Red twig dogwoods (Cornus sericea) are four-season plants. Pretty flat-topped clusters of creamy-white flowers bloom in mid to late spring. Green pea-size berries appear in late summer. Green leaves with silver undersides warm to reddish purple in fall. That’s three seasons of interest.
It’s the fourth season, however, when their fiery red stems glow that red twig dogwoods earn a space in my landscape. And, in addition to their significance to winter views, their brilliant stems can be cut and added to greens containers and in floral arrangements indoors.
Red twig dogwoods are large shrubs – about eight feet tall and wide – depending on growing conditions. If your yard is too small for a shrub of this stature, there are also cultivars that stay more compact. Arctic Fire grows four feet tall and wide, suitably sized for smaller landscapes.
Red twig dogwoods aren’t fussy and require little care except for pruning – more about that later. Give them a spot with full or part sun.
Plant them in a mixed shrub border, as a hedge, or on a slope to control erosion. Include them in a wildlife garden where many species of birds can enjoy their berries. Red twig dogwoods are also ideal for rain gardens or others areas with wet soil.
As stems age, they turn darker. To ensure brilliant red stems every winter, red twig dogwoods must be pruned in late winter or early spring. Prune one third of the oldest stems all the way down to the ground. Or cut the whole shrub down to about six inches every few years.
Do you already have a red twig dogwood in your landscape? Do you prune it every year to keep its stems bright red? Or have I convinced you to add one to your garden? I hope you will garden with me!