Red Twig Dogwood

Published On: August 10th, 2023

Brightly colored winter stems are the most recognizable characteristic of Red Twig Dogwoods (Cornus sericea, Cornus alba & cultivars). Their distinctive red or orange stems add vibrant color to the winter landscape. They produce a striking contrast with evergreen foliage so pairing these plants with a backdrop of evergreens creates a pleasing winter scene.

Dogwood Fruit

In addition to the showy winter stems, Red Twig Dogwood also offers white flowers in spring that attract beneficial pollinators, followed by berries that are a food source for native songbirds. Several varieties also have variegated or golden colored foliage.

Red Twig Dogwoods have an upright habit with dense branching at the base. While the straight species are colonizers, most cultivated forms lack the suckering characteristic and are well behaved garden plants.


Red Twig Dogwoods need very little maintenance as they are seldom bothered by insects or disease and are not prone to deer browsing. To obtain the best stem color, selective annual pruning is recommended. The best color is seen on newer stems, so we recommend that each year 25% of the oldest stems be pruned to ground level, thus encouraging the constant production of new colorful stems. This pruning can be done in late winter/early spring or – if stems are to be used for seasonal decorating – can be done in November or early December.

Red Twig Dogwoods are good for seasonal decorating

ARCTIC FIRE® Dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Farrow’ PP18,523)

  • A compact, non-suckering, selection of red twig dogwood
  • Perfect for smaller landscapes
  • Showy red stems in winter
  • Height 3-4’/Spread 3-4’

IVORY HALO® Dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Baihalo’’)

  • Dark red winter stems
  • Green & white variegated foliage
  • White fruit attracts songbirds
  • Upright, full habit
  • Height 5-6’/Spread 5-6’

NEON BURST™ Dogwood (Cornus alba ‘ByBoughen’ PP27,956)

  • Chartreuse leaves keep their color in the sun and through the heat of the summer.
  • Fall foliage a rainbow of purple, red, yellow and orange
  • Stems turn scarlet red in winter
  • Fruit is food source for birds
  • Height 4’-6’ / Spread 4’-6’

BAILEY Dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Baileyi’)

  • Striking red stems provide winter interest
  • Loose rounded, upright habit
  • Does not colonize like the species
  • Height 6’-9’ / Spread 5’-8’

CARDINAL Dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’)

  • Brilliant orange-red stems are supremely ornamental in winter
  • Especially effective in shrub borders, mixed with evergreens
  • Height 5-8’ / Spread 5-8’
  • Staff Favorite 😀

ARCTIC FIRE® YELLOW Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera ‘SMNCSBD’ USPP32,351)

  • Bright yellow stems in winter
  • Great color accent in the garden and in winter containers
  • Height 4’-5’ / Spread 5’-6’

ARCTIC SUN® Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea ‘Cato’ USPP 19,892)

  • Unique eye-catching colors
  • Yellow, orange & coral stems glow in the winter landscape!
  • Compact habit ideal for smaller gardens
  • Height 3’-4’ / Spread 3’-4’

Red Twig Dogwood in a nutshell

  • Mature height: 4’ to 9’, depending on variety
  • Mature spread: 3’ to 8’, depending on variety
  • Growth form: Multi-stemmed, upright, oval to rounded form
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3
  • Flowers: Flat topped clusters of cream white flowers in spring are not showy but are heavily visited by beneficial pollinators
  • Foliage Color: Glossy green foliage. Some varieties have attractive green & white variegated foliage or brilliant gold leaves.
  • Light requirement: Full Sun to Shade
  • Water Requirements: Thrives in wet soil but does not require it. Adaptable to a range of soil conditions. Drought tolerant once established.
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Maintenance: Hardy plants, not prone to insect or disease issues. To obtain the best stem color, selective annual pruning is recommended (see above)
  • Especially valuable for:
    • Brilliantly colored stems provide winter interest
    • Hardiness, adaptability & durability
    • Wildlife value (pollinators & songbirds)
    • Mixed borders, screening, foundation plantings (dwarf varieties)

By Zannah Crowe

Some photos shown courtesy of Proven Winners –