 6m or so high, flat-topped and with horizontal branches - not unreasonably regarded as one of the handsomest of variegated shrubs.
The spreading, tiered branches are handsomely clothed from spring through to autumn with small, dark green leaves, each well variegated with white margins. The overall effect from a distance is of a ghostly, light and airy presence, a most charming and eye-catching effect in the garden. In summer Cornus alternifolia argentea with produce numerous clusters small white flowers, held clearly above the foliage and thence spherical blue-black (inedible) fruit.
Native of eastern N. America; introduced from as far north as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and therefore perfectly capable of withstanding intense cold.
We find that Cornus alternifolia argentea does best on fertile, moist and well drained soils in full sun. Ensure that the plant is not unduly stressed by drought during a warm dry summer spell by mulching sharply draining soils with well rotted garden compost or manure each winter. When planting, ensure there is sufficient room for the full exprerssion of the 'layering' habit - you could well end up with a plant a couple of metres across or more, so leave plenty of room for future growth.
Careful pruning can help to accentuate the layered effect of the branches, so remove any branches that are spoiling the 'wedding cake' effect but otherwise keep pruning to a minimum.
Originally introduced into horticulture in the U.S.A., some time before 1900.
Expect a plant at least 2m high, and after perhaps a decade 3-5m is perfectly feasible.