What’s THAT: Red-Stemmed Dogwoods

What’s that stand of bright red branches poking out of the snow? It’s one of the lesser known winter thrills, dogwood shrubs with fiery stems.

While it’s safe to say that dogwoods are beautiful all four seasons (summer flowers/fall leaves/winter bark/spring buds), a few of these durable shrubs really bring it during the depths of winter. Once unclothed by leaves, they put on quite the show, their blood-red stems rising from snow, cloaked in frost, or as here, Isanti Red-Osier Dogwood silhouetted in front of a stand of white birch trees.

These are easy-growing plants that do well in most parts of the continental US. Place them when you can really admire their blistering hue against the winter’s bluster. Here are four we’re thrilled to recommend. They’re all amazing, cold tolerant, and wintery-glam; choose according to the particular needs of your site.

Cornus sericea 'Kelseyi' syn. Cornus stolonifera 'Kelseyi'

Smallest: Kelsey’s Dwarf Red-Osier Dogwood

North American native, this dwarf (2 feet tall and wide) is ideal in front of evergreen hedges or as a foundation planting where it adds a dose of color and form in winter. Excellent for erosion control on steep slopes. Zone: 2 – 8

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Small: Arctic Fire™ Red Twig Dogwood

This compact selection has the dark red stems that provide a spectacular show in winter sunlight, but reaches only up to 4 feet tall and wide. Use in a low shrub border, along a white fence, or in a large container. Zone: 3 – 7

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Medium: Variegated Red Twig Dogwood

Once variegated leaves fall, the bare stems take over, naturally forming a blood red, upright thicket. Vigorous and adaptable, this one tops out at 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Ideal for naturalizing–give it plenty of room. Zone: 2 – 8

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Tall: Red Twig Dogwood

Where you have the room and need a winter shrub for impact with a capital “I”, this dogwood is for you. At 9 feet tall and 5 feet wide its one of the larger cultivars.Cut the long red branches for a modern wintery indoor arrangement. Zone: 2 – 8

Caring for Dogwood Shrubs

  • Prefers well-drained, moist soil.
  • Site in partial to full sun.
  • Prune a third of the branches to the ground in winter/early spring.
  • Fertilize in early spring with a controlled release fertilizer.

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