With a name out of Macbeth and the colors to match, bloodtwig dogwood is an unparalleled star in the winter garden. In the coldest, grayest days, this little bush looks like it’s on fire. The bright yellow stems tipped in crimson show up brilliantly against bright snow and dark evergreens, and blend beautifully with browns and grays, too. If you long to bring the sun back into the short, dark days of January, install Cornus sanguinea in your backyard—it’s a lovely placeholder till the real thing reappears.
Common name: Bloodtwig dogwood, yellow twig dogwood
Botanical name: Cornus sanguinea
Plant type: Deciduous shrub
Zones: 4 to 8
Height: 3 to 6 feet, depending on cultivar
• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Average, well-drained
• Moisture: Medium
• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
• Pruning: If you want to contain bloodtwig dogwood, cut back root suckers—otherwise it will spread slowly to form a thicket. For best color, take out about one-fourth of the oldest stems each spring to spur new growth (which has the brightest color), or cut all stems to the ground every two to three years. Prune in spring after the shrub flowers.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By division.
Pests and diseases
• Vulnerable to some diseases, including canker, powdery mildew, dogwood blight, and more.
• Common pests include thrips, aphids, leafhoppers, and weevils.
• Cornus sanguinea looks good in woodland settings, fall borders, and foundation plantings.
• Plant bloodtwig dogwood in front of evergreens or with other dogwoods to show off its color. Plant several together for the most impact.
• Butterflies like bloodtwig dogwood’s lacy white flower clusters; birds like the berries that follow.
• C. sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ and ‘Winter Beauty’ both grow about 5 to 6 feet high and wide.
• C. sanguinea ‘Cato’ Arctic Sun (pictured here) is a dwarf cultivar, growing only 3 to 4 feet.
All in the family
• Many species of Cornus have become garden favorites: C. kousa and C. florida are beloved for their showy spring flowers, C. mas for its beautiful and edible cherrylike fruit, and C. alternifolia for its striking horizontal branching pattern (thus the common name, pagoda dogwood). C. alba and C. stolonifera (sometimes called C. sericea) are known mainly for their brightly colored stems.
Where to Buy
• Joy Creek Nursery, Scappoose, OR, 503-543-7474, www.joycreek.com
• Shrub Source, Zeeland, MI, 866-860-1060, www.shrubsource.com
• Wayside Gardens, Hodges, SC, 800-845-1124, www.waysidegardens.com
(Text by Elizabeth Noll, photo of Cornus sanguinea ‘Cato’ Arctic Sun courtesy of Proven Winners)