Winter may seem like a bleak time for your garden, but if you have red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea), you have a fiery scarlet island in the endless sea of white or brown. The striking shrub, which is native to North America, has winter stems that vary in color from bright red to dark burgundy. The cultivar ‘Cardinal’ (pictured here) is one of the best for outstanding stem color. Though red twig dogwood is a brilliant beauty, it’s not high maintenance at all, and it’s not picky—it’ll grow in just about any type of soil.
Common name: Red twig dogwood or red osier dogwood
Botanical name: Cornus sericea (syn. C. stolonifera)
Plant type: Deciduous shrub
Zones: 3 to 7
Height: 6 to 9 feet
• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Dry, moist, well-drained
• Moisture: Dry to wet
• Mulch: None needed.
• Pruning: Prune out old stems in late winter or early spring to encourage new stems, which have the brightest red color.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By seed or by root cuttings.
Pests and diseases
• Susceptible to leaf and twig blights, leaf spots, and canker.
• Leaf miners, scale, and bagworms can be an occasional problem.
• Red twig dogwood is easy to transplant.
• It looks great massed or as a specimen.
• The plant performs exceptionally well in wet locations. Along streams or ponds, its spreading roots can help prevent soil erosion.
• Red twig dogwood bears white to pale blue fruit, which birds love, in late summer and early autumn.
• This shrub also attracts butterflies.
All in the family
• The dogwood family (Cornaceae) includes about 110 species. Most are trees and shrubs and may be deciduous or evergreen.
• The plants in this family are grown for their graceful habit, summer fruits, and colorful fall leaves.
• The dogwood family is quite controversial when it comes to taxonomy. Many genera have been added and removed over the years.
Where to buy
• Cabin Creek Nursery, cabincreeknursery.com
• Forestfarm, forestfarm.com
• Lazy S’s Farm & Nursery, lazyssfarm.com/storefront.htm
(Photo by Nancy Rose)